Energy Technology: Cultivating Clean Tech

New Models for Energy RD&D: A new ‘Clean Energy Institute’ could lead the industry’s war on climate change.

Clean-energy R&D needs better funding and leadership to meet aggressive greenhouse-gas emissions reduction targets. But how does the industry get there, and what management model best suits achieving such lofty goals? A new ‘clean-energy institute’ might be the answer.

Carbon Transparency

Public companies face rising pressure to disclose climate-change risks.

Regulation of greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions and other efforts to control these growing environmental concerns increasingly are impacting businesses, and investors are seeking more and better information on climate-change risks to make informed investment decisions.

Letters to the Editor

“Biomass Fuel Foibles states that biomass plants will reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. We own several wood (biomass) plants and yes, sulfur emissions are almost zero, but there is always a NOx problem. NOx can be controlled using urea injection and other technologies. But isn’t the main concern over the emission of CO2, and don’t biomass plants or any process that combusts fuel produce CO2 that cannot be controlled?

Coal's Black Future

Turbulent politics and market trends cloud prospects for coal-fired power.

Coal faces more uncertainty than any other base-load generating source. Two new factors, hitherto irrelevant to the U.S. industry, will shape future generation investment—imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and greenhouse-gas (GHG) restrictions. Taken together, they point to a bleak future for coal unless its technology advances dramatically … or a political consensus fails to emerge.

GHG Compliance Complexities

Greenhouse-gas regulation will impose vastly greater compliance difficulties than did the Acid Rain program.

Greenhouse gas (GHG) regulation picks up where Acid Rain legislation left off, but affects far more sources and pollutants. Utility compliance programs face major uncertainties.

Post-Meltdown Valuation

Credit-quality concerns join fuel and market factors to affect power-plant valuation

Lenders know there are billions of dollars of weak financial assets in the market, such as securities backed by bad mortgages. The problem is no one knows who is exposed at what level to those weak financial assets. This causes a lack of confidence in the lending industry, and a credit crunch that — if unabated — could cause a recession.

2025: A Murky Mix

Which power technologies will dominate?

U.S. power-plant construction tends to follow fads. Identifying these trends is easier than determining the primary drivers and issues that contributed to them. Understanding how these drivers affect power-planning decisions can help utilities predict generation-construction trends in the future and avoid getting caught in a group-think trap.

RECs Get Real

Green credits are maturing to become real, tradeable assets.

By displacing electricity produced from fossil fuels, renewable power plants produce two distinct products—commodity electricity and a set of environmental attributes (particularly avoided emissions). These environmental attributes can be packaged into a product called a renewable energy certificate, or REC, and sold separately from the electricity. As REC markets develop, key issues are being addressed regarding market interaction.

2007 Finance Roundtable: Pricing Regulatory Risk

Despite a favorable outlook for utility finance, cost pressures are straining rate structures.

Utilities are bringing monumental capital-expenditure plans before rate regulators just as they’re dealing with a barrage of rising costs—for fuel and other commodities, as well as labor, pension-fund obligations, and interest payments. Ten energy-finance luminaries elaborate on the industry’s fortunes.

Energy Reform: A Legislative Washout?

Congress is shifting U.S. energy policies toward green alternatives. Is the new direction temporary or permanent?

Fundamental questions about fuel supply, efficiency standards, and environmental performance have splintered Republicans and Democrats into warring factions. As a result, the only proposals legislators can agree upon seem to be watered down half-measures.