Fortnightly Magazine - August 2011
Energy Transfer Equity buys Southern Union; Google and Citi finance Alta Wind Energy Center; Calpine and GE Energy Financial Services secure project financing, plus transactions and bond issues from NiSource, Spectra Energy, FP&L, PSE&G and others, totaling more than $8.5 billion during the month of June.
Rational estimates lead to reasonable valuations.
When regulators grant changes to utility rates of return, they estimate growth on the basis of gross domestic product (GDP). But do utilities have any chance of growing at the same pace as GDP? The answer is no — with huge consequences for utilities and their consumers. With equity costs outpacing allowed rates of return, utilities aren’t being valued correctly. As a result, the industry risks falling behind other sectors in terms of infrastructure investments and technology innovation.
But transmission planning, as we know it, may never be the same.
The recent landmark ruling on transmission planning cost allocation, known as “Order 1000,” and issued by the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in late July 2011, could well produce an unintended side effect — the formation of regional compacts among states to identify needs and plan for development of new power plant projects.
Shaping system transformation.
New technologies—and new expectations—require taking a fresh look at the institutions and practices that have provided reliable electricity for the past century. Collective action is needed to define the key attributes of a future grid and then to take the more difficult next step—adapting our processes and institutions to align with that future vision. A thoughtful approach will allow America to capture the potential value that’s offered by sweeping changes in technologies and policies.
Forecasting the geographic distribution of demand reductions. Copyright © 2011 Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc.
As new energy efficiency programs proliferate, regulators increasingly will seek to use the associated demand reductions to reduce capital expenditures on new transmission and distribution assets. However, forecasting the expected geographic distribution of these demand reductions within the grid and integrating this information into a utility’s capital planning process is a challenging task.
Public-private collaboration to protect our infrastructure.
Smart grid technologies bring a host of cyber security considerations that need to be addressed throughout the transmission and distribution domain—and even into the customer’s home. In the second of two exclusive articles, Department of Energy authors team up with industry experts to provide a path forward for securing the smart grid.
Protecting the smart grid requires a broader strategy.
NERC’s critical infrastructure protection (CIP) standards set a minimum level of security performance—and only for high-voltage transmission systems, not the distribution grid. A compliance-checklist approach to security might lack the adaptability needed to combat evolving threats like the Stuxnet worm. A multi-layered, risk-based approach will provide better protection for the emerging smart grid.
(August 2011) Shaw Group completes 500 MW combined cycle plant; Pattern Energy begins building Spring Valley wind farm; AEP, Duke and TVA team up on interstate transmission line; AEP and MidAmerican contract for Texas transmission projects; Alliant contracts Open Systems International for volt-VAR control system; Alstom buys into AWS Ocean Energy; Siemens acquires shares in PV manufacturer Semprius; Lockheed Martin introduces cyber security system; plus contracts and announcements involving Elster, Itron, Suzlon, Solon, Sensus, Westinghouse Electric, Morgan Lewis and others.
A senator’s crusade limits America’s options.
Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe has made it his mission to block environmental regulations, especially greenhouse gas constraints. His most recent attack targets John Bryson, former Edison International CEO and Pres. Barack Obama’s nominee for Commerce Secretary. But rather than protecting economic interests, as Inhofe purportedly aims to do, his actions have added to the ongoing policy chaos that frustrates clean coal development.