Does slow and steady still win the race?
Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief
When a capital-intensive industry enters an asset-building cycle, many companies will operate in the red for a few years or more. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as cap-ex investments represent growth for shareholders. The devil is in the details, however, and companies facing a large slug of environmental compliance investments might produce disappointing returns over the next few years.
(August 2011) Shaw Group completes 500 MW combined cycle plant; Pattern Energy begins building Spring Valley wind farm; AEP, Duke and TVA team up on interstate transmission line; AEP and MidAmerican contract for Texas transmission projects; Alliant contracts Open Systems International for volt-VAR control system; Alstom buys into AWS Ocean Energy; Siemens acquires shares in PV manufacturer Semprius; Lockheed Martin introduces cyber security system; plus contracts and announcements involving Elster, Itron, Suzlon, Solon, Sensus, Westinghouse Electric, Morgan Lewis and others.
But transmission planning, as we know it, may never be the same.
The recent landmark ruling on transmission planning cost allocation, known as “Order 1000,” and issued by the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in late July 2011, could well produce an unintended side effect — the formation of regional compacts among states to identify needs and plan for development of new power plant projects.
(August 2011) Economic consultant Michael Rosenzweig challenges Constantine Gonatas’s proposal for ensuring FERC’s demand response rulemaking achieves its objectives. Also, Juliet Shavit takes issue with Contributing Editor Steven Andersen’s characterization of utility customers as “crazy.”
Protecting critical assets in a hazardous world.
In the wake of recent global-scale cyber intrusions, security concerns have expanded from being compliance and operational issues to fundamental risk management considerations. An integrated, enterprise-wide approach holds the greatest promise for securing critical utility infrastructure against increasing dangers in cyberspace.
Out of market means out of luck—even for self-supply.
When the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued its so-called ”MOPR“ decision in April 2011, approving a minimum offer price rule (or bid floor) for PJM RPM capacity market — and then on the very next day did much the same for New England’s FCM capacity market — FERC did more than just prop up prices. Instead, it created a nightmare scenario for utilities that still own their own generation. These utilities, who choose to “self-supply” with their own plants, rather than buy capacity from either the RPM or FCM, adequacy rules, could now be forced to pay twice for capacity — if their own plants are deemed inefficient or uneconomic.
Coping with rising profitability, a decade after restructuring.
Jeff D. Makholm and Kurt G. Strunk
With a recent flurry of gas pipeline rate investigations at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), many pipeline owners face the prospect of having their profits scrutinized to ensure their rates are just and reasonable. Understanding FERC’s approach will help companies ensure they’re not falling outside the zone of reasonableness.
(June 2011) Duke and ATC team up to build transmission lines; AEP installs bioreactor to control selenium emissions; NextEra buys 100 MW of wind from Google; Ocean Power Technologies awards contracts for wave power array; Kansas City picks Elster; BC Hydro picks Itron; plus contracts and developments involving Tres Amigas, Ioxus, Opower and others.
Preparing the grid for large-scale renewables.
With large solar arrays and wind farms being proposed to connect to transmission and sub-transmission systems, are utility companies sufficiently prepared to handle the challenge of integrating these large intermittent resources? The industry now must decide whether transmission reliability factors — most notably dynamic voltage support and system frequency management — need to be resolved by renewable generators, or whether they should become a cost of doing business for transmission providers and reliability coordinators.
The smart grid and the slippery business of setting industry standards.
Four years ago, Congress made its wishes known: it tabbed the National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop a set of standards for the smart grid, and then instructed FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission “adopt” those standards, but only after finding a ”sufficient consensus,” and only “as may be necessary” to assure “functionality and interoperability.” Yet what is known is not necessarily clear. Who decides if consensus prevails? What does “interoperability” mean? Should FERC’s “necessary” finding extend to retail smart grid applications, arguably outside its purview? And the biggest dispute — must standards be mandatory? — finds PJM at odds with much of the utility industry.