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.
A survey of state policies on release of customer data.
David T. Doot and Florence K.S. Davis
The advent of smart grid technology has raised new and challenging issues concerning data privacy. Of course, data privacy isn’t a new concern for the energy industry, as utilities have always collected customer data, some of which is common to any business, such as contact and credit information, and some of which is unique to the energy industry, such as usage and demand data.
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.
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.
Funds collected for cost-of-removal liabilities could finance capital spending.
Michael J. Majoros Jr., et al.
The industry might be overlooking a source of capital for smart-grid and similar investments. Funds collected in depreciation accounts for cost-of-removal liabilities could finance capital spending projects.
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.
Smart-grid planners feel the heat.
Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief
State utility regulators begin to question the benefits of smart grid technology, and customers take to the streets in public protests and demonstrations to oppose installation of smart meters.
Consensus building is an imperative and educational art form.
With public opposition rising against almost any kind of utility project or investment, collaboration among stakeholders with widely divergent points of view never has been more critical. Three recent utility cases demonstrate how a formal stakeholder collaboration process can build support for otherwise contentious decisions.