A pragmatic new approach to assuring reliability.
Randall Speck and Kimberly Frank
The latest dispute over PJM’s bidding rules has raised the level of uncertainty in organized electricity markets. Efforts at reform have created a market structure so jumbled that it can’t produce just and reasonable rates -- or assure adequate supply resources. It’s time for FERC to consider alternative approaches to market design.
Performance measurement and action steps for smart grid investments.
Regulators and customers are holding utilities’ feet to the fire, when it comes to investing in advanced metering and smart grid systems—and rightly so. Making the most of investments requires a systematic approach to establishing standards and monitoring performance. But it also requires policy frameworks and cost recovery regimes that provide the right incentives.
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?
From EPAct to Order 1000, siting authority continues evolving.
Six years after Congress granted FERC “backstop” siting authority for electric transmission projects in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the regulatory landscape is still evolving as a result of federal court decisions and new FERC orders. But despite a lack of certainty at the federal level, project sponsors have filed numerous applications at the state level for new transmission projects. Can these projects proceed without greater certainty at FERC?
Cap-ex plans raise the stakes for utility mergers.
Kevin C. Fitzgerald and Christopher R. Jones
Investors historically have been skeptical about merger synergies in utility mergers, assuming that regulators will insist that most or all economic benefits flow to customers. However, recent transactions suggest utilities are taking a different approach to valuing synergies that might strengthen the case for mergers — not just for the merging parties, but also for investors and regulators.
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?
State case has national implications for grid modernization.
Strict adherence to cost-of-service ratemaking led to what might be considered a Luddite decision in the Maryland PSC’s initial rejection of BGE’s smart-grid filing. More than 60 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that ratemaking calls for “pragmatic adjustments” to regulatory policy, toward the goal of sensible and effective rate orders. Delaying modernization doesn’t serve the aims of customer choice, conservation or electric system efficiency.
Ring-fencing after the subprime meltdown.
Scott Strauss and Peter Hopkins
When Électricité de France stepped in to buy Constellation Energy’s nuclear assets and help the company avoid bankruptcy, the Maryland Public Service Commission conditioned the sale on a set of ring-fencing provisions. The industry has been using such structures to protect ratepayers in complex and high-risk M&A transactions since the 1990s. The protection isn’t foolproof, however—and it can bring problematic regulatory trade-offs.
Defining the mission when the consumer plays second-fiddle to the needs of the market.
Six months back, when ISO New England was mulling over various reforms that FERC had mandated last fall in Order 719 for the nation’s six regional transmission organizations and independent system operators (RTOs and ISOs are interchangeable terms in this column), the ISO refused point blank to include in its mission statement a proposal by stakeholders that it should operate the bulk power system at the “lowest reasonable cost.”
Laurie H. Duhan and Sheldon Switzer
Is development of retail choice compatible with best-priced standard-offer service for smaller customers? Conflicting policy priorities threaten to distort Maryland’s retail energy markets.