Fortnightly Magazine - December 2009
Customers demand real choices for bill payment.
In the world of utility bill payments, few issues have generated more controversy than the use of credit, debit and pre-paid cards. Generally, regulated utilities have been unable to build a compelling business case to offer no-fee card payments to customers, preferring instead to partner with third-party processors (TPPs) who happily charge convenience fees to card users.
Economists take sides in the battle for DR’s soul.
Back when the U.S. economy and power consumption still were bubbling, PJM reported in August 2006 that customer curtailments during a week-long August heat wave had generated more than $650 million in market-wide energy savings—all at a mere $5 million cost, as measured in direct payments made to the demand response (DR) providers, set according to wholesale power prices prevailing at the time. Where else but the lottery can you get an instant payoff of 130-1?
Dynamic monitoring and decision systems maximize energy resources.
The operations and planning rules for integrating variable resources aren’t the same across the electric power industry in the United States at present. Opinions are somewhat divided about what these should be, as well as the assessments of potential benefits and costs. In order to support sustainable deployment of variable resources at value, it’s critical to identify major sources of potential problems and to proactively design and implement a systematic framework for managing their unique characteristics as reliably and efficiently as possible.
Can climate-policy brinksmanship create a sustainable nuclear industry?
American voters dashed the nuclear industry’s hopes for a renaissance last November—or so it seemed. Recent developments in Washington have rekindled those hopes, but will climate-policy brinksmanship lead to a sustainable future for nuclear power?
Capture and storage tech developments secure coal’s future.
Capture and sequestration will help ensure the future of coal-fired power plants. Demonstration projects are allowing utilities to kick the tires on the latest technologies, and to learn how CCS will affect operations and economics at state-of-the-art plants.
Lawmakers are rushing a costly decision.
Utilities are struggling to predict the costs of greenhouse gas regulation. In the quest for a greener planet, how much should consumers be asked to pay for environmental benefits that might be difficult to measure?
Pre-approvals demand a new approach to managing risks and costs.
Proving the need for new infrastructure construction for energy purchases has become more complicated for utilities. State commissions reserve the right to revisit rate-base investments after the fact, even when they’ve been pre-approved.
Rewards, challenges and options for rate-based investments.
Utilities traditionally have met renewable portfolio standards with power purchases from IPPs. But new approaches are allowing utilities to build their rate bases with investments in solar generation.
Technologies are scaling up quickly to meet industry needs.
Like other California electric utilities, San Francisco-based Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) has been scrambling to meet the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS), which requires suppliers to obtain at least 20 percent of their power from renewable energy sources by 2010. Though the RPS includes a variety of technologies, renewables developers are choosing utility-scale solar power more than any other resource, says Hal La Flash, PG&E’s director of emerging clean technologies.