Utilities are gearing up for cyber security compliance. Will the standards prove worthy?
The NERC CIP standards represent an historic achievement. They include the first mandatory cyber security requirements of their kind to be imposed on a U.S. private-sector industry. Considering the scope and sensitivity of the grid-security issue, developing a set of enforceable standards inevitably would entail a complex and contentious process. From that perspective, NERC, FERC and the industry have made remarkable progress, and their efforts deserve accolades.
NERC’s new cyber security rules may minimize cost of compliance, but they leave utilities guessing on how to identify risks.
Liam Baker, vice president for regulatory affairs at US Power Generating, questions whether his company’s power plants and control systems in New York and Massachusetts must comply with the electric industry’s new mandatory standards for cyber security. Baker voiced his doubts in written comments he filed in October with FERC.
Increasing prices for materials, equipment and services are driving utility infrastructure costs into uncharted territory.
Greg Basheda and Marc Chupka
The evidence is overwhelming: After a decade of relatively stable, or even declining, construction costs, the industry is now facing a prolonged period of elevated construction price tags. What are the causes behind this trend, and how might the cost increases translate into higher rates?
Tech experts weigh the options for improving power delivery.
We’ve heard it all before, but the issue isn’t going away: Reliability of power, from generation to distribution, remains a primary concern of the utility industry. But the current verdict is mixed, depending upon which experts you talk to. Aging equipment is a ticking time bomb—except when it isn’t. NERC CIP standards are driving reliability improvements—except when they aren’t. Maintenance is key—except where monitoring and automation are more important. And regulators should stand aside and let the market drive reliability improvements—but economic incentives wouldn’t hurt.
FERC would relax price caps—sending rates skyward—to encourage customers to curtail loads.
About four months ago, at a conference at Stanford University’s Center for International Development, the economist and utility industry expert Frank Wolak turned heads with a not-so-new but very outrageous idea.
The big challenge facing the Northeast energy markets.
The Northeast energy markets are working hard to establish new levels of regional coordination and cooperation. The region’s concerted effort is essential to resolving some of the industry’s toughest issues since the individual markets evolved. These issues include the elimination, reduction, or bridging of seams issues that prevent the economic transfer of capacity and energy between neighboring wholesale electricity markets, or control areas, as a result of incompatible market rules or designs.
As if carbon control were a fait accompli, gen developers skew the queue toward renewable projects, driving new policy on transmission pricing.
Now at last, in a region other than California, we can see clearly that renewable mandates and fears of carbon taxes have influenced the power-plant development cycle. Moreover, this effect is helping to drive policy proposals for the pricing of transmission service and the recovery of costs for grid upgrades deemed necessary to bring the new plants on line.
Sweating the details for 2009.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) introduced wholesale market competition in 1996, following the organizational change of ERCOT from a pure reliability council to an independent system operator (ISO) the same year. This makes ERCOT one of the earliest adopters of competitive electric markets. Stakeholders and regulators in ERCOT are trying to work out the details of implementing this market.
NERC’s first critical-infrastructure standard is now enforceable. But cyber rules await approval.
Cyber standards proposed by the North American Electric Reliability Corp. are in limbo this summer, although the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission anticipates taking action on them soon. Once approved, however, how will the two organizations work together to enforce compliance?
The Southeast again is the battleground for fuels, technology, and market structure.
One sure sign of recovery in boom-and-bust power-generation markets is the renewed growth in the planning and construction of power plants. Active efforts are underway in generation development in the Southeast markets in spite of the high levels of generating reserve margins. With its traditional utility-dominated market structure and a preference for baseload generation, the Southeast is the battleground for the next round of power-generation development.