The regulator’s role in promoting cybersecurity for the smart grid.
State commissions can select from a toolkit of regulatory approaches to promote desired utility cybersecurity behavior. One approach is to allow the industry to selfregulate, and another approach is to leave the job to the federal government. But sofar, neither the industry nor the federal government have developed and implemented adequate standards for securing the smart grid. States can play a constructive role—albeit perhaps not in the form of traditional regulation.
Clean energy jobs will be gone soon, if America fails to commit.
America needs an energy policy today that will bring together our best and brightest, harness the limitless capabilities of our research institutions, and invest whatever it takes to ensure America’s leadership in clean energy technologies. The result will be to create billion-dollar industries and millions of new jobs.
From EPAct to Order 1000, siting authority continues evolving.
Six years after Congress granted FERC “backstop” siting authority for electric transmission projects in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the regulatory landscape is still evolving as a result of federal court decisions and new FERC orders. But despite a lack of certainty at the federal level, project sponsors have filed numerous applications at the state level for new transmission projects. Can these projects proceed without greater certainty at FERC?
New transparency practice turns confidentiality on its head.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently authorized its Office of Enforcement to begin revealing publicly the names of subjects under investigation, as well as summaries of allegations against them, earlier than the commission ever had before. In fact, FERC now may disclose allegations before finding any wrongdoing. This new practice raises the specter of damaging reputations without following what normally would be considered due process.
Growing gas storage depends on fair regulatory treatment.
FERC’s final rule authorizing new natural gas storage facilities seems to presume market power for pipelines and new storage. FERC should consider changing that presumption to more accurately reflect Congress’s intent in EPAct 2005.
Ring-fencing after the subprime meltdown.
Scott Strauss and Peter Hopkins
When Électricité de France stepped in to buy Constellation Energy’s nuclear assets and help the company avoid bankruptcy, the Maryland Public Service Commission conditioned the sale on a set of ring-fencing provisions. The industry has been using such structures to protect ratepayers in complex and high-risk M&A transactions since the 1990s. The protection isn’t foolproof, however—and it can bring problematic regulatory trade-offs.
Small is beautiful for nuclear developers.
Small modular reactors (SMRs) are nuclear generating units that are about the size of railroad cars and provide about one-tenth to one-fourth the power of full-size reactors. As a result, they cost a fraction of what full-size reactors cost. The reactors are designed to provide between 40 MW and 300 MW of electric power, compared with the 1,100 to 1,700 MW output of larger reactors. In addition, most are expected to cost under $1 billion, compared with the $5 billion to $10 billion price tags of the larger units.
Living in the new world of mandatory reliability standards.
Zhen Zhang and Matthew Stern
Mandatory reliability standards put in place by NERC three years ago give reason for optimism concerning their success. But the organization struggles with standards development, compliance, enforcement and transparency.
Transforming DR and smart-grid policies into reality.
Regulatory policies are evolving to make demand response and smart-grid planning a reality across the country. Cooperation between federal and state lawmakers will allow local flexibility within a uniform national framework.
N.J. BPU enacts new rules to insulate utilities from holding companies.
When Congress repealed the Holding Company Act, it gave states greater authority to regulate utilities. New Jersey picked up the baton and enacted rules to protect ratepayers.