Fortnightly Magazine - October 2009
Utilities cut support for climate-change deniers.
This summer marked the 40th anniversary of a pivotal event in the environmental movement. On June 22, 1969, the oily surface of the Cuyahoga River caught fire, drawing national attention to the plight of America’s lakes and rivers. However, clean water standards didn’t begin with the Cuyahoga River fire, the EPA or the Clean Water Act. A series of common-law nuisance lawsuits, combined with a patchwork of state laws and (weak) federal statutes, preceded the comprehensive legislation that emerged from the smoke of the Cuyahoga. Today we’re seeing a similar progression in greenhouse gas regulation, with civil suits, state initiatives and marginal federal actions apparently marching toward a national climate policy.
The best way to tap into renewable project funding.
Renewable generation resources have become the rallying cry for policymakers and developers alike as the movement grows to generate electricity in a more climate-friendly manner. Pending federal legislation creating a carbon cap-and-trade market and a national renewable portfolio standard (RPS), together with existing state requirements, is spurring utilities that lack renewable generation to acquire some—no matter the federal legislative outcome—and causing utilities with sizeable renewable generation to expand their existing portfolios.
Transmission expansion costs are spread unevenly, driving a wedge between utilities and regions.
Back in June, the Bismarck Tribune ran an interview with North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Tony Clark that showed just how difficult it is to build national consensus for renewable energy.
Can a European-style renewable model work in the Americas?
The Province of Ontario, Canada is the first jurisdiction in North America to implement a European style feed-in tariff (FIT). It also was the first jurisdiction in North America to have a comprehensive standard-offer program for electricity supply from renewables.
The capital markets have recovered … or have they?
One year ago, in the midst of the financial crisis, one industry—energy utilities—continued accessing the capital markets. Since then, interest rates and terms have improved dramatically, inviting utilities to refinance billions of dollars in debt that won’t mature for another year. Despite the current rosy picture, however, economic trends might cast a shadow over the industry’s capital-investment plans.
Integrated demand offerings could be the next generation of energy management.
The market for demand-side products and services appears poised to explode. What began as separate energy efficiency, demand response and distributed energy program offerings are now coming together in integrated demand offerings. A recent poll of 400 industry professionals suggests such packaged offerings might open new opportunities for service providers while also enhancing the customer experience.
Understanding the smart energy consumer in a down economy.
Utility customers expect their bills to get larger in the future, and they want utilities to provide tools and options allowing consumers to make their own energy choices. However, consumers might be more receptive to green-energy and dynamic pricing programs when economic conditions—and personal incomes—begin improving substantially.
Consumers hold the key to technology’s benefits.
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.
Consensus building is an imperative and educational art form.
With public opposition rising against almost any kind of utility project or investment, collaboration among stakeholders with widely divergent points of view never has been more critical. Three recent utility cases demonstrate how a formal stakeholder collaboration process can build support for otherwise contentious decisions.