Utilities hurry up and wait to apply for grant money.
The American Recovery and Restructuring Act (ARRA, or the Recovery Act), signed into law in February, provides $4.5 billion in stimulus funding for programs aimed at “electricity delivery and energy reliability activities to modernize the electric grid.” This funding commitment, and swirl of industry and lawmaker activities since, has helped lift the smart-grid agenda out of the shadows of utility engineering departments and into the public’s broader view.
Utilities adapt to a shifting landscape.
Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief
The U.S. utility landscape is more dynamic and uncertain than it’s been since Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse waged their infamous war over alternating current—and the results might be just as fundamental to the industry’s future.
Chris O’Brien is no starry-eyed idealist. An engineer with an MBA, he began his career developing fossil-fired power plants for the AES Corp. But in the 1990s his career took a different turn, when he launched the Energy Star program for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. After that, he went into the solar energy business, and never has looked back.
Renewables attract utility investment dollars.
New federal policies have opened the gates to utility investments in renewable generating plants. Some states, however, still make it difficult for utilities to put such assets into the rate base. Executives at Duke, OG&E, PG&E and Xcel Energy discuss challenges and opportunities affecting their renewable investment strategies.
New business models make energy storage attractive.
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.
Engaging customers will require more than TOU pricing.
Imagine a setback thermostat programmed at the factory that the consumer couldn’t modify. Who would want this device? You could give the customer a big enough discount to get her to accept the device, but she would be happier and you could save about as much energy if the customer could decide on the temperature and time settings.
Subsidies might not be the best solution for interconnecting renewables.
Supporters of renewable energy are seeking to socialize the cost of a new interstate highway system for transporting green power. But utilities and transmission owners will build or finance new transmission systems to serve economic demands. Policy makers shouldn’t pre-ordain the direction of industry progress.
Building reactors requires new federal commitment.
Glenn S.K. Williams et al.
Several key barriers prevent the construction of a new U.S. nuclear power fleet. These barriers must be overcome to prevent a power-shortfall emergency.
Risk avoidance drives utility stock performance.
Jeffrey W. Miller, Michael Rutkowski et al.
Utility stocks historically have been a safe haven, a stable, long-term investment for widows and orphans. However, with banks collapsing and the economy falling into a recession, utility stocks as a whole recently have performed poorly, with our portfolio of 75 companies losing $200 billion in market value in 2008.
Effective metrics give solar its due credit.
Photovoltaic (PV) power generation is an intermittent, non-dispatchable resource generally considered as energy-only with no capacity credit. However, there is ample evidence that solar energy reliably is available at peak demand time when loads are driven by day-time commercial air conditioning, and can contribute effectively to increasing the capacity available on a regional grid.