(August 2011) Economic consultant Michael Rosenzweig challenges Constantine Gonatas’s proposal for ensuring FERC’s demand response rulemaking achieves its objectives. Also, Juliet Shavit takes issue with Contributing Editor Steven Andersen’s characterization of utility customers as “crazy.”
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)
Protecting critical assets in a hazardous world.
In the wake of recent global-scale cyber intrusions, security concerns have expanded from being compliance and operational issues to fundamental risk management considerations. An integrated, enterprise-wide approach holds the greatest promise for securing critical utility infrastructure against increasing dangers in cyberspace.
Coping with rising profitability, a decade after restructuring.
With a recent flurry of gas pipeline rate investigations at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), many pipeline owners face the prospect of having their profits scrutinized to ensure their rates are just and reasonable. Understanding FERC’s approach will help companies ensure they’re not falling outside the zone of reasonableness.
Tree limbs and power lines don’t mix. That was the final verdict after overgrown trees caused blackouts immobilizing major swaths of the East Coast in 2003. (See Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), “Utility Vegetation Management (UVM): Final Report,” March 2004.)
Preparing the grid for large-scale renewables.
With large solar arrays and wind farms being proposed to connect to transmission and sub-transmission systems, are utility companies sufficiently prepared to handle the challenge of integrating these large intermittent resources? The industry now must decide whether transmission reliability factors — most notably dynamic voltage support and system frequency management — need to be resolved by renewable generators, or whether they should become a cost of doing business for transmission providers and reliability coordinators.
The smart grid and the slippery business of setting industry standards.
Four years ago, Congress made its wishes known: it tabbed the National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop a set of standards for the smart grid, and then instructed FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission “adopt” those standards, but only after finding a ”sufficient consensus,” and only “as may be necessary” to assure “functionality and interoperability.” Yet what is known is not necessarily clear. Who decides if consensus prevails? What does “interoperability” mean? Should FERC’s “necessary” finding extend to retail smart grid applications, arguably outside its purview? And the biggest dispute — must standards be mandatory? — finds PJM at odds with much of the utility industry.
Preparing for New England’s capacity transition.
A wave of coal-fired plant retirements presages a possible crisis in the New England market. As load-serving utilities in ISO New England become increasingly dependent on natural gas-fired capacity and large-scale renewable generators, the region might be forced to rely on expensive cost-of-service reliability contracts to keep the lights on. Stakeholders are considering alternative approaches to encouraging power plant development, including special rate incentives previously reserved for transmission projects. Paul J. Hibbard, former Massachusetts DPU chairman and now vice president with the Analysis Group, analyzes how resource constraints are blurring the lines between competitive markets and integrated resource planning in New England.
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.
Large grids can integrate more wind—without major burdens.
Despite the variable nature of the resource, wind can be managed so that it will not impair the reliability of a utility system. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission proposed a rule that would require changes to the way transmission service is scheduled, which would enhance the ability of balancing authorities to integrate wind.
Getting the most from demand response—despite a flawed FERC rule.
FERC’s new rule on compensation for demand resources tips the market balance toward negawatts. Arguably the commission’s economic analysis is flawed, and the rule represents a covert policy decision that stretches federal authority. Nevertheless, economic benefits will result if DR programs are well implemented to avoid gaming the system and distorting the market.