Fortnightly Magazine - August 2010
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.
Will shifting winds bring consolidation?
A spate of newly announced deals, including Allegheny Energy’s proposed $9.27 billion acquisition of FirstEnergy, plus PPL’s takeover of E.ON US for $6.73 billion, has left the utility industry cautiously optimistic for a revival of M&A activity.
Transmission cost allocation, the worth of the grid, and the limits of ratemaking.
A look at the issues that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must address concerning allocation of costs for certain high-voltage transmission lines 500kV or greater, planned for the PJM region, in the “paper hearing” on remand from the 7th Circuit federal court decision that rejected a socialized, region-wide sharing of costs among all utilities and customers across the RTO footprint.
DR design flaws create perverse incentives.
Demand response isn’t energy: It’s a separate product, traded in a separate market. Policy trends, however, are moving toward equal treatment for demand and supply resources in electricity markets. Does treating DR as energy inflate its value and create perverse incentives?
Customer-specific demand-response strategies become more sophisticated.
Demand-response technologies are quickly becoming more sophisticated, and markets are treating demand as a resource. But realizing the true potential of DR requires utilities to apply today’s technology solutions and program structures—and to base their strategies on actual customer behavior and preferences—rather than yesterday’s outdated assumptions about centralized load control.
The entire utility-consumer relationship must be reengineered.
The business case for advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) can’t be justified alone on operational savings to the utility. But critical assumptions involving process improvements and system efficiencies depend on customer involvement. This sequel to a September 2009 article examines customer engagement strategies and techniques.
Ring-fencing after the subprime meltdown.
When Électricité de France stepped in to buy Constellation Energy’s nuclear assets and help the company avoid bankruptcy, the Maryland Public Service Commission conditioned the sale on a set of ring-fencing provisions. The industry has been using such structures to protect ratepayers in complex and high-risk M&A transactions since the 1990s. The protection isn’t foolproof, however—and it can bring problematic regulatory trade-offs.
Alstom introduces a new 3-MW wind turbine, one of the world’s most powerful for onshore installations; Solyndra reports its larges-ever rooftop installation of cylindrical photovoltaic (PV) systems — a 704-kW project in New Jersey; Plug Power reports that its GenDrive fuel cell units will power Walmart Canada’s fleet of electric lift trucks at a Alberta distribution center.
CenterPoint Energy floats registered public offering of 22 million common shares; ConEd issues $700 million in senior unsecured debt in two tranches; 10-years notes; Duke Energy raises $45 million by leveraging ownership in the 14-MW Blue Wing Solar Project in Texas.