Will power plants get caught in ethanol’s food fight?
The debate over food vs. fuel never has been louder. Using corn to make the biofuel ethanol is perhaps the best known point of argument. Everyone is asking: Should the United States require a certain percentage of U.S. corn crops be turned into fuel in the face of global food shortages and exorbitant food prices? And what are the effects of diverting food croplands into producing fuel?
Rate caps have squelched competition in Pennsylvania.
The prolonged period of capped rates in Pennsylvania—years longer than in any other state—has produced some benefits and some drawbacks. On the plus side, due largely to the rate caps, electricity costs in the Commonwealth have fallen from 15 percent above the national average in 1996 to below the national average in 2007. This has been a significant benefit, but a temporary one that many have taken for granted.
Distributed solar modules are gaining ground on concentrated solar thermal plants.
Jonathan Lesser and Nicolas Puga
Photovoltaic technologies are beginning to appear more attractive than concentrated solar thermal plants. PV’s competitiveness is improving from technical and operational advancements, as well as significant commitments made by such utilities as Southern California Edison. In the long run, distributed central PV plants likely will gain a strong market position.
Regarding "Transmission Rights Row:" While technological advances and the development of fiber optic communications was not foreseen by utilities companies when they executed easement agreements for transmission rights of way, the tremendous escalation of land values, especially near some metropolitan areas, may not have been foreseen by the easement grantors.
State and federal incentives push utilities to invest in grid intelligence.
State and federal incentives provide the carrot for utilities to invest in grid intelligence. But regulatory and technological incentives are not enough without customer participation. Smart-grid policies will succeed only by focusing on customer needs and benefits.
ERCOT’s February emergency suggests storage capacity is needed to support renewables.
ERCOT in February averted a blackout that could have become a disastrous defining moment for the windpower industry. This near miss can teach utilities and system operators valuable lessons about integrating variable energy sources into the power grid.
A comprehensive DR business case quantifies a full range of concurrent benefits.
The benefits of DR remain difficult to quantify. Building a comprehensive business case requires a shift in how policy makers think about DR in order to understand its real possibilities.
A new theory on capacity markets and the missing money.
On Wednesday May 7, FERC will host a conference in Washington, D.C. that might prove extraordinary. The commission staff promises not only to review the forward capacity markets now operating in New England and PJM—each a story unto itself—but also to discuss a new rate-making theory that has come virtually out of nowhere and which proposes to help solve the notorious “missing money” problem.
Emerging capacity auctions offer limited but valuable risk-management tools for asset owners.
Fast forward to today’s partially deregulated electric power markets. Wholesale electric energy often is traded in various central markets, as well as among individuals in bilateral transactions. Wholesale electric energy prices largely are deregulated, and clearly, over the past decade, market participants have become adept at routinely charging much more than their variable production costs. This “rent extraction,” as economists commonly call it, can take various forms, and while the mechanism for achieving it can be complicated, the evidence is quite clear that today’s wholesale electricity prices typically are higher than the variable costs of most or even all suppliers.
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.