Shaping system transformation.
New technologies—and new expectations—require taking a fresh look at the institutions and practices that have provided reliable electricity for the past century. Collective action is needed to define the key attributes of a future grid and then to take the more difficult next step—adapting our processes and institutions to align with that future vision. A thoughtful approach will allow America to capture the potential value that’s offered by sweeping changes in technologies and policies.
But transmission planning, as we know it, may never be the same.
The recent landmark ruling on transmission planning cost allocation, known as “Order 1000,” and issued by the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in late July 2011, could well produce an unintended side effect — the formation of regional compacts among states to identify needs and plan for development of new power plant projects.
Why electricity is good—and more is better.
A century of electrification shows clearly that more electricity—and cheaper electricity—enhances public health, raises living standards and also improves the environment. Conversely, higher prices harm businesses and families, with a disproportionate impact on low-income households. Public welfare goals are best served by public policies that make electricity more accessible and affordable to the masses—not less.
Investment opportunities in an evolving environment.
Christopher Dann, Sartaz Ahmed and Owen Ward
Some of the key policy mechanisms and market factors that triggered the boom in renewable energy development have weakened in the face of one of the most severe economic downturns in modern history. In some ways, though, the renewables sector is richer and more dynamic today than when the boom began. A shakeout might be coming among renewable power players, and those that survive will strengthen their capabilities, hone their strategies, and take advantage of industry consolidation to build scale.
Integrating distributed resources into the smart grid.
The remedy for America’s gravest economic woes may lie in a smart grid that can deliver vast amounts of clean, renewable energy while enhancing our energy security and democratizing our energy system. Although regulatory questions and technical challenges might dominate the industry’s short-term focus, the smart grid’s driving forces parallel America’s long-term national interests — a fact that should guide ongoing technology strategies and investment decisions.
With no guidance yet from FERC, Atlantic Wind is forced to wait.
Touted as the nation’s first-ever “offshore transmission highway,” the proposed Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) high-voltage power line in theory could foster dozens of wind farms in shallow offshore costal waters up and down the mid-Atlantic seaboard — but only if federal regulators can get buy-in for new transmission planning rules that give precedence to large, macro projects aimed at boosting renewable energy. Otherwise, the grid project might never pass muster with the engineers charged with OK’ing new power lines, since the AWC is probably not needed to maintain reliability, and likely would not make electricity rates any cheaper for East Coast ratepayers. Should wind energy developers start with massive grid projects to attract clusters of wind turbines, or should the wind farms come first?
Integrating renewables in New York.
New York has developed new market mechanisms intended to effectively incorporate large amounts of renewable energy in the future — up to six times the current levels of intermittent energy without impacting system reliability. New York ISO executive Rana Mukerji explains how the market will drive new investment in renewable energy in the state.
Prospects for clean energy legislation in 2011.
With budget battles heating up in Washington, Congress and the Obama administration are squaring off to debate energy policy legislation. While Democratic leadership favors a clean energy standard, Republican lawmakers are focused on blocking administration initiatives to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. A compromise approach might bring substantial changes to America’s national energy strategy.
Solar projects are becoming hot investments.
With recent scale-up in both photovoltaic and concentrated thermal facilities, solar energy is nearing cost parity with wind and even some fossil generation sources. And with development models evolving to help companies manage technology risks, solar power has become an attractive investment opportunity—not just for tax-equity players, but also for utilities.
Renewables are greenest when displacing coal, not gas.
With the abandonment of a nationwide energy policy by the previous Congress, states continue leading carbon mitigation efforts. Indeed, existing state policies and renewable portfolio standards (RPS) are already having a significant impact on the U.S. generation portfolio. FERC now proposes to weigh state policy as a consideration in transmission filings. Should state policies guide federal action? Will they suffice to reduce carbon emissions?