Fortnightly Magazine - February 2007

Global Regulation: Exporting 'America' to the World

Why U.S. public utility commission-style ratemaking has becomes a hit overseas.

What are some approaches to regulation adopted in recent decades by national governments, and the implications for management making international investment decisions?

Garbage In, Power Out: How Trash Can Power Ethanol Plants

A win-win situation for the local government, utilities, and industry.

Ethanol plants either are operating, under construction, or planned for several areas in the Midwest. These same areas also have municipal solid waste (MSW) produced daily in an existing landfill. In addition, these areas have a need for establishing or extending a landfill.

As an alternative to the existing concept of a landfill, plasma-arc technology has been applied to the treatment of MSW. Known as plasma-arc gasification for the treatment of MSW, this recent development would eliminate or minimize the need for a landfill.

Letters to the Editor

John D. Chandley, Principal, LECG LLC: Bruce Radford’s “An Inconvenient Fact” provides a helpful critique of a fundamental element of open-access transmission reform, one of the most important rulemaking cases affecting electricity regulation at FERC.

Cynthia Bogorad, Spiegel & McDiarmid, Washington: From my perspective representing transmission-dependent utilities, I am very sympathetic to the underlying concerns that appear to be driving the TDAs’ proposal. However, the TDAs’ proposal is not the answer.

Assessing the Turmoil in New Zealand’s Electric Industry

 

BOOK REVIEW: Alternating Currents or Counter-Revolution: Contemporary Electricity Reform in New Zealand, by Lewis T. Evans and Richard B. Meade (Victoria University Press).

The news coming from across the Pacific Ocean over the past year seemed familiar, if at times puzzling. New Zealand’s energy minister, caught in a political faux-pas, hastily resigns—only to be reinstated a few weeks later. Concerns about inadequate power supplies and below-average hydroelectric storage are downplayed by government regulators. Then, a harsh winter wind storm triggers a transmission failure that blacks out the major city of Auckland. What to make of all this turmoil in New Zealand’s energy industry?

Duke's Risky Spin

Lackluster interest in Duke post spin-off bodes ill for the “pure play” electric utility.

It was the most anticipated energy deal in the New Year, but not for the usual reasons. The spin-off of Duke Energy’s natural-gas business into a stand-alone company, Spectra Energy Inc., peaked interest because the transaction was to have marked the vindication of the so-called “pure play” electric strategy. The deal also has captured attention because the spin-off represented a divestiture strategy that until now hasn’t been universally embraced, with gas assets still seen by some utilities as part of core operations.

People

(February 2007) The Electric Power Research Institute appointed Bryan Hannegan vice president for environment research and development. PNGC Power named John Prescott senior vice president of power supply. Nora Mead Brownell joined the Comverge Inc. board of directors. The Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator Inc. announced the election of two new members to its board of directors: Michael J. Curran and Eugene W. Zeltmann. And others...

Climate Panic Button

Ecology scientist Ken Caldeira sheds light on some radical ideas for fighting global warming.

Among climate scientists, Ken Caldeira is a self-described troublemaker. For instance, Caldeira annoyed tree-huggers and corporations alike by demonstrating that planting trees in most locations around the world actually exacerbates global warming. Fortnightly caught up with Caldeira recently to discuss his perspectives on geoengineering and its possible role in strategies to address climate change.

Unintended Consequences

Does anyone care about rising redispatch costs?

Regional transmission organizations (RTOs) or independent system operators (ISOs) dominate the major power grids of North America, with the notable exceptions of the Southeast and Pacific Northwest. The purpose of this article is not to criticize system reliability but to highlight the more pervasive challenge today and for the future: Controlling the cost impact of decisions by grid operators on energy market participants.