Smart Grid in America and Europe (Part II)

Past accomplishments and future plans.

Policy makers in the E.U. and the United States are taking different approaches to facilitating smart grid development. While both regions are setting standards that the rest of the world likely will follow, they also face difficult challenges in resolving issues around cost recovery, customer engagement and workforce preparedness.

Capacity Contest

Raising the stakes in RTO markets.

Generators and demand-response providers are reaping rewards in forward capacity auctions, causing suppliers to go shopping for the most lucrative markets. Now the Midwest ISO is trying to catch up, by proposing its own auction for years-ahead resource bids. But does RTO shopping serve the interests of customers, who are legally entitled to rates that are just and reasonable? Why are some state policy makers advocating a return to old-school RFPs for long-term contracts?

Chicken-Egg Solution

Solar and wind developers learn to shift project risk to the grid.

As Google says, “the wind cries for transmission.” But the opposite is true as well: without new wind and solar energy projects, we would not need to build so many new transmission lines. Each side needs the other, yet neither dares declare too soon, and risk weakening its bargaining position. That is, until one utility in California found a way to break the impasse, with each side scratching the other’s back — thus putting to rest the age-old question, “Which came first, the . . . ?”

Parochial Power Play

Northeastern politicians declare war on capacity auctions.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in February signed into law a bill that will have the state commissioning construction of 2,000 MW of new gas-fired power capacity and dumping it into the PJM capacity market at a $0 price. Maryland is considering a similar capacity-dumping scheme. What’s behind these efforts to manipulate capacity auctions — regional constraints or local politics?

C&I Customers Get Smart

Technology creates new opportunities for demand- side management

Customer value is a key factor in any smart grid business case. But not all customers are created equal. In particular, commercial and industrial (C&I) customers have greatly different needs, considerations and sensitivities, compared to residential customers. As a result, demand response and efficiency programs won’t produce the same results across customer classes. Getting the most from the C&I market will depend on integrating smart grid with smart building technologies.

Smart Standardization

Coordinated efforts aim toward global principles.

The smart grid is poised for a tremendous rollout of new and revised technology standards in the next few years, but that’s just the beginning. IEEE Standards Association President Charlton Adams Jr. explains the objective of the intensifying smart grid standards effort is to address and satisfy the full gamut of economic, political and social goals related to the smart grid.

Letters to the Editor

(October 2010) AWEA’s manager of transmission policy refutes author Robert Blohm’s assertion that renewable power exacerbates America’s growing problems with frequency response.

Vendor Neutral

Alstom introduces a new 3-MW wind turbine, one of the world’s most powerful for onshore installations; Solyndra reports its larges-ever rooftop installation of cylindrical photovoltaic (PV) systems — a 704-kW project in New Jersey; Plug Power reports that its GenDrive fuel cell units will power Walmart Canada’s fleet of electric lift trucks at a Alberta distribution center.

Pricing Negawatts

DR design flaws create perverse incentives.

Demand response isn’t energy: It’s a separate product, traded in a separate market. Policy trends, however, are moving toward equal treatment for demand and supply resources in electricity markets. Does treating DR as energy inflate its value and create perverse incentives?

Green Blackouts?

Increasing renewable generation threatens reliability.

An increased reliance on renewable energy could threaten reliability of the nation’s electric transmission grids by reducing the rotational mass and rotational inertia of on-line turbine generators, thus, reducing the capability of generators to respond to drops in voltage frequency. In fact, data collected from 1994 to 2009 for the Eastern Interconnection already reveals a drop in the grid’s capability (as measured in megawatts) to stop a very rapid drop in frequency — such as a drop of a tenth of a cycle per second.