Shale gas

Shale vs. Coal

Portfolio strategies for the new power-fuel market.

Shale gas discoveries and ballooning inventories have pushed natural gas prices down to a 10-year low. At the same time, increasingly stringent emissions regulations are squeezing out some coal-fired power assets. Are we witnessing a power-fuel revolution? And if so, what’s the best survival strategy?

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

(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.

Hedging Under Scrutiny

Planning ahead in a low-cost gas market.

IIt’s ironic that in today’s market, as the cost of hedging against commodity price increases has declined, support for utility hedging programs has sunk to a historic low. The ideal time to hedge is when prices are low and markets are relatively calm, because that’s when hedging costs and risks are the lowest. Conversely, waiting until prices rise and markets become volatile will expose customers to higher costs. Convincing regulators to approve hedging programs now will require a collaborative approach to educating and enlisting support from stakeholders.

Repowering with Biomass

Waste fuels struggle despite coal’s decline.

Fuel supply might be the biggest barrier to scaling-up biomass power generation, but it’s by no means the only problem. Utility projects to repower coal-fired plants face permitting challenges, ballooning technology costs and strained economics. Some owners are giving up the fight.

Legal Battleground

2010 Law & Lawyers Report

The U.S. utility industry has never faced a more uncertain legal and regulatory landscape. From FERC demand-response pricing to state ratemaking disputes, legal trends and decisions are reshaping the power and gas market. The industry’s top legal minds provide strategic counsel. By definition, a battlefield is an ugly place. Conflict creates chaos, uncertainty and danger.

Congestion Relief

Transmission expansion is only part of the remedy for system constraints.

Building new transmission across the entire U.S. is an idea that continues to dominate discussions about the future of electric power. Many believe large amounts of power need to be moved across the country, or that transmission is needed to relieve congested areas, or to make sure enough renewable power is built. But transmission capacity is only part of the remedy to system constraints, and policy decisions and investment strategies must be based on sound evidence and economically rational planning.

Gas Market Outlook

Why America’s bridge fuel faces a road block.

In 2009, unconventional shale gas emerged as the dominant driver in North American natural gas markets. Rapid increases in shale gas production and shale-driven upward revisions to the U.S. natural gas resource base have reversed the outlook for the U.S. natural gas supply. In contrast, the economic recession and growing uncertainties around the role of natural gas in power generation have clouded the outlook for natural gas demand. Natural gas has been called the “bridge fuel” for its potential to support the transition to a low carbon U.S. economy.

Betting on Shale

Will unconventional gas assure plentiful supplies?

At the moment, the United States is experiencing a glut of natural gas with record underground gas storage inventories and prices around $4/MMBtu, which serves to underscore the new thinking about U.S. natural gas supply—i.e., future gas supplies might be less constrained than earlier studies suggested they would. Given the speed with which the expectations for U.S. natural gas have changed, it’s reasonable to ask how solid is this new thinking about U.S. natural gas supply and what should the role of natural gas be in meeting our long-term energy needs in a carbon-constrained economy?