Big Data

The buzzword of the day is ‘analytics.’ But what does it mean?

As utilities seek to extract value from their technology assets, smart grid and metering data is becoming a gold mine for insights about how to improve service and save money. Fortnightly’s Alyssa Danigelis speaks with experts in the growing field of data analytics, to learn how big data might reshape the utility landscape.

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.

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.

A Year of Fear

Resuming progress after 2011’s uncertainty.

From the Fukushima disaster and its repercussions, to the raging battle over new EPA regulations, 2011 was one of the most volatile years on record for the electric power business. Will 2012 be better or worse than 2011? Cost factors make this a great time to invest, but overhanging uncertainties might bring another year of fear.

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.

Gridlock in 2030?

Policy priorities for managing T&D evolution.

A pair of myths is driving many investments today—i.e., America’s T&D system is falling apart, but the smart grid will save the day. A new MIT study reveals a more nuanced truth about reliability, efficiency, and plans for new technologies. The most effective policies and investments will focus on solving real problems and delivering tangible benefits.

Frequency Regulation

In a recent order, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) said that by paying the wrong price for the ancillary service known as frequency “regulation,” system operators have encouraged too many gas-fired turbines and other conventional fossil power plants to supply regulation service.

Putting market economics ahead of reliability, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has told regional transmission organizations (RTOs) and other grid system operators (ISOs) to rethink the prices they pay for the ancillary service known as frequency “regulation.”

In short, FERC wants all power plants to do what they do best — recognizing that some may be well adapted to providing regulation service, but others perhaps not.

Vendor Neutral

(December 2011) Lafayette Utilities System selects Elster’s EnergyAxis as its AMI system; ABB wins contract from Hydro-Quebec; Sapphire Power Holdings acquires gas-fired power generation from Morris Energy Group; Consumers Energy awards contract to Babcock & Wilcox; plus announcements and contracts involving BP Wind Energy, Abengoa Solar, Samsung C&T and others.