Research and Renewables: Funding at the National Energy Labs

Shrinking budgets force staff cuts, but some projects

find friends in high places.

"They're putting the best face on the inevitable."

Funding for renewable energy for government/ industry research partnerships took another beating early this summer (em and that's on top of a $113-million cut suffered this fiscal year.

A Milestone Year: Power in the Commodity Markets

Paper trading is here, introducing an element of speculation in wholesale electric markets.The electric power industry joined the commodity markets on March 29, 1996, when power futures began to trade on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX). This first tentative step in the commoditization of electricity promises the emergence of a paper market for power, which, as in the case of other commodities, will likely prove substantially broader and more complex than electricity's physical market.


With little fanfare, most aspects of the U.S. energy system seem to have settled into a fairly stable, predictable pattern. To my mind, we have reached an "energy plateau" likely to persist for maybe a decade or more into the future.

Energy is not now high on the radar screen of the general public, so there is little public pressure for significant change in the U.S. energy system.

Photovoltaics: A Dispatchable Peak-Shaving Option

PV technology combined with storage offers a cost-effective alternative to capacity additions.By John Byrne,

Young-Doo Wang,

Ralph Nigro, and

Steven E. Letendre

Until recently, both regulators and electric utilities have considered photovoltaic (PV) technology (i.e., solar cells) an unattractive

energy-supply option because of its relatively high cost. Now, however, a number of utilities have shown interest in using PV for peak-shaving.

Green Pricing: Removing the Guesswork

"Green pricing," at typical rates of customer participation, could expand demand for renewable energy beyond current levels by more than an order of magnitude, pushing down production costs for energy resources preferred by environmental advocates. And just as important, that expanded demand would occur outside of the regulatory framework (em matching capacity to customer needs and wants.In practice, the utility asks customers to pay rate premiums to fund the production or purchase of renewable resources.