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.
Technology and regulation changes the outlook for garbage burners.
Notwithstanding some past difficulties, trash-fired power plants represent an increasingly attractive opportunity for future clean generation investment. Waste fuel offers a green source of baseload power that’s competitive with fossil fuels. The technology is proven and mature, and it enjoys public policy support. Additionally, waste fuel will help utilities meet diversity goals and environmental mandates.
Adding up the benefits of infrastructure investments.
J.P. Pfeifenberger and D. Hou
Allocating the costs of new transmission investments requires accurately assessing the value of those new lines, and identifying the primary beneficiaries. But formulaic approaches rely too much on the most easily quantified cost savings, and reject benefits that are dispersed across service areas—or that might change over the course of time. Brattle Group analysts J.P. Pfeifenberger and D. Hou explain that comprehensive valuation produces a more accurate picture.
Case studies on integrating renewable resources.
Seth Parker, Jack Elder, and Boris Shapiro
Where wind integration has been most successful, state authorities developed and adopted basic transmission planning and cost allocation principles before FERC issued Order 1000. Experiences in Texas, California, and Hawaii demonstrate what it takes to overcome permitting and cost allocation barriers—namely, a coherent policy framework and close coordination among stakeholders.
Complex problems call for collective measures.
Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief
Among all of the investment priorities in the U.S. electric power industry, one stands out as having the greatest momentum: transmission. This is interesting because transmission is perhaps the most difficult type of power infrastructure to develop, and has been for decades. Editor Michael T. Burr talks with executives at Xcel Energy and Great River Energy to learn how the CAPX2020 consortium has managed to succeed where others failed.
A strategic approach to mitigating rate increases and greenhouse gas price risk.
Experience in the Duke Energy Carolinas service territory shows that high penetration rates for electric vehicles, combined with increased natural gas-fired power generation, can result in lower costs to customers and lower risks for utility shareholders—while also reducing total emissions of greenhouse gases. However, these outcomes depend on policy changes that facilitate smart, off-peak vehicle charging, and that allow utilities to capture the benefits of a more environmentally friendly power system.
Utilities stay the course in a volatile market.
A wave of mergers and acquisitions is moving through the industry, as utilities and financial players position for growth and strategic advantage. Will economic and regulatory forces continue supporting these transactions? Our annual finance special report examines trends in capital markets and M&A deals involving utilities, power generators and gas suppliers.
A fearful economy cries for industry leadership.
Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief
Many utilities have trimmed their capital spending in the face of economic weakness and regulatory uncertainty. At the same time, strong energy sales have boosted cash flow and profits. Backed by regulated returns and clear resource plans, the industry should step up infrastructure investments. Are we ready to lead America out of economic malaise?
Business models are evolving to suit a shifting industry landscape.
Andre Begosso, Jack Azagury and Tim Porter
The next decade will bring serious disruption to the utility industry. But with cooperation from regulators and legislators, utility companies will be able to shift their business models to capture significant value—both in existing businesses and emerging ones.
In the Pacific Northwest, you either spill water or spill wind.
The wind power industry has been up in arms ever since the Bonneville Power Administration earlier this year announced its Interim Environmental Redispatch and Negative Pricing Policy. That policy, applicable during periods of high spring runoff and heavy water flow volumes on the Federal Columbia River Power System, calls for BPA to redispatch and curtail access to transmission for wind power generating turbines, and to replace that resource with hydroelectric power generated via BOA hydroelectric dams, in order to avoid having to divert water through dam spillways, which could threaten fish and wildlife by creating excess levels of Total Dissolved Gas (TDG), which can cause Gas Bubble Trauma. Yet the legal issue remains unclear: Does this practice imply discrimination in the provision of transmission service, or is it simply a matter of system balancing and generation dispatch? In fact, the FERC may lack jurisdiction over the dispute, as it pertains to the fulfillment of BPA’s statutory mandates.