Geomagnetic storms and the limits of human experience.
On April 30, FERC held a technical conference to review scientific claims and policy arguments about geomagnetic disturbances, known as GMD—how some say that a once-in-a-century solar storm could induce a power surge on the interstate grid so destructive as to cook and fry as many 300 extra-high-voltage transformers, plunging much of the nation into a blackout lasting months or even years. Some researchers even harbor fears that GMDs could end life as we know it.
Barriers and breakthroughs to a smarter grid.
Technology is quickly making energy storage more economical and effective than ever before. But companies that wish to invest in storage capacity face a journey through a frustrating regulatory no-man’s land. Opening the gateway for storage to deliver smart grid benefits will require a more streamlined and coherent approach to regulating storage as utility infrastructure.
Making room on the local grid for small-scale PV.
For the first time, perhaps, the electric utility industry may need to keep track not only of peak load, but also of minimum load, as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission reviews a proposal by the Solar Energy Industries Association to employ a new definition of minimum load under a new, relaxed threshold test that would govern eligibility for fast-tracking of applications by generation developers to interconnect new, small-scale solar energy projects to the local utility distribution grid.
Election politics almost killed a great idea.
Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief
Beacon Power filed bankruptcy last fall, amid a political firestorm sparked by Solyndra’s demise. But should the company have received a bailout, so it could continue operating until FERC’s new pay-for-performance rules take effect?
Second thoughts on transmission’s golden egg.
The electric utility industry offers up a wealth of ideas on how the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission might reform its policy, adopted under FERC Order 679 in 2006, of granting financial incentives for investments in transmission line projects that ensure reliability or mitigate line congestion so as to reduce the cost of delivered power. Fortnightly’s Bruce W. Radford reports.
Two Eastern governors make war against markets.
The governors of New Jersey and Maryland have embarked on a crusade that could topple competitive energy markets in their states—and perhaps beyond. Glen R. Thomas, former chairman of the Pennsylvania PUC, challenges policy makers in the two states to stand up for free markets and stop a destructive race to the bottom.
Economics, not politicians, will determine what tools are best.
Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief
Today’s utility business model depends chiefly on big power plants and long transmission lines—and federal and state policies reinforce that model. But as photovoltaics technology advances and systems get ever cheaper, distributed generation eventually might become the more competitive option. At that point, upstart companies might be better positioned than utilities to capture a share of this growing market, because they won’t be constrained by Edison-era economics.
One of the most ambitious transmission projects in America today is CAPX2020. In this second of two exclusive interviews, Fortnightly's Spark talks with Teresa Mogensen, Xcel Energy’s vice president of transmission, about how the investor-owned utility collaborated with public-power utilities to develop a complex set of lines and a solid investment for shareholders.
FORTNIGHTLY What’s Xcel Energy’s role in the CAPX2020 project, and how does it fit into the company’s overall transmission plan and resource plan?
MOGENSEN CAPX2020 is very important for Xcel and the region.
One of the most ambitious transmission projects in America today is CAPX2020, a series of lines in Minnesota and surrounding states. In this first of two exclusive interviews, Fortnightly's Spark talks with Will Kaul, Great River Energy’s v.p. of transmission, about how the project managed to succeed where others have failed.
Recently electricity started flowing through a new power line between Monticello and St. Cloud, Minn. This 28-mile, 345-kV segment represents a major milestone for one reason: it’s the first wire to go live in the 700-mile CAPX2020 transmission venture.
Adding up the benefits of infrastructure investments.
J.P. Pfeifenberger and D. Hou
Allocating the costs of new transmission investments requires accurately assessing the value of those new lines, and identifying the primary beneficiaries. But formulaic approaches rely too much on the most easily quantified cost savings, and reject benefits that are dispersed across service areas—or that might change over the course of time. Brattle Group analysts J.P. Pfeifenberger and D. Hou explain that comprehensive valuation produces a more accurate picture.