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.
Demand-side resources claim a growing share of the market, bringing lower costs and environmental benefits.
In May, PJM Interconnection conducted its annual auctions to secure electric capacity three years from now. As expected by most analysts, the base residual auction (BRA) for delivery year 2014/15 electric capacity cleared with lower volumes versus the prior year, due to lower demand. Prices were lower in the typically constrained eastern Mid Atlantic Area Council (MAAC) region, and higher in the rest of the regional transmission organization (RTO).
An integrated approach can trim the cost of keeping utility rights of way clean -- and green.
Tree limbs and power lines don’t mix. That was the final verdict after overgrown trees caused blackouts immobilizing major swaths of the East Coast in 2003. (See Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), “Utility Vegetation Management (UVM): Final Report,” March 2004.)
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.
Preparing for New England’s capacity transition.
A wave of coal-fired plant retirements presages a possible crisis in the New England market. As load-serving utilities in ISO New England become increasingly dependent on natural gas-fired capacity and large-scale renewable generators, the region might be forced to rely on expensive cost-of-service reliability contracts to keep the lights on. Stakeholders are considering alternative approaches to encouraging power plant development, including special rate incentives previously reserved for transmission projects. Paul J. Hibbard, former Massachusetts DPU chairman and now vice president with the Analysis Group, analyzes how resource constraints are blurring the lines between competitive markets and integrated resource planning in New England.
Competitive energy suppliers are infuriated by Michigan’s regulatory framework. The state partially unbundled its utilities, but left generation tied to retail operations. Then it opened the retail market to alternative suppliers, but capped their participation at 10 percent — severely limiting true competition. Former FERC Commissioner Bill Massey says Michigan’s schizophrenic approach is stifling innovation and saddling customers with unnecessary risks and costs.
Perverse policy signals are pitting utilities against the EV revolution. Will regulators give utilities the incentives they need to pave the way for electric transportation?
The recent rise in oil prices once again stokes the interest in electric vehicles (EV) – and for good reason. They run cheaper, cleaner and on domestic fuel. Some EVs already have a lower total cost of ownership than a gasoline-powered vehicle, and others will follow as production scales up and unit pricing drops. Unfortunately, in the current regulatory environment, EV adoption in the U.S.
Integrating distributed resources into the smart grid.
The remedy for America’s gravest economic woes may lie in a smart grid that can deliver vast amounts of clean, renewable energy while enhancing our energy security and democratizing our energy system. Although regulatory questions and technical challenges might dominate the industry’s short-term focus, the smart grid’s driving forces parallel America’s long-term national interests — a fact that should guide ongoing technology strategies and investment decisions.