A tough legal and financial terrain is confronting producers, utilities and regulators.
Engineering and construction firms adapt to a changing market.
Engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts are evolving as utilities seek to spread risks, contain costs, and execute their business strategies. As a result, turnkey contractors are adapting their capabilities to meet the industry’s changing needs. Leading EPC firms share their vision for a 21st century energy industry—and their role in building it.
(October 2011) Wind Capital group selects RMT Inc. to design and construct wind energy facility; MEMC Electronic Materials, Inc. and SunEdison acquire Fotowatio Renewable Ventures; Solar Community and Reliant Energy team up to offer financing options; KEMA selects Green Energy Corp.’s software; Leviton unveils commercial electric vehicle charging stations; plus announcements and contracts involving Science Applications International Corp., Tantalus, FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Co. and others.
When you sell demand response back to the grid, how much capacity are you now not buying?
When customers sell demand response into a regional capacity market (such as PJM’s Reliability Pricing Model, known as the RPM), how much credit should they earn for agreeing to curtail demand and alleviating stress on the grid — that is, for reducing the market’s need for generating capability and capacity reserve margin? And further, should the amount of credit depend on whether the customer works with market aggregators, known both as CSPs (“Curtailment Service Providers”) or ARCs (“Aggregators of Retail Customers”)? One view would pay customers for the full extent of their curtailment of demand — known as its “Guaranteed Load Drop” (GLD). The other would limit capacity credit to the customer’s prior load history — “Peak Load Contribution,” or PLC. The answer may well dictate whether regulators continue to treat “energy” and “capacity” as two distinct concepts.
Investment opportunities in an evolving environment.
Some of the key policy mechanisms and market factors that triggered the boom in renewable energy development have weakened in the face of one of the most severe economic downturns in modern history. In some ways, though, the renewables sector is richer and more dynamic today than when the boom began. A shakeout might be coming among renewable power players, and those that survive will strengthen their capabilities, hone their strategies, and take advantage of industry consolidation to build scale.
Integrating distributed resources into the smart grid.
The remedy for America’s gravest economic woes may lie in a smart grid that can deliver vast amounts of clean, renewable energy while enhancing our energy security and democratizing our energy system. Although regulatory questions and technical challenges might dominate the industry’s short-term focus, the smart grid’s driving forces parallel America’s long-term national interests — a fact that should guide ongoing technology strategies and investment decisions.
Evaluating the impact of dynamic pricing.
Are residential time-of-use prices only effective for middle class households, or do low-income customers benefit too—as authors Lisa Wood and Ahmad Faruqui asserted in their October 2010 article? Data from pilot programs show that low-income customers exhibit a reduced ability to benefit from dynamic pricing. Demand response programs should accommodate the realities of low-income customers’ consumption patterns.
Solar projects are becoming hot investments.
With recent scale-up in both photovoltaic and concentrated thermal facilities, solar energy is nearing cost parity with wind and even some fossil generation sources. And with development models evolving to help companies manage technology risks, solar power has become an attractive investment opportunity—not just for tax-equity players, but also for utilities.
Models are evolving for utility-scale solar development.
During the next few years, the biggest growth in the solar energy market will happen in the form of utility-scale projects, mostly driven by state renewable portfolio mandates. But financing such projects has become more difficult, with a smaller pool of equity capital and an evolving set of regulatory requirements.
Utility-scale projects suffer growing pains.
Anyone who’s been watching the solar power industry for more than a few years can’t help but be impressed by the recent explosion of large-scale projects. It seems akin to the rapid scale-up of wind in the late 1990s and early 2000s—when megawatt-scale turbines became standard-issue, and the definition of a “large” wind farm changed from a capacity of 20 MW to something more like 200 MW.