The Big Build will test the industry’s access to Wall Street.
The era of easily available, affordable energy rapidly is ending and our society is realizing that our energy infrastructure is severely inadequate to supply the energy demands of the future. The major issue facing the sector today is how to fund and deliver this new climate-friendly infrastructure, which is currently estimated will cost almost $2 trillion between now and 2030.
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?
Market forces are transforming the IOU business model.
As market forces transform the IOU business model, Apple’s iPhone provides a metaphor and possible example for the industry to follow. The iUtility will emerge as companies renegotiate the regulatory compact and reinterpret the traditional rate formula.
Is electricity price-elastic enough for rate designs to matter?
Contrary to conventional wisdom, electricity demand isn’t immune to price elasticity, and rate designs can encourage conservation. In particular, inclining block rates coupled with dynamic pricing can cut electric use by as much as 20 percent.
Green investments require bulletproof financing.
Originally developed to compensate U.S. electric utilities for regulatory assets rendered uneconomic by deregulation, so-called “stranded-cost” securitization techniques are finding new applications. To date, utilities have issued approximately $40 billion of stranded-cost securitizations. That number could increase dramatically if the industry applies well-tested securitization techniques to the extraordinary costs it faces in the future.
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.
FirstEnergy Corp. named Dennis L. Dabney its vice-president of human resources. Northeast Utilities announced Johnny D. Magwood as its first chief customer officer. AES appointed Ned Hall its executive vice president and president of its wind generation division. Intrepid Technology and Resources named Jack Haffey as its chief executive officer. And others...
When Spanish utility giant Iberdrola announced last June that it would acquire Maine-based Energy East for $4.5 billion, it signaled a potential surge in major foreign owners buying into U.S. utility companies. Fortnightly spoke with Pedro Azagra, director of corporate development for Iberdrola S.A. in Bilbao, Spain, to get an update on the acquisition, and his impression of U.S. merger-approval processes.
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.