Part I – Economy-wide Trends
U.S. Energy Information Administration
Former FERC Commissioner Bill Massey says we shouldn't bottle the genie of competition as Fortnightly author Doug Jones advocated in May 2013. Instead, he says, the genie's shackles should be removed so market forces can produce maximum efficiency and value for customers.
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.
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.
Are merchant power assets overpriced?
By some measures, merchant power assets look like a bargain, selling for well below their replacement cost. But whether low prices signal a buying opportunity or a value trap depends on the outlook for electricity demand growth—not just in the long term, but also in the fairly immediate future.
Basing energy policy on the tax-equity appetite of large corporate and banking entities doesn’t offer a long-term stable path.
The debate on climate change continues, and the yet the U.S. response has been stuck in a political debate between the Democratic and Republican parties. The prospect for meaningful legislation for cap-and-trade or a national renewable energy standard (RES) seems beyond reach at least until after the 2012 presidential election.
A new future for small coal-fired plants.
Small coal-fired plants are particularly vulnerable to economic and environmental pressures, putting some plant owners in what seems like a no-win position. But an emerging option—biocoal from crop wastes—might give small coal units a new lease on life.
Utility deals resume after 18 months of austerity.
Utilities are taking advantage of a sweet spot in the capital markets, pre-funding and refinancing at record low rates. But cheap money won’t resolve overhanging uncertainties preventing cap-ex projects and M&A deals. Greater certainty in America’s economic and policy outlook will clear a path for strategic change.
Performance standards are a valid idea—if targets are achievable.
Performance standards are a valid and necessary idea to drive conservation, but only if targets are realistic and achievable. So far, success has been determined by program rationality. A uniform, market-based approach would give retailers flexibility to spur innovation.
New approaches account for the economic benefits of renewables.
Many green power customers benefit from long-term fixed prices. The most effective programs recognize the value of this price hedge—and fairly exempt customers from fuel cost adders in utility rates.