Frontlines & Op-Ed

Can You Hear Me Now?

Cellular carriers challenge mesh-network dominance.

Now that wireless carriers are promoting their networks as a cost-effective communications platform for smart grid data, they face legitimate questions about fundamental performance issues. But if public networks turn out to be the better choice in many cases, utilities might have some explaining to do before state commissions.

Letters to the Editor

(January 2011) Gold Mine or Fool’s Gold?: Debt is recorded on the right side of the balance sheet in recognition that it’s a source of capital, but users of financial statements recognize that it isn’t cash. Likewise, users of financial statements would recognize that moving the book reserve to the right side would not cause it to suddenly become cash.

Solar Village

Combined efforts bring mutual benefit.

Regardless of what drives the action — state regulation, federal policy, economic reality — collaboration between utilities and the solar industry is now becoming prevalent. Expanding definitions of utility solar business models represent a significant potential for solar market growth, and provide paths for others to follow.

Climate Burnout

Shale gas makes it easy to be green.

In terms of the political calculus, GHG regulation faces an uncertain future, at least into 2013. And as a flood of cheap gas erodes the perception of an impending environmental crisis, politicians will have less incentive to impose carbon constraints. Does shale gas signal the end of the road for greenhouse gas regulation?

What Happened in Maryland

State case has national implications for grid modernization.

Strict adherence to cost-of-service ratemaking led to what might be considered a Luddite decision in the Maryland PSC’s initial rejection of BGE’s smart-grid filing. More than 60 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that ratemaking calls for “pragmatic adjustments” to regulatory policy, toward the goal of sensible and effective rate orders. Delaying modernization doesn’t serve the aims of customer choice, conservation or electric system efficiency.

Black Swans and Turkeys

The industry isn’t as robust as we might think.

Investor-owned utilities might seem fairly robust, but they’re not impervious to unpredictable black-swan events. Ensuring the industry’s survival might depend on our ability to reduce our dependence on fragile and unsustainable regulatory structures.

Letters to the Editor

(October 2010) AWEA’s manager of transmission policy refutes author Robert Blohm’s assertion that renewable power exacerbates America’s growing problems with frequency response.

Dividend Debacle

Investors get caught in partisan crossfire.

Investor-owned utilities get caught in the partisan crossfire, as candidates engage in a national food fight over tax policies.

Avoiding a Train Wreck

Fundamental issues set companies and regulators on a collision course.

Industry leaders see a disaster coming, as the need for infrastructure investments collides with the economic interests of utility shareholders and customers. In a shaky economy and a politically charged campaign season, proposals for new capital expenditures are certain to cause trouble. Avoiding the train wreck will require real leadership in finding compromise solutions.

Green Blackouts?

Increasing renewable generation threatens reliability.

An increased reliance on renewable energy could threaten reliability of the nation’s electric transmission grids by reducing the rotational mass and rotational inertia of on-line turbine generators, thus, reducing the capability of generators to respond to drops in voltage frequency. In fact, data collected from 1994 to 2009 for the Eastern Interconnection already reveals a drop in the grid’s capability (as measured in megawatts) to stop a very rapid drop in frequency — such as a drop of a tenth of a cycle per second.