Transforming the SysOp

Strategic pain points require an artful approach.

Utilities are at the threshold of some of the most significant changes they have faced in their history, rivaling the passage of PUHCA in 1935. This change emanates primarily from a handful of key business drivers associated with major technological improvements (i.e., AMI, smart grid), the need for increased customer focus, increased regulatory mandates, and a changing workforce.

Nuclear Fuel Future

Nuclear power cost projections should incorporate fuel cost uncertainties.

Nuclear fuel cost projections typically consist of current reported costs that are escalated at the rate of inflation. These projections usually consist of a single estimate in each year. In the past, when nuclear fuel costs were low and declining, this approach was acceptable and may have even been conservative. But this approach is likely to understate projected nuclear fuel cost when nuclear fuel costs are increasing.

California: Mandating Demand Response

California’s load-management experience argues for formal DR standards

California hopes to reap $3 billion in benefits from demand response over the next 20 years. Maximizing the potential may require the California Energy Commission to exert its statutory authority. CEC’s chair co-authors.

Setting the Standard

NERC’s new cyber security rules may minimize cost of compliance, but they leave utilities guessing on how to identify risks.

Liam Baker, vice president for regulatory affairs at US Power Generating, questions whether his company’s power plants and control systems in New York and Massachusetts must comply with the electric industry’s new mandatory standards for cyber security. Baker voiced his doubts in written comments he filed in October with FERC.

2025: A Murky Mix

Which power technologies will dominate?

U.S. power-plant construction tends to follow fads. Identifying these trends is easier than determining the primary drivers and issues that contributed to them. Understanding how these drivers affect power-planning decisions can help utilities predict generation-construction trends in the future and avoid getting caught in a group-think trap.

Hot-Potato Policy

DOE loan guarantees degenerate into a political game.

Once upon a time, the U.S. Congress started a game of hot potato. The potato, otherwise known as the EPAct Title XVII Loan Guarantee Program, has been bouncing around Washington, D.C., since 2005. But now that the industry is getting a good look at the potato, it looks decidedly funky—stuffed with caveats and half-measures. Whether that’s good or bad depends largely on whether you believe the government belongs in the potato game in the first place.

The Power to Reduce CO2 Emissions: The Full Portfolio

What the U.S. electricity sector must do to significantly reduce CO2 emissions in coming decades.

The large-scale CO2 reductions envisioned to stabilize, and ultimately reverse, global atmospheric CO2 concentrations present major technical, economic, regulatory and policy challenges. Reconciling these challenges with continued growth in energy demand highlights the need for a diverse, economy-wide approach.

Banking on the Big Build

The need for many hundreds of billions of dollars in capital expenditures creates huge opportunities and challenges, especially in a more challenging credit environment.

An estimated $900 billion of direct infrastructure investment will be required by electric utilities over the next 15 years, and $750 million already is in place. Nukes, renewables, low-carbon technologies, combined-cycle gas turbines—all have faced cost challenges. The magnitude of the numbers requires a multi-pronged approach.

How to Achieve High Performance

Lessons from the top 40 utilities.

(September 2007) A senior executive at Accenture broadens the financial metrics behind the Fortnightly 40 to expound on the high performance behind this year’s ratings—and show the way for utilities aspiring to make the list in future years.

The 40 Best Energy Companies

Will 2007 be remembered as the year of the turnaround? Several new CEOs with bold transformation programs took top spots in our third annual ranking.

(September 2007) Consistent performance over time is the Holy Grail of corporate management, and a focus of many of the executives who made this year’s ranking. Who returned to the list, and who fell off? And more important, why?