How DG and microgrids change the game for utilities.
Energy microgrids have emerged as more than just a curiosity. The technology is improving, costs are falling, and developers are lining up to build projects. How will microgrids overcome the substantial challenges that stand in their way?
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.
Distribution utilities could become an important source of renewable funding.
Distribution utilities are well positioned to provide tax equity for renewable projects, but some state laws prevent it. Tapping the potential will require progressive leadership by utility executives and regulators.
Technology is changing the game. Is your utility ready?
Although today microgrids serve a tiny fraction of the market, that share will grow as costs fall. Utilities can benefit if they plan ahead.
Portfolio strategies for the new power-fuel market.
John Corrigan and Jim Hendrickson
Shale gas discoveries and ballooning inventories have pushed natural gas prices down to a 10-year low. At the same time, increasingly stringent emissions regulations are squeezing out some coal-fired power assets. Are we witnessing a power-fuel revolution? And if so, what’s the best survival strategy?
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.
Renewable M&A lives on despite death of Treasury cash grants.
Brian Boufarah and Marlene Motyka
The U.S. Treasury cash grants for new renewable power projects expired at the end of 2011. These incentives, which were implemented under Section 1603 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, helped to support continued capacity additions throughout the recession. The impending expiration of these grants caused a wave of merger and acquisition (M&A) activity during 2011 as developers and financiers rushed to get deals done and to begin construction in order to meet the Section 1603, 5-percent safe harbor threshold by the Dec. 31, 2011 deadline.
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.
With meters running backwards, utilities seek a niche.
As states implement renewable energy mandates, and as solar photovoltaic (PV) technology becomes more economical, the market for distributed rooftop solar is growing. As a result, various players are taking different approaches to finance PV development—from net-metered residential systems financed by third-party leases, to grid-scale, utility-owned projects. Fortnightly Contributor William Atkinson talks to some major players in solar PV finance and examines the implications for investor-owned utilities.