Volatile markets create investment openings.
(June 2008) As fossil fuel prices continue increasing and alternative energy gathers momentum, the energy and utility industries can expect to see continued interest from private-equity firms. Over the last five years, record levels of private-equity investments have been used to buy power plants, as well as other utility assets and energy product manufacturing facilities. These once-overlooked industries suddenly are hotspots for private-equity investment.
Why many state regulators still have qualms about endorsing smart meters.
A year ago, in its formal investigation of state policy on smart meters, the Florida Public Service Commission conceded that while three of the state’s five major investor-owned electric utilities offered an optional time-of-use rate to residential customers, participation in fact remained “typically quite small,” averaging only about 1 percent.
Enforcement trends call for a proactive approach to complying with market rules.
Federal regulators have penalized wholesale energy market participants with fines ranging from $300 thousand to $300 million over the past two years. The magnitude of the penalties, along with uncertainty over how to effectively mitigate the risk of any civil action by regulators, has raised concern about how companies are approaching their regulatory obligations.
When Patrick Moore left Greenpeace—the environmental advocacy group that he helped to create in the early 1970s—some activists labeled him a traitor and a corporate shill. It didn’t stop him, however, from becoming one of the environmental community’s most outspoken advocates for nuclear power development—and one of the harshest critics of anti-nuclear activists. Fortnightly caught up with Moore in February to discuss the state of anti-nuclear advocacy in America.
Low-carbon strategies are yielding rewards for shareholders.
Michael Rutkowski, et al.
Low-carbon and “green” strategies have begun delivering returns for utility shareholders. Whether a company ultimately wins or loses depends on how markets are pricing the risks of possible carbon-control regimes.
The latest ‘incremental’ policy changes might realign utility financial incentives.
Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief
Back in 1978, Congress passed an energy bill, the National Energy Act, including an obscure provision that seemed like an incremental tweak to U.S. energy policy. But eventually, that incremental tweak—the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA)—smashed through the gates of the vertically integrated utility construct. PURPA introduced competition into wholesale power markets in a way that fundamentally changed the U.S. utility industry.
Greenhouse-gas regulation will impose vastly greater compliance difficulties than did the Acid Rain program.
Greenhouse gas (GHG) regulation picks up where Acid Rain legislation left off, but affects far more sources and pollutants. Utility compliance programs face major uncertainties.
Conservation investments benefit participants and non-participants alike
Charles J. Cicchetti, Ph.D.
For-profit energy efficiency programs are coming. Duke Energy proposes to align the interests of shareholders and retail customers within an expanded least-cost approach. Convincing regulators will require taking a holistic view of the costs and benefits.
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.