Calendar of Events

Aug 04, 2014 to Aug 15, 2014 | Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Aug 11, 2014 to Aug 12, 2014 | New York, NY
Sep 08, 2014 to Sep 10, 2014 | Chicago, IL

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Public Utilities Reports

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RTO

Sunset on Grid West

RTOs in the region continue to struggle.

Lawrence J. Risman, Ph.D.

Efforts to develop more RTOs in the West came to a near standstill again after talks last year among key players Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), Grid West, and the Transmission Improvements Group collapsed over BPA’s convergence proposal. The end of talks is one more failure in a long line of failures to find consensus on an RTO approach in the West. Grid West is attempting to reorganize following BPA’s withdrawal, but its fate is indeterminate. Key issues are funding for continued development and achieving agreements with BPA and other transmission providers in the region.

NERC Knows Best?

FERC this year must select a reliability czar. But the obvious choice could prove less than ideal.

Richard Stavros, Executive Editor

NERC up until now has been, in its own words, “a self regulatory organization, relying on reciprocity, peer pressure, and the mutual self-interest of all those involved in the electric system.” Nevertheless, can this tradition of kind, gentle, and voluntary consensus-building stand NERC in good stead as it seeks to transform itself in to a steel-fisted czar that would enforce mandatory standards?

Electric Transmission: Building the Next Interstate System

We must efficiently deliver wholesale power within competitive regional markets.

Michael G. Morris

When President Eisenhower was growing up in Kansas, he saw America’s byways and back roads develop to meet point-to-point needs, eventually forming a loosely connected national interstate highway network. The U.S. electric transmission system has similar roots, and it needs a similar vision to meet the needs of the 21st century.

Tariff Tinkering

FERC says it won’t ‘change’ the native-load preference, but don’t bet on it.

Bruce W. Radford

When FERC opened wholesale power markets to competition a decade ago in Order No. 888, it codified a system for awarding grid access known as the pro forma Open-Access Transmission Tariff (OATT), founded on physical rights, and on the fiction that electrons travel along a “contract path.” Should the commission “tinker” with the OATT, making only surgical changes to make it current? Or, do events instead warrant a complete overhaul?

Regulators Forum: Shifting Winds, Shifting Strategies

State regulators grapple with investments, supply planning, and structural issues.

Michael T. Burr

The opposing challenges of higher gas prices and rising environmental concerns have put utility regulators in a difficult position: How can they bring rate stability while minimizing environmental impacts? At the same time, they are grappling with trends in consolidation, competition, transmission planning, and distribution service quality. Each state brings a different view of the changing utility landscape. For insight, Fortnightly brought together regulators from several states to discuss their plans and priorities for today and the future.

Commission Watch

FERC mulls rival plans at the last minute, while on the West Coast, California gets into the game.

Bruce W. Radford

FERC, the ISO, and many other parties had seen no reason for further debate over the need for a location-specific capacity market. By limiting debate, FERC had foreclosed a raft of competing ideas. When the moment finally arrived for the oral argument at FERC, attorneys and witnesses attempted valiantly in the precious few minutes allotted each speaker to flesh out new ideas, and the commissioners struggled as well to keep up. This highly unusual situation made for a helter-skelter hearing, with new topics seeming to come out of the woodwork.

New England: A Critical Look at Competition

Seven years after restructuring, challenges remain. Should the region stay the course?

Gordon van Welie

Electric restructuring—identified in some quarters with Enron, California, and the August 2003 blackout—has brought significant, measurable benefits to us in New England. Seven years after restructuring began, it's a good time to assess the challenges that remain and gauge whether to stay the course toward continued restructuring.

Utility M&A: How Many Deals, and How Soon?

By opening the field to far-flung deals, PUHCA’s repeal changes the merger game.

Michael T. Burr

The repeal of the 1935 Public Utility Holding Company Act has attracted a surprising amount of attention in the business and consumer press. But while some analysts predict a wave of utility M&A activity, others are more sanguine about the change.

A Low-Voltage Energy Bill

While a few provisions are worth embracing, most of its 1,724 pages represent a waste of good timber.

Peter Van Doren and Jerry Taylor

After four years of legislative trench warfare, contentious legal wrangling, and heated partisan rhetoric, President Bush finally got what he wanted—a really big energy bill. What he did not get, however, was an internally consistent "national energy strategy." Examination of the legislation reveals that its title—the Energy Policy Act of 2005—is less descriptive than the title popularized by Sen. John McCain: the No Lobbyist Left Behind Act of 2005.

A Welcome Truce in the Electricity Wars

Let's enjoy this brief period of diminished acrimony before implementation of this landmark law.

Peter Fox-Penner

In a time of record high gasoline prices, war, and increasingly shared global climate concerns, it is lamentable that the Energy Policy Act of 2005 does so little to address these critical issues. Within the narrower context of policies primarily affecting the electric power industry, however, this is a much more significant piece of legislation, and it includes a few accomplishments bordering on the extraordinary.

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