Electricity Policy

       

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A Huge Distribution Opportunity

A Huge Distribution Opportunity

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.
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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.

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What can (or should) we take away from Germany’s renewable energy experience?

What can (or should) we take away from Germany’s renewable energy experience?

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. 
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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.

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Nuclear Winter

Nuclear Winter

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

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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.

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Rate Design Pathways to Fair Utility Rates for Solar PV in a Distributed Energy Age

Rate Design Pathways to Fair Utility Rates for Solar PV in a Distributed Energy Age

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

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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.[1]

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A New Energy Efficiency Manifesto: California Needs a More Integrated, Cost-Effective Approach

A New Energy Efficiency Manifesto:        California Needs a More Integrated, Cost-Effective Approach

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.
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 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.

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Electricity Daily

Contractors tell Ga. Power that Vogtle will be 18 months late; utility demurs

Contractors tell Ga. Power that Vogtle will be 18 months late; utility demurs

Westinghouse and CB&I /Stone & Webster, contractors for Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4, have notified Georgia Power and other plant owners of a revised forecast for completing the plants which would delay their previously estimated in-service dates by 18 months (from the fourth quarter of 2017 to the second quarter of 2019 for Unit 3 and from the fourth quarter of 2018 to the second quarter 2 ...

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Smart meters alone don’t make utilities, their customers, or even regulators smart

Smart meters alone don’t make utilities, their customers, or even regulators smart

Smart meters were heralded by one and all—the president, DOE, and especially utilities—as a way customers could monitor and change their energy use. It was technological fairy dust that would pay off in peak saving efficiency, and more. The reality: not so much. Utilities have installed 50 million smart meters in homes across the US, reaching 43 percent of homes overall, according to the EEI’s Ins...

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Amicus brief asks court to void Minn. law restricting GHG-laden power imports

A Minnesota law that seeks to restrict carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generated outside the state’s borders is unconstitutional, the American Public Power Association and two other groups said Jan. 28. The three filed a joint amicus brief with the 8th Circuit, US Court of Appeals, in North Dakota v. Heydinger. The case centers on Minnesota’s “Next Generation Energy Act of 2007,” which pro...

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Energy efficiency activist says REITs ‘ripe’ for efficiency, carbon-cutting action

Energy efficiency activist says REITs ‘ripe’ for efficiency, carbon-cutting action

Joshua Kagan, senior fellow with the Carbon War Room and director of business development at the Clean Fund, noted in a recent interview that because real estate investment trusts (REITs) own roughly 20 percent of the world’s commercial building stock, that sector is “ripe” for advances in lowering carbon emissions. Kagan said that buildings account for around one-third of global carbon emissions, c...

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WRI: Don’t grow crops for ethanol, diesel; don’t cut down trees for power

WRI: Don’t grow crops for ethanol, diesel; don’t cut down trees for power

The World Resources Institute issued a report last week arguing against the widespread use of biofuels. While acknowledging that waste biomass, such as food waste or urban tree trimmings can be efficiently harvested for fuel, the overall quantities would be relatively limited, according to the report . Biomass crops on the other hand are extremely inefficient for producing energy products such as et...

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Senate passes Keystone XL bill, with baubles; votes to override veto lacking

Senate passes Keystone XL bill, with baubles; votes to override veto lacking

January 30, 2015 -- The US Senate yesterday approved a bill advancing the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, after rejecting many proposed amendments, including ones that would create additional incentives for renewables and set a national renewable energy standard. On a 62-36, SNL reported , the version of the bill voted through had been revised to include, among other things, energy efficiency la...

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Editorials

Three cheers for state regulators, in Connecticut and elsewhere

Three cheers for state regulators, in Connecticut and elsewhere

State utility regulators are a hard-working lot. They have a tough job and an underappreciated one.

State commission budgets and staff aren’t what they should be. Their resources are unequal to those of the companies they’re supposed to regulate.

The mind-numbing details buried in rate cases, and planning and mergers and other proceedings are not light reading.

Thus, ill-tempered remarks  from Connecti...

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Digging deeper: Competition at the distribution level

Digging deeper: Competition at the distribution level

The pro-competitive reforms introduced into the bulk electricity transmission grid by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over the past two decades and more, culminating in FERC Order No. 1000, have transformed what was once a patchwork of transmission monopolies into something more resembling a common carrier system.

Today, as innovation has crept into the local level, with both supply- and d...

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Why should we be concerned with India?

Why should we be concerned with India?

Yesterday we published three articles that concerned India. You may ask why (aside from the dearth of interesting US news). There are several reasons.

  • One story announced US-based SunEdison’s plans to build a $4 billion solar manufacturing factory with an Indian company.
  • A second concerned plans of Rajasthan, one of the largest of India’s 29 states, and the sunniest, to develop 655 MW of solar as th...

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On ‘Nuclear Winter’ …

On ‘Nuclear Winter’ …

Robert McCullough and his associates have written “ Nuclear Winter ,” just published on our website .  Their paper is a sober, fact-based assessment of the predicament facing the owners of today’s nuclear power plants, particularly those that must deal with the unyielding structure of organized wholesale power markets. It concludes that at least seven of the reactors now operating—Callaway, Diablo Can...

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Wholesale demand response: The D.C. Circuit panel majority got it wrong

Wholesale demand response: The D.C. Circuit panel majority got it wrong

There is more than one problem hanging over wholesale power markets, in spite of the attention that’s understandably focused on FERC Order No. 745, now trapped in legal purgatory, neither dead—as generators would prefer—nor alive—as demand-side advocates and consumers desire.

There's a second market problem, a twofold one. Conventional generating plants in organized markets face potentially devasta...

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What was Google thinking?

What was Google thinking?

When Google engineers Ross Koningstein and David Fork worked on the company’s ambitious, unfocused, and now shuttered RE<C effort to assess the potential of renewable energy, they later decided to document the experience in an article for IEEE Spectrum. The resulting media frenzy was predictable. For some, the takeaway was simple: renewables can’t match coal. Which happens to be wrong.

But what em...

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