Progress Energy to merge with Duke; ArcLight sells Georgia plants; GE and Mitsubishi UFJ buy into Alta Wind I; plus mergers, acquisitions and securities issues involving CenterPoint, PSEG, Calpine, NRG, Commonwealth Edison and others.
Fortnightly Magazine - March 2011
Utility-scale projects suffer growing pains.
Anyone who’s been watching the solar power industry for more than a few years can’t help but be impressed by the recent explosion of large-scale projects. It seems akin to the rapid scale-up of wind in the late 1990s and early 2000s—when megawatt-scale turbines became standard-issue, and the definition of a “large” wind farm changed from a capacity of 20 MW to something more like 200 MW.
New transparency practice turns confidentiality on its head.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently authorized its Office of Enforcement to begin revealing publicly the names of subjects under investigation, as well as summaries of allegations against them, earlier than the commission ever had before. In fact, FERC now may disclose allegations before finding any wrongdoing. This new practice raises the specter of damaging reputations without following what normally would be considered due process.
Models are evolving for utility-scale solar development.
During the next few years, the biggest growth in the solar energy market will happen in the form of utility-scale projects, mostly driven by state renewable portfolio mandates. But financing such projects has become more difficult, with a smaller pool of equity capital and an evolving set of regulatory requirements.
Renewables are greenest when displacing coal, not gas.
With the abandonment of a nationwide energy policy by the previous Congress, states continue leading carbon mitigation efforts. Indeed, existing state policies and renewable portfolio standards (RPS) are already having a significant impact on the U.S. generation portfolio. FERC now proposes to weigh state policy as a consideration in transmission filings. Should state policies guide federal action? Will they suffice to reduce carbon emissions?
Solar projects are becoming hot investments.
With recent scale-up in both photovoltaic and concentrated thermal facilities, solar energy is nearing cost parity with wind and even some fossil generation sources. And with development models evolving to help companies manage technology risks, solar power has become an attractive investment opportunity—not just for tax-equity players, but also for utilities.
Why reserve margins aren’t just about keeping the lights on.
While it’s theoretically possible to keep the lights on with a much smaller reserve than the U.S. utility industry historically has maintained, the costs of doing so might be higher than some analyses suggest. As demand response plays a growing role on the grid—and as system planners reconsider reserve margins and reliability standards—quantitative risk analysis will guide resource adequacy decisions.
Evaluating the impact of dynamic pricing.
Are residential time-of-use prices only effective for middle class households, or do low-income customers benefit too—as authors Lisa Wood and Ahmad Faruqui asserted in their October 2010 article? Data from pilot programs show that low-income customers exhibit a reduced ability to benefit from dynamic pricing. Demand response programs should accommodate the realities of low-income customers’ consumption patterns.
The authors respond to Roycroft’s reality check.
Experience with time-of-use pricing programs shows that a large majority of low-income customers will benefit from dynamic prices. In fact, not making such prices available to these customers might be harmful. In the most efficient system, all customers will face the same prices—and policy makers can provide direct relief to ease the burden for low-income customers.