Fortnightly Magazine - July 2012
Utilities sound the alarm as PV nears grid parity.
A growing wave of rooftop PV projects is starting to look ominous to some utilities. Will lawmakers accept utilities’ warnings at face value—or will they suspect they’re crying wolf?
Southern Company announced changes in the company’s management team. Great Plains Energy and Kansas City Power & Light (KCP&L) appointed Scott Heidtbrink as executive v.p. and COO of KCP&L and greater Missouri operations. NV Energy announced two senior leadership appointments. Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) appointed Jesus Soto Jr. as senior v.p. of gas transmission, operations, engineering, and pipeline integrity. And others...
(July 2012) Thanks for your enlightening editorial about the problems of feed-in tariffs for photovoltaic installations and the distortions they are causing in cost responsibilities among electric utility customers. While these issues are an immediate and growing concern, an entirely different set of problems will emerge over the next decade as the share of renewables in total generation approaches the high levels being dictated by most regulatory authorities.
Incompetence and overreach at the EPA.
The EPA’s new method for measuring the amount of methane that escapes from natural gas wells is based on flawed data. Oklahoma’s attorney general says this misguided policy decision treads on state regulatory authority and stifles resource development.
Competitive market problems and their implications for customers’ net costs.
In competitive power markets based on locational marginal pricing (LMP), the facts sometimes conflict with popular belief. Most notably: 1. When there’s congestion, the books don’t balance, and ratepayers always pay more than the generators receive. The difference is sometimes called “congestion cost.” 2. Congestion in a competitive market doesn’t necessarily increase ratepayers’ costs; and 3. Reductions in LMP are incomplete and sometimes misleading measures of economic benefits of transmission upgrades. These three facts and their implications should be considered in transmission planning, market design, tariffs, and system operations.
Bonneville Power, wind curtailments and the bigger picture.
Asset owners in the Northwest cry foul as the Bonneville Power Administration struggles to reconcile FERC orders with its operational realities. The battle between wind and water has blown up into a regional conflict over transmission tariffs.
Hybridizing fossil plants with solar thermal technology.
Utilities are testing options for adding solar capacity to existing steam power plants. Concentrated solar thermal boosters increase plant efficiency and reduce emissions, while helping utilities to cost-effectively meet renewable mandates.
The regulator’s role in promoting cybersecurity for the smart grid.
State commissions can select from a toolkit of regulatory approaches to promote desired utility cybersecurity behavior. One approach is to allow the industry to selfregulate, and another approach is to leave the job to the federal government. But sofar, neither the industry nor the federal government have developed and implemented adequate standards for securing the smart grid. States can play a constructive role—albeit perhaps not in the form of traditional regulation.
EPA’s new water, waste, and air regulations complicate power plant compliance.
New environmental requirements under the Clean Water Act (CWA) will add to the already complex burden of compliance for power plants. As the Environmental Protection Agency moves forward with cooling water and effluent standards, utilities and generators will have to deal with overlapping rules and conflicting policy goals.