Solar Battle Lines

The fight over customer rooftops, grid funding, and net metering.

Renewable customer generation is growing and regulators should let incumbent regulated monopoly businesses and interests ahead of society and competition.

Five Years Later

Wall Street is back in business. What’s next for utility finance?

When Lehman Brothers went bankrupt in September 2008, it marked the beginning of a financial crisis. By most accounts, the utility industry has been a picture of stability through tumultuous times. The view from Wall Street remains bullish – despite some reasons for concern.

Disruption on Wall Street

Financial executives contemplate the rise of distributed resources.

In a January 2013 report, EEI said fast-growing distributed energy could undermine the utility business model. Wall Street is paying attention.

Wind REITs

The New Tax Equity

With a shifting policy climate, equity financing for renewable energy projects is becoming more scarce. Real estate investment trusts (REIT) offer an alternative vehicle for bringing in capital from investors who aren’t seeking tax incentives. But restrictions and requirements make REITs a tricky way to finance power projects.

Rethinking ROE

Rational estimates lead to reasonable valuations.

When regulators grant changes to utility rates of return, they estimate growth on the basis of gross domestic product (GDP). But do utilities have any chance of growing at the same pace as GDP? The answer is no — with huge consequences for utilities and their consumers. With equity costs outpacing allowed rates of return, utilities aren’t being valued correctly. As a result, the industry risks falling behind other sectors in terms of infrastructure investments and technology innovation.

The Art of the Plausible

Prospects for clean energy legislation in 2011.

With budget battles heating up in Washington, Congress and the Obama administration are squaring off to debate energy policy legislation. While Democratic leadership favors a clean energy standard, Republican lawmakers are focused on blocking administration initiatives to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. A compromise approach might bring substantial changes to America’s national energy strategy.

The Value of Resource Adequacy

Why reserve margins aren’t just about keeping the lights on.

While it’s theoretically possible to keep the lights on with a much smaller reserve than the U.S. utility industry historically has maintained, the costs of doing so might be higher than some analyses suggest. As demand response plays a growing role on the grid—and as system planners reconsider reserve margins and reliability standards—quantitative risk analysis will guide resource adequacy decisions.

Real Green Costs

Valuing risk reduction for renewables and DSM.

Resource planners are faced with complex choices for developing cost-effective and robust energy supply portfolios. These choices are complicated by uncertainties inherent in future fuel and emissions costs. In the summer of 2008, retail energy providers with supply primarily from wind generation had a substantial cost advantage over gas-fired generation. In the summer of 2009, though, gas prices plummeted in the wake of the recession. Reversing the previous trend, this shift causes wind generation to appear more costly relative to gas-fired generation.

Crisis Capital

Volatile markets call for alternative financial models.

Should the power industry adapt its approach to capital markets in this environment? The answer, of course, is yes. Multiple frameworks are necessary to establish a power company’s or project’s current cost of capital, especially under volatile capital market conditions. The analyses reveal that in today’s capital markets, it is critical to balance or combine the alternative approaches to the cost of capital in order to develop a long-term view.

Redefining PV Capacity

Effective metrics give solar its due credit.

Photovoltaic (PV) power generation is an intermittent, non-dispatchable resource generally considered as energy-only with no capacity credit. However, there is ample evidence that solar energy reliably is available at peak demand time when loads are driven by day-time commercial air conditioning, and can contribute effectively to increasing the capacity available on a regional grid.