Utilities are gearing up for cyber security compliance. Will the standards prove worthy?
The NERC CIP standards represent an historic achievement. They include the first mandatory cyber security requirements of their kind to be imposed on a U.S. private-sector industry. Considering the scope and sensitivity of the grid-security issue, developing a set of enforceable standards inevitably would entail a complex and contentious process. From that perspective, NERC, FERC and the industry have made remarkable progress, and their efforts deserve accolades.
NERC’s new cyber security rules may minimize cost of compliance, but they leave utilities guessing on how to identify risks.
Liam Baker, vice president for regulatory affairs at US Power Generating, questions whether his company’s power plants and control systems in New York and Massachusetts must comply with the electric industry’s new mandatory standards for cyber security. Baker voiced his doubts in written comments he filed in October with FERC.
Which power technologies will dominate?
David J. Walls, John Higgins and Steven Tobias
U.S. power-plant construction tends to follow fads. Identifying these trends is easier than determining the primary drivers and issues that contributed to them. Understanding how these drivers affect power-planning decisions can help utilities predict generation-construction trends in the future and avoid getting caught in a group-think trap.
Fuel-supply risks stunt the growth of biomass power.
Utilities can meet state renewable portfolio standards—and reduce greenhouse gases—by burning biomass fuel. Whether utilities are prepared to jump into the biomass game, however, depends on how effectively they can manage fuel risks.
Production constraints and demand pressures mean high gas prices are here to stay.
George Given and Gary L. Hunt
Volatility in energy prices is both a scary and wonderful thing. It brings risks that must be managed under uncertain future conditions. It also brings opportunities to profit from price movement and competitive market advantages exploited through strategy, skill and luck. Just how good the outcome of such volatility can be depends on how well each market participant studies the fundamentals, manages uncertainty and remains flexible.
DOE loan guarantees degenerate into a political game.
Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief
Once upon a time, the U.S. Congress started a game of hot potato. The potato, otherwise known as the EPAct Title XVII Loan Guarantee Program, has been bouncing around Washington, D.C., since 2005. But now that the industry is getting a good look at the potato, it looks decidedly funky—stuffed with caveats and half-measures. Whether that’s good or bad depends largely on whether you believe the government belongs in the potato game in the first place.
State-policy turmoil reshapes utility markets.
As many states move toward re-regulation, we speak to commissioners in Illinois, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia to learn how policies are evolving—and how far the regulatory shakeup will go
Armed with calls for gas price transparency, FERC takes aim at intrastate pipelines—the long-forgotten and largely private preserve of the Lone Star State.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has proposed to bring a modicum of federal oversight to the nation’s intrastate natural-gas pipelines. Given the historical structure and regulation of the nation’s natural-gas industry, it should come as no surprise that FERC’s proposal has polarized the industry in general and the state of Texas in particular.
The 2005 Act, designed to streamline projects, may fall short of that goal.
David B. MacGregor and Matthew J. Agen
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 was supposed to streamline the siting process and provide a federal “trump card” for projects delayed at the local level, but it is far from clear whether these goals have been, or will be, achieved.
Next-gen technologies race to dominate the big build.
New nuke plants will take at least eight years to complete, while the coal that powers new IGCC plants is no longer cheap. Regulatory and market obstacles confront both technologies, just as they emerge from the starting gate. Which type of plant will win the future?