Today, tomorrow, forever?
Unforeseen consequences of dedicated renewable energy transmission.
Achieving aggressive renewable energy goals will require building thousands of miles of new transmission lines, and these so-called “green-power superhighways” could bring major new sources of low-cost electricity into the market. But will those sources be renewables? Analysts Roger Bezdek and Robert Wendling argue that with new access to distant wholesale markets, coal-fired generation would become more competitive than ever.
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.
State regulators face mandates without consensus.
New federal and state policy mandates are pulling state regulators in many directions. The patchwork of regulations has created a new level of complexity for utility investment decisions and political risk for utilities and state regulators alike.
Renewables attract utility investment dollars.
New federal policies have opened the gates to utility investments in renewable generating plants. Some states, however, still make it difficult for utilities to put such assets into the rate base. Executives at Duke, OG&E, PG&E and Xcel Energy discuss challenges and opportunities affecting their renewable investment strategies.
State GHG policies confront federal roadblocks.
So far, states have taken the lead in carbon-control strategies. These state actions, however, could lead to constitutional conflicts—as recent court battles demonstrate. Only the U.S. Congress can regulate interstate trade, so states must step carefully in controlling carbon leakage.
Is electricity price-elastic enough for rate designs to matter?
Contrary to conventional wisdom, electricity demand isn’t immune to price elasticity, and rate designs can encourage conservation. In particular, inclining block rates coupled with dynamic pricing can cut electric use by as much as 20 percent.
Enforcement trends call for a proactive approach to complying with market rules.
Federal regulators have penalized wholesale energy market participants with fines ranging from $300 thousand to $300 million over the past two years. The magnitude of the penalties, along with uncertainty over how to effectively mitigate the risk of any civil action by regulators, has raised concern about how companies are approaching their regulatory obligations.
How to develop balanced revenue-backed financing to manage the impacts of governmental mandates.
Severe upward pressure on electric rates after a decade of stability has regulators, legislators, utility executives, consumer advocates, and myriad other stakeholders searching for solutions. Revenue-backed financing can mitigate many of these mandate-driven rate increases significantly. These programs must, however, be designed to eliminate the inefficiencies and inequities that can be associated with revenue set-aside programs.
Intermittent and interruptible resources increasingly are being considered in regional resource adequacy calculations—but the approaches differ.
While both NERC and the NERC regional councils (known today as the Electric Reliability Organization) have standards and guidelines for resource adequacy and system reliability, much of the specificity as to how interruptible (e.g., demand-side) and intermittent resources (e.g., wind) are included is left up to the individual ISO/RTOs, states, provinces, etc. In fact, the various regions across North America each seem to have their own methodology for incorporating these resources into their resource adequacy and reserve-margin calculations. As the North American energy industry escalates its desire to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions through the expanded use of demand-side resources and intermittent renewables, the importance of this topic also will escalate.