Why reserve margins aren’t just about keeping the lights on.
Kevin Carden, Johannes Pfeifenberger, and Nick Wintermantel
While it’s theoretically possible to keep the lights on with a much smaller reserve than the U.S. utility industry historically has maintained, the costs of doing so might be higher than some analyses suggest. As demand response plays a growing role on the grid—and as system planners reconsider reserve margins and reliability standards—quantitative risk analysis will guide resource adequacy decisions.
Renewables are greenest when displacing coal, not gas.
With the abandonment of a nationwide energy policy by the previous Congress, states continue leading carbon mitigation efforts. Indeed, existing state policies and renewable portfolio standards (RPS) are already having a significant impact on the U.S. generation portfolio. FERC now proposes to weigh state policy as a consideration in transmission filings. Should state policies guide federal action? Will they suffice to reduce carbon emissions?
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.
Past accomplishments and future plans.
Policy makers in the E.U. and the United States are taking different approaches to facilitating smart grid development. While both regions are setting standards that the rest of the world likely will follow, they also face difficult challenges in resolving issues around cost recovery, customer engagement and workforce preparedness.
Raising the stakes in RTO markets.
Generators and demand-response providers are reaping rewards in forward capacity auctions, causing suppliers to go shopping for the most lucrative markets. Now the Midwest ISO is trying to catch up, by proposing its own auction for years-ahead resource bids. But does RTO shopping serve the interests of customers, who are legally entitled to rates that are just and reasonable? Why are some state policy makers advocating a return to old-school RFPs for long-term contracts?
Solar and wind developers learn to shift project risk to the grid.
As Google says, “the wind cries for transmission.” But the opposite is true as well: without new wind and solar energy projects, we would not need to build so many new transmission lines. Each side needs the other, yet neither dares declare too soon, and risk weakening its bargaining position. That is, until one utility in California found a way to break the impasse, with each side scratching the other’s back — thus putting to rest the age-old question, “Which came first, the . . . ?”
(February 2011) Silver Spring integrates Itron meters; PECO picks Sensus; AT&T and Elster sign agreement; PSEG Fossil selects ABB for a multi-phase controls project; Trilliant secures equity financing and wins Burbank ARRA contract; Navigant buys BTM Consult; GE acquires SmartSignal; plus contracts and announcements from Survalent, Mitsubishi Motors, AES Energy Storage and others.
Northeastern politicians declare war on capacity auctions.
Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in February signed into law a bill that will have the state commissioning construction of 2,000 MW of new gas-fired power capacity and dumping it into the PJM capacity market at a $0 price. Maryland is considering a similar capacity-dumping scheme. What’s behind these efforts to manipulate capacity auctions — regional constraints or local politics?
Similar desires, different approaches.
Smart grid is a global phenomenon, but different countries are taking different approaches—for different reasons. For instance, utilities in Europe are more focused on laying the foundation for distributed generation and microgrids, while the United States is more concerned about creating standards for interoperability and security. Understanding the differences can help decision makers deploy smart grid technology effectively and economically.
NERC confronts a case backlog now numbering in the thousands.
The case backlog of unprocessed electric reliability violations is growing out of control, threatening to “swamp” the industry — a sign, perhaps, that when Congress and FERC modernized the electric reliability regime to serve a more market-based industry structure, and for the first time gave enforcement authority to North American Reliability Corp. (NERC) as the nation’s official electric reliability czar, no one gave much thought, apparently, as to whether NERC’s very idea of what constitutes reliability might have needed modernizing as well.