Engineers and constructors adapt to serve an industry in transition.
From gas pipelines to PV arrays, the nation’s contractors are seeing growth in utility infrastructure. Fortnightly talks with executives at engineering and construction firms to learn what kinds of projects are moving forward, where they’re located, and what lies over the horizon.
Analyzing the Order 1000 comply filings from non-RTO regions.
Last fall, utilities across the country began filing tariffs with FERC to explain how they’ll comply with Order 1000. That’s quite a handful, but maybe not a stretch for the RTOs. Not so for the non-RTO regions.
(April 2012) MidAmerican Energy awarded a contract to Siemens Energy to supply wind turbines for its 407-MW project expansion. American Electric Power began operating the 580-MW Dresden natural gas-fired combined-cycle power plant. Duke Energy and ChinaHuaneng Group signed a three-year agreement expanding their research cooperation to include coal and carbon capture and sequestration technologies. And others...
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.
Does the lack of long-term pricing undermine the financing of new power plants?
J.P. Pfeifenberger and S.A. Newell
The PJM Interconnect’s Reliability Pricing Model generally has succeeded in attracting and retaining low-cost generation and demand resources to maintain resource adequacy. But sluggish demand and low prices have weakened the market for long-term capacity contracts. Suppliers aren’t willing to lock in current low prices, and buyers don’t want to pay more for future certainty. Is the market dysfunctional, as some state lawmakers suggest, or does the lack of long-term contracts indicate a rational balance of supply and demand?
(November 2011) Hitachi Power Systems America wins contract from Westar Energy; City of Fort Collins selects Elster, Siemens Energy, eMeter and Tropos GridCom to provide systems for its AMI project; Energate to supply smart thermostats for Oklahoma Gas & Electric; Jackson Municipal Electric Department selects Survalent Technology for a new SCADA system; Eastern Nebraska Public Power District Consortium selects ABB to implement an advanced smart grid-based SCADA; plus announcements and contracts involving EnerSys, S&C Electric, Siemens 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?
The Big Build will test the industry’s access to Wall Street.
The era of easily available, affordable energy rapidly is ending and our society is realizing that our energy infrastructure is severely inadequate to supply the energy demands of the future. The major issue facing the sector today is how to fund and deliver this new climate-friendly infrastructure, which is currently estimated will cost almost $2 trillion between now and 2030.
Volatile markets are causing delays, but most deals are moving forward.
Although problems in the power business grabbed the headlines early this decade, the industry now seems fundamentally strong. In contrast to their ratings of banks, rating agencies appear to have recently upgraded more of the electric sector than they have downgraded. It remains a strong investment grade, usually BB or BBB. For an index of 68 electric utilities, the debt-to-equity ratio averaged only 55:45 and return on equity exceeded over 13 percent through January.
Why developers today are often kept waiting to get projects ok’d to connect to the grid.
Late last year FERC learned that the Midwest regional grid likely would require at least 40 years — until 2050 — simply to clear its backlog of proposed gen projects awaiting a completed interconnection agreement to certify their compatibility with the interstate power grid. But grid engineers would meet that date only by shortening the process and studying multiple projects simultaneously in clusters. To apply the process literally, studying one project at a time, as envisioned by current rules, the Midwest reportedly would need 300-plus years to clear its project queue.