Fortnightly Magazine - May 2009
Perception trumps reality at Florida ‘solar city.’
Once upon a time, a real estate developer dreamed of building a planned community. The developer, Syd Kitson, envisioned a “city of tomorrow™” in southwestern Florida, designed for efficiency, convenience and harmony with nature. Instead of driving cars everywhere, the 45,000 residents of Kitson’s Babcock Ranch would ride bikes to school, and walk to the cinema. They’d take a tram to visit friends in another hamlet, on the other side of a lush wildlife preserve.
Renewables attract utility investment dollars.
New federal policies have opened the gates to utility investments in renewable generating plants. Some states, however, still make it difficult for utilities to put such assets into the rate base. Executives at Duke, OG&E, PG&E and Xcel Energy discuss challenges and opportunities affecting their renewable investment strategies.
GHG reduction via residential electricity ratemaking.
Energy efficiency holds the key to meeting lofty greenhouse-gas (GHG) reduction goals. Rate design can help—specifically residential inclining block rates should be considered as part of the industry’s efforts to comply with forthcoming GHG targets.
Improving performance through graduated conditional ROE incentives.
Unlike the majority of performance-based regulation plans, alternative design paradigms require less data, by instead allowing firms to reveal performance potential. In an asymmetric environment, regulators don’t have needed information, but that can be overcome with better models and incentives.
A prerequisite for sustained nuclear renaissance.
The nuclear renaissance requires safety as its central focus. Industry vigilance at all levels is key to accident prevention, but only favorable public opinion will allow the industry to realize its enormous potential.
Smart metering changes the back-office paradigm.
AMI’s data explosion will require back-office changes for CIS/billing.
The best example of combined dynamic rates and smart billing is found in Ontario, Canada. It uses central MDM to produce time-differentiated customer bills.
The search for the ultimate wind forecasting model got a boost at the end of 2008 when DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory began collaborating with a Portuguese research institute, INESC Porto, to develop a new platform for making such predictions.
Chris O’Brien is no starry-eyed idealist. An engineer with an MBA, he began his career developing fossil-fired power plants for the AES Corp. But in the 1990s his career took a different turn, when he launched the Energy Star program for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. After that, he went into the solar energy business, and never has looked back.