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.
Protecting the smart grid requires a broader strategy.
NERC’s critical infrastructure protection (CIP) standards set a minimum level of security performance—and only for high-voltage transmission systems, not the distribution grid. A compliance-checklist approach to security might lack the adaptability needed to combat evolving threats like the Stuxnet worm. A multi-layered, risk-based approach will provide better protection for the emerging smart grid.
(July 2011) Williams Partners L.P. expands Transco transmission lines; Google to provide fiber optic Internet service for Kansas City, Mo.; Constellation Energy picks Lynxspring Inc.; plus contracts and developments involving Servidyne, EnerNOC, Siemens Energy and others.
NERC confronts a case backlog now numbering in the thousands.
The case backlog of unprocessed electric reliability violations is growing out of control, threatening to “swamp” the industry — a sign, perhaps, that when Congress and FERC modernized the electric reliability regime to serve a more market-based industry structure, and for the first time gave enforcement authority to North American Reliability Corp. (NERC) as the nation’s official electric reliability czar, no one gave much thought, apparently, as to whether NERC’s very idea of what constitutes reliability might have needed modernizing as well.
Performance standards are a valid idea—if targets are achievable.
Hossein Haeri and Eli Morris
Performance standards are a valid and necessary idea to drive conservation, but only if targets are realistic and achievable. So far, success has been determined by program rationality. A uniform, market-based approach would give retailers flexibility to spur innovation.
Alstom introduces a new 3-MW wind turbine, one of the world’s most powerful for onshore installations; Solyndra reports its larges-ever rooftop installation of cylindrical photovoltaic (PV) systems — a 704-kW project in New Jersey; Plug Power reports that its GenDrive fuel cell units will power Walmart Canada’s fleet of electric lift trucks at a Alberta distribution center.
A land rush in the burgeoning home energy management market.
The Prius Effect—a term that’s gained currency in sustainability circles—is shorthand for the strong link between information and behavior demonstrated by the popular Toyota hybrid. The car was among the first to provide a real-time fuel consumption gage on the dash; step hard on the gas, watch the MPG gage go down. Coast gently along and see the savings. Drivers with the gage become aware of—even obsessive about—the way their driving habits affect consumption, and by extension, cost.
Consumers hold the key to technology’s benefits.
Robert Spencer and Mani Vadari
The utility industry tends to think about smart-grid development as a technical challenge. However, smart-grid technology will fall short of its promise if utilities don’t obtain buy-in from customers. Successful utilities will actively engage customers at every stage of implementation, customizing their approach to the sensitivities and opportunities in each customer segment.
Utilities explore the potential of zero-energy homes.
Utilities are leaving no stone unturned in their search for ways to save electricity. Federal incentives will support new technologies and projects, but can those incentives overcome structural barriers that stand in the way of major efficiency improvements? editors explore challenges and opportunities arising from the new efficiency mandate.
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.