Renewable Energy

Solar Screen Test

Making room on the local grid for small-scale PV.

For the first time, perhaps, the electric utility industry may need to keep track not only of peak load, but also of minimum load, as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission reviews a proposal by the Solar Energy Industries Association to employ a new definition of minimum load under a new, relaxed threshold test that would govern eligibility for fast-tracking of applications by generation developers to interconnect new, small-scale solar energy projects to the local utility distribution grid.

Green Dealing

Renewable M&A lives on despite death of Treasury cash grants.

The U.S. Treasury cash grants for new renewable power projects expired at the end of 2011. These incentives, which were implemented under Section 1603 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, helped to support continued capacity additions throughout the recession. The impending expiration of these grants caused a wave of merger and acquisition (M&A) activity during 2011 as developers and financiers rushed to get deals done and to begin construction in order to meet the Section 1603, 5-percent safe harbor threshold by the Dec. 31, 2011 deadline.

Vendor Neutral

(March 2012) DTE Energy awards contract to URS; Exelon and Constellation reach an agreement with Electricite de France; Dominion and Lockheed Martin enter a joint marketing and development alliance; plus deals involving Nissan North America, CenterPoint Energy Field Services, Honeywell, Silver Spring Networks, and others.

Vendor Neutral

(February 2012) Siemens acquires eMeter; Long Island Power Authority selects PSEG to manage T&D system; Mountain Parks Electric awards SCADA/DMS contract to Open Systems International; Kiewit and Sargent and Lundy award contract to Hitachi; plus announcements and contracts involving SAIC, Shell, Landis+Gyr, and others.

Transmission's True Value

Adding up the benefits of infrastructure investments.

Allocating the costs of new transmission investments requires accurately assessing the value of those new lines, and identifying the primary beneficiaries. But formulaic approaches rely too much on the most easily quantified cost savings, and reject benefits that are dispersed across service areas—or that might change over the course of time. Brattle Group analysts J.P. Pfeifenberger and D. Hou explain that comprehensive valuation produces a more accurate picture.

Not-So-Green Superhighway

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.

Green Gridworks

Case studies on integrating renewable resources.

Where wind integration has been most successful, state authorities developed and adopted basic transmission planning and cost allocation principles before FERC issued Order 1000. Experiences in Texas, California, and Hawaii demonstrate what it takes to overcome permitting and cost allocation barriers—namely, a coherent policy framework and close coordination among stakeholders.

Vendor Neutral

(January 2012) Hawaiian Electric selects Renewable Energy Group to supply biodiesel for combustion turbine; GE signs long-term services agreement with Comision Federal de la Electricidad; Nissan North America selects Coulomb Technologies to provide EV charging infrastructure locations; Siemens agrees to acquire eMeter; plus announcements and contracts involving AES Corp., Maui Electric, KCP&L, and others.

Electric Vehicles and Gas-Fired Power

A strategic approach to mitigating rate increases and greenhouse gas price risk.

Experience in the Duke Energy Carolinas service territory shows that high penetration rates for electric vehicles, combined with increased natural gas-fired power generation, can result in lower costs to customers and lower risks for utility shareholders—while also reducing total emissions of greenhouse gases. However, these outcomes depend on policy changes that facilitate smart, off-peak vehicle charging, and that allow utilities to capture the benefits of a more environmentally friendly power system.

Trusting Capacity Markets

Does the lack of long-term pricing undermine the financing of new power plants?

The PJM Interconnect’s Reliability Pricing Model generally has succeeded in attracting and retaining low-cost generation and demand resources to maintain resource adequacy. But sluggish demand and low prices have weakened the market for long-term capacity contracts. Suppliers aren’t willing to lock in current low prices, and buyers don’t want to pay more for future certainty. Is the market dysfunctional, as some state lawmakers suggest, or does the lack of long-term contracts indicate a rational balance of supply and demand?