The Smart-Enough Grid

How much efficiency do ratepayers need—and utilities want?

When the applause dies down, the smart grid may turn out to be its own worst enemy. The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) explained this irony in comments it filed in May, after the FERC asked the industry for policy ideas on the smart grid.

Smart-Grid Strategy: Quantifying Benefits

Modeling the value of various technologies and applications.

As utilities announce new smart-grid programs, they need a strategic method for quantifying benefits. Analytical models generate baseline benefit estimates and reveal big-picture trends. Decision makers need the best resources available to mitigate risks in choosing a smart-grid strategy.

Dealing with Asymmetric Risk

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.

Inclining for the Climate

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.

Real-Time Control

Engaging customers will require more than TOU pricing.

Imagine a setback thermostat programmed at the factory that the consumer couldn’t modify. Who would want this device? You could give the customer a big enough discount to get her to accept the device, but she would be happier and you could save about as much energy if the customer could decide on the temperature and time settings.

Federalizing the Grid

Renewable mandates will shift power to FERC but pose problems for RTOs.

A recent survey conducted by the U.S Office of Personnel Management and reported by the Washington Post on March 13 ranked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as eighth best of some 37 federal agencies in terms “talent,” and third in “leadership and knowledge.”

Rethinking 'Dumb' Rates

Achieving the smart grid’s potential requires a revolution in electricity pricing.

Achieving the smart grid’s potential requires a revolution in electricity pricing. Smart metering and smart rates might yield surprising and beneficial changes in the U.S. utility industry. But capturing those benefits will require an intelligent and careful approach to implementing dynamic pricing.

Wooing the Western Wind

How a move to bring power markets to the Great Plains has uncovered a crisis in grid planning.

They call the United States the “Saudi Arabia of Wind.” That’s due in large part to the huge potential of the Great Plains. But there’s a hole in the metaphor. Wind power development in some parts of the prairie is falling short of expectations.

Green Price Stability

New approaches account for the economic benefits of renewables.

Many green power customers benefit from long-term fixed prices. The most effective programs recognize the value of this price hedge—and fairly exempt customers from fuel cost adders in utility rates.

A Multi-Pollutant Strategy

An integrated approach could prove more effective for controlling emissions.

Despite political challenges, the EPA and Congress have made strides toward a more coherent and integrated approach to regulating air emissions. The time is right to reach consensus on a multi-pollutant strategy.