By Paul J. Feldman
The economic cost of outages to electricity customers amounts to nearly one-third of the revenues those customers pay for service, and the problem lies almost entirely with the distribution system. Fortunately the tools to address this situation are available, if utilities, state regulators, vendors—and customers—can cooperate on a needed fix.
n 2013 end-use electricity customers in the U.S. paid some $364 billion to their suppliers for electricity service. The economic cost of outages that customers experienced in that year, however, amounted to approximately $112 billion, not including the full cost of outages that were attributable to extreme weather. That failure of service represents $1 loss to an end customer for every $3 the customer pays for service.
By Jürgen Weiss
Germany’s transition from nuclear and coal-fired generation and toward greater reliance on renewable resources and efficiency thus far has been mostly positive in terms of system reliability and maintaining a strong economy. The US would do well to follow developments there carefully.
ermany has committed itself to closing its remaining nuclear power plants by 2022 and to essentially eliminating fossil fuels from its power sector by 2040-2050. To implement the latter, Germany has been aggressively supporting the deployment of renewable energy since about 2000. With over 37 GW of solar PV, Germany is now the world leader in installed capacity, one of the top countries with respect to renewable capacity in absolute and relative terms more broadly, and more or less on track to meet its goals.
By Robert McCullough, Garrett Oursland, and Rose Anderson
The problems facing the nuclear industry are national in scope and appear to be enduring in effect. Only a major change in the economics of the industry is likely to avoid market-based nuclear plant closures in years to come.
The State of Play
an existing nuclear power stations be economically viable in a market increasingly dominated by zero short term marginal cost renewables and low natural gas prices? On that question the jury is still out – and will be for years to come. But the evidence indicates that a number of existing units have out-of-pocket costs that are greater than today’s market prices.
By Jim Kennerly
Technological innovation and declining costs in solar PV have created irreversible momentum. A timely, clear-eyed national conversation concerning how electricity providers and consumers alike may thrive in such an environment is essential.
Introduction: The state of play
fter experiencing significant cost declines over the past decade, 64% of the cost of rooftop solar photovoltaics (PV) is now associated not with the cost of the physical system hardware, but with non-hardware “soft” costs. Thus, high soft costs constitute the major remaining cluster of barriers to cost-effective rooftop solar PV.
As PV has experienced dramatic cost declines, however, electric utilities have concurrently experienced persistent cost pressure due to a sluggish economy, offshoring of manufacturing, new investments in their energy delivery infrastructure, the increasing commodity cost of coal and, to an increasing degree, customer-initiated actions to save energy and money. Some industry observers have correctly noted that these factors, if they persist and spread, could undermine the basic structure and incentives built into the regulated utility business model. This is especially true if a large amount of utility fixed costs are recovered through variable “energy” rates.
By Cynthia Mitchell
Our energy efficiency programs are not adequate to meet grid-scale and local distribution service challenges. This requires a new urgency to find more robust approaches to financing and scaling efficiency — not just in California, but across the country.
powerful verse from the Book of Ecclesiastes was turned into a moving song by Pete Seeger and popularized by The Byrds as “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season). It seems an appropriate anthem for the utility industry today. The electric power industry in California is at a crucial season of change: meeting state and federal environmental initiatives; planning and implementing diverse resources to continue meeting the energy needs of its people and its economy, cleanly and at lowest cost; and answering novel operational challenges previously unseen in the industry.