Fortnightly Magazine - April 2010
Smart Grid as Quick-E Mart
During interviews for this month’s cover story, “Customer Service: 2020,” leaders in the world of back-office information technology (IT) spoke with Fortnightly about customer service and the smart grid. They came from companies as diverse as Oracle and Telus, HP and Convergys, Vertex and SAP. But whatever the company, whatever the discussion, almost every leader came around eventually to focus on a single agent of change—the rise of electric vehicles.
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.
Has demand response hit an evolutionary dead end?
On March 18, the day after this issue went to press, FERC was scheduled at its decisional meeting to open a new formal inquiry on the role of demand response in regions that already have competitive wholesale power markets. In particular, how much money should grid operators pay to electric customers who promise not to buy wholesale power?
Grid upgrades spark an interactivity revolution.
The smart grid is opening the floodgates on customer data, just as consumers are getting comfortable with retail self-service and mobile apps. With dynamic rates, distributed generation and electric vehicles just around the corner, big changes are coming in the utility-customer relationship. Will IOUs let upstarts control the new energy market?
Getting realistic about energy efficiency.
Is energy efficiency the answer to all our energy problems? The solution is more complicated than the hype would suggest. Only a practical approach can overcome barriers to capturing efficiency savings as a sustainable resource.
Has the one-day-in-10-years criterion outlived its usefulness?
The one-day-in-10-years criterion might have lost its usefulness in today’s energy markets. The criterion is highly conservative when used in calculating reserve margins for reliability. Can the industry continue justifying the high cost of overbuilding?
Natural gas as a near-term CO2 mitigation strategy.
Will CO2 reductions and investments in non-emitting resources lead to rising costs and economic malaise? Not if America ramps up natural gas generation and turns down coal generation to achieve CO2 reductions of 14 to 20 percent.
New turbine technologies offer unprecedented flexibility.
If there’s an electric power project under development that best reflects the current state of the U.S. gas turbine market, it might be the Northern California Power Agency’s (NCPA) 280-MW, natural gas-fired combined-cycle plant in Lodi, Calif.
FEI Company, a diversified scientific instruments company providing electron and ion-beam microscopes and tools for nanoscale applications, completed a multiple system installation at the Materials Ageing Institute (MAI) in France, a utility-oriented research center financed by Electricite de France, the Tokyo Electric Power Co., the Kansai Electric Power Co. and the U.S. Electric Power Research Institute.