PJM and the crisis over FTR underfunding.
PJM’s latest crisis—the underfunding of financial transmission rights that we’ve seen over the last few years—pushes regulators right to the edge. How far do they trust wholesale power markets? Do they accept the idea, proven by a famous economist, that freely traded financial instruments can work just as well—better even—than firm, physical contract rights?
Incompetence and overreach at the EPA.
The EPA’s new method for measuring the amount of methane that escapes from natural gas wells is based on flawed data. Oklahoma’s attorney general says this misguided policy decision treads on state regulatory authority and stifles resource development.
Portfolio strategies for the new power-fuel market.
John Corrigan and Jim Hendrickson
Shale gas discoveries and ballooning inventories have pushed natural gas prices down to a 10-year low. At the same time, increasingly stringent emissions regulations are squeezing out some coal-fired power assets. Are we witnessing a power-fuel revolution? And if so, what’s the best survival strategy?
Renewable M&A lives on despite death of Treasury cash grants.
Brian Boufarah and Marlene Motyka
The U.S. Treasury cash grants for new renewable power projects expired at the end of 2011. These incentives, which were implemented under Section 1603 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, helped to support continued capacity additions throughout the recession. The impending expiration of these grants caused a wave of merger and acquisition (M&A) activity during 2011 as developers and financiers rushed to get deals done and to begin construction in order to meet the Section 1603, 5-percent safe harbor threshold by the Dec. 31, 2011 deadline.
(February 2012) Siemens acquires eMeter; Long Island Power Authority selects PSEG to manage T&D system; Mountain Parks Electric awards SCADA/DMS contract to Open Systems International; Kiewit and Sargent and Lundy award contract to Hitachi; plus announcements and contracts involving SAIC, Shell, Landis+Gyr, and others.
Planning ahead in a low-cost gas market.
Julie Ryan and Julie Lieberman
IIt’s ironic that in today’s market, as the cost of hedging against commodity price increases has declined, support for utility hedging programs has sunk to a historic low. The ideal time to hedge is when prices are low and markets are relatively calm, because that’s when hedging costs and risks are the lowest. Conversely, waiting until prices rise and markets become volatile will expose customers to higher costs. Convincing regulators to approve hedging programs now will require a collaborative approach to educating and enlisting support from stakeholders.
Waste fuels struggle despite coal’s decline.
Fuel supply might be the biggest barrier to scaling-up biomass power generation, but it’s by no means the only problem. Utility projects to repower coal-fired plants face permitting challenges, ballooning technology costs and strained economics. Some owners are giving up the fight.
2010 Law & Lawyers Report
The U.S. utility industry has never faced a more uncertain legal and regulatory landscape. From FERC demand-response pricing to state ratemaking disputes, legal trends and decisions are reshaping the power and gas market. The industry’s top legal minds provide strategic counsel. By definition, a battlefield is an ugly place. Conflict creates chaos, uncertainty and danger.
Transmission expansion is only part of the remedy for system constraints.
Building new transmission across the entire U.S. is an idea that continues to dominate discussions about the future of electric power. Many believe large amounts of power need to be moved across the country, or that transmission is needed to relieve congested areas, or to make sure enough renewable power is built. But transmission capacity is only part of the remedy to system constraints, and policy decisions and investment strategies must be based on sound evidence and economically rational planning.
Why America’s bridge fuel faces a road block.
In 2009, unconventional shale gas emerged as the dominant driver in North American natural gas markets. Rapid increases in shale gas production and shale-driven upward revisions to the U.S. natural gas resource base have reversed the outlook for the U.S. natural gas supply. In contrast, the economic recession and growing uncertainties around the role of natural gas in power generation have clouded the outlook for natural gas demand. Natural gas has been called the “bridge fuel” for its potential to support the transition to a low carbon U.S. economy.