Small is beautiful for nuclear developers.
Small modular reactors (SMRs) are nuclear generating units that are about the size of railroad cars and provide about one-tenth to one-fourth the power of full-size reactors. As a result, they cost a fraction of what full-size reactors cost. The reactors are designed to provide between 40 MW and 300 MW of electric power, compared with the 1,100 to 1,700 MW output of larger reactors. In addition, most are expected to cost under $1 billion, compared with the $5 billion to $10 billion price tags of the larger units.
Has demand response hit an evolutionary dead end?
On March 18, the day after this issue went to press, FERC was scheduled at its decisional meeting to open a new formal inquiry on the role of demand response in regions that already have competitive wholesale power markets. In particular, how much money should grid operators pay to electric customers who promise not to buy wholesale power?
Siemens Energy has been awarded an 18-month, $300,000 R&D program by the Illinois Clean Coal Institute to study the effects of coal and coal-derived syngas combustion on the behavior of material and coating degradation in utility boiler and gas turbine environments. Focus areas of the research program will explore materials degradation modes in integrated gasification combined-cycle (IGCC) systems and utility boilers.
Living in the new world of mandatory reliability standards.
Zhen Zhang and Matthew Stern
Mandatory reliability standards put in place by NERC three years ago give reason for optimism concerning their success. But the organization struggles with standards development, compliance, enforcement and transparency.
How merchant funding is remaking the rules for renewables.
Six weeks ago, FERC opened a notice of inquiry to invite industry comments on whether wind, solar, and other intermittent energy sources face unfair obstacles in wholesale power markets. Now assigned their own acronym—VERs, for “variable energy resources”—renewables make up a growing percentage of the nation’s energy supply portfolio. But as FERC notes, they present “unique challenges,” especially in terms of constraints on location and limits on the degree to which system operators can control or dispatch individual VER units. Thus, FERC suggests that certain common rules and practices, such as those for unit commitment, dispatch, and scheduling, might make it overly difficult to integrate VERs into the grid.
Workable standards require utility input.
The IEEE P2030 Work Group is developing standards to encourage seamless deployment, integration and operation of energy, information and communication technologies across the smart grid. Utility input and engagement is needed to produce workable standards.
The most economical energy savings might be found in grid efficiency.
Power delivery efficiency gains constitute a valuable utility asset that can offset or defer new generation and T&D investments. Enabling technologies, utility demonstration projects and supporting regulatory frameworks are needed to validate potential savings.
Predicting discord in power plant property tax assessments.
At a time when many states and municipalities are facing budget deficits of historic proportions, many power generators are struggling against declining demand, the lowest electricity prices in many years, and looming carbon legislation. As a result, tax authorities might be seeking to raise property tax receipts at the exact same time that many generators are looking to lower their assessments. Conflict appears to be on the horizon, but where will it emerge? An examination of state budgets, as well as the expected changes in generator gross margins, reveals how tax collectors and taxpayers are most likely to respond.
Transforming DR and smart-grid policies into reality.
Regulatory policies are evolving to make demand response and smart-grid planning a reality across the country. Cooperation between federal and state lawmakers will allow local flexibility within a uniform national framework.
With the administration and Democratic lawmakers in Congress pushing to enact greenhouse-gas (GHG) regulation, nuclear power has taken center stage as both a clean technology solution and a political bargaining chip. Consequently, the industry’s hopes for new construction projects have brightened considerably. Whether this policy momentum can usher in a sustainable nuclear renaissance, however, remains questionable at best.