Storm of the Decade

Process changes prepare ComEd to recover quickly from disastrous storm and flood.

Sometimes a bad storm provides the best training ground for a truly terrible storm. An outage in 2006 taught ComEd lessons that helped it recover quickly from the floods of 2007.

Selling the Smart Grid - The Policy

Why many state regulators still have qualms about endorsing smart meters.

A year ago, in its formal investigation of state policy on smart meters, the Florida Public Service Commission conceded that while three of the state’s five major investor-owned electric utilities offered an optional time-of-use rate to residential customers, participation in fact remained “typically quite small,” averaging only about 1 percent.

Depreciation Shell Game

Accounting reforms might force regulators to abandon their live-now, pay-later practices.

When an advisory committee of the SEC voted recently to phase out special accounting treatment for various industries, it signaled the end may be near for power plant depreciation deferral mechanisms. Such mechanisms are a mainstay of regulatory accounting in many states, and their discontinuation could send plant owners and regulators back to the drawing board to find a new, GAAP-compliant way to recognize asset depreciation in financial reports.

Coming to America

U.S. utilities are gaining valuable lessons from technology developments abroad.

Structural and regulatory factors have allowed utilities in some countries to leapfrog America’s utility industry in terms of technology leadership. But U.S. utilities are learning valuable lessons from international advancements.

Nuclear Fuel Future

Nuclear power cost projections should incorporate fuel cost uncertainties.

Nuclear fuel cost projections typically consist of current reported costs that are escalated at the rate of inflation. These projections usually consist of a single estimate in each year. In the past, when nuclear fuel costs were low and declining, this approach was acceptable and may have even been conservative. But this approach is likely to understate projected nuclear fuel cost when nuclear fuel costs are increasing.

Duke's Fifth Fuel

Conservation investments benefit participants and non-participants alike

For-profit energy efficiency programs are coming. Duke Energy proposes to align the interests of shareholders and retail customers within an expanded least-cost approach. Convincing regulators will require taking a holistic view of the costs and benefits.

Setting the Standard

NERC’s new cyber security rules may minimize cost of compliance, but they leave utilities guessing on how to identify risks.

Liam Baker, vice president for regulatory affairs at US Power Generating, questions whether his company’s power plants and control systems in New York and Massachusetts must comply with the electric industry’s new mandatory standards for cyber security. Baker voiced his doubts in written comments he filed in October with FERC.

Sticker Shock!

Increasing prices for materials, equipment and services are driving utility infrastructure costs into uncharted territory.

The evidence is overwhelming: After a decade of relatively stable, or even declining, construction costs, the industry is now facing a prolonged period of elevated construction price tags. What are the causes behind this trend, and how might the cost increases translate into higher rates?

Earning on Conservation

An earnings-equivalence model helps utilities and regulators calculate appropriate returns for conservation investments.

Traditionally, utility shareholders and their utilities have a bias toward supply-side resources as opposed to demand-side reduction programs. Reductions in demand may result in excess supply-side resources that are likely to be excluded from rate base because they do not meet the “used and useful” standard. However, there is a solution: Allow energy utilities to benefit from earnings rewards for demand-side reduction. From an earnings perspective, such a solution would place demand-side alternatives on par with supply-side projects.

California's Green Gaffe

Some green-energy policies disregard the value of energy use, risking market distortion and consumer backlash.

Policy mandates might erode public support for green-energy efforts, even in an environmentally conscious state like California, by frustrating consumer demands instead of allowing them to be fulfilled more efficiently. Recognizing real consumer value will help policy makers develop economically rational green-energy regulation.