Electricity Policy

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Additional Articles

The Policy Aspects of Benefit-Cost Analyses for Distributed Solar Generation and Net Metering

The Policy Aspects of Benefit-Cost Analyses for Distributed Solar Generation and Net Metering

 By Charles J. Cicchetti

Based on the analyses here, rooftop solar should be expanded and NEM practices continued.  If utilities propose another path, state regulators should carefully weigh the reasonable alternatives, including the one presented here.

I. Introduction

T

he purpose of Benefit-to-Cost Analysis (BCA) is to formulate and instruct policies.  Good BCA are objective, but seldom sufficient or determinative.  The first step in a BCA is perhaps the most critical because this is where the policies are defined and assumptions that constrain policy choices are made.  This discussion focuses on two rather interdependent policies related to incentives to increase rooftop solar generation and a relationship, not always uniformly defined, between customers that invest in solar generation on their premises and the utility that has the capability and the duty to distribute electricity from the grid to that customer.

Click here to view article as fully-formatted PDF file.

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Cybersecurity: IT vs. OT, and the Pursuit of Best Practices

Cybersecurity: IT vs. OT, and the Pursuit of Best Practices

 By Paul Feldman and Dan Hill

In a cyber environment, where new threats to our power systems emerge daily, the processes, systems, and compliance frameworks we employ for protection, detection, and recovery must constantly evolve as well.

I. Introduction

P

reviously, we have written on the subjects of “A New Responsibility for Boards of Directors: Cybersecurity”[1], and on “Cyber-Risk, Standards, and Best Practices”[2].  The former was an effort to assist Boards of Directors in their thinking and approach to cybersecurity.  The latter was a discussion of risk and the need for the industry to pursue cybersecurity best practices as a superior objective to simply being compliant.  Here we offer thoughts related to future directions for compliance, as well as a specific best practice whose time has come.

Click here to view article as fully-formatted PDF file.  

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Efficient Markets, Effective Regulation

Efficient Markets, Effective Regulation

 By Travis Kavulla

As the electricity industry transitions toward more regional power markets and wider use of distributed energy resources, state regulators, through NARUC, must develop policies and analytical tools appropriate to both.

 

I

n the early 1900s, the utility business was just a start-up industry. And like the start-up economy of today, scrappy enterprises were locked in a race to provide a service that most people had never thought they needed, for the simple and obvious reason that retail electricity and telephone service had never before existed. Technology opened up that space, and a free-for-all ensued. To look at a photograph of an urban area in the era before the monopoly utility is to see a mass of wires coursing along the city street. It looks chaotic. It looks dangerous. It looks uneconomic. And it may have continued this way, but for a coalition of industrialists and politicians who decided to reorganize the Wild West of early utilities from the top down, into a world of legal monopoly.

Click here to view article as fully-formatted PDF file.

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Interoperability: Why Policy Makers Should Make It Their Personal Mission

Interoperability: Why Policy Makers Should Make It Their Personal Mission

By Mark T. Osborn

With the proliferation of devices coming to market for solar, storage and home automation as part of the Internet of Things (iOT), we can no longer afford to invest in devices that communicate only using proprietary technology. Today it’s imperative that the electricity industry and its vendors commit to interoperability.
I

n the fall of 1999, while working at Portland General Electric, I was given a unique opportunity to start building a dream that several of us in the industry had for many years: Build a virtual peaking power plant using customer owned backup generators.  This program, eventually called the Dispatchable Standby Generation (DSG) program, has become a very successful program for PGE and recently exceeded its original goal of acquiring 100 MW nameplate of peaking capacity for the utility.

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A New Responsibility for Utility Boards of Directors: Cybersecurity

A New Responsibility for Utility Boards of Directors: Cybersecurity

By Paul Feldman and Dan Hill

Given the central importance of electricity in the modern American economy, corporate boards need to consider how to discharge their responsibility for cybersecurity. There is no one-size-fits-all answer.
E

lectricity is the engine of the modern American economy.  If a cybersecurity breach were to bring down a major portion of our power grid, we could not pump water or fuel, could not access our financial records, and our communications networks would be silent.  Electric utilities and their boards of directors need to be proactive in dealing with this threat.  The purpose of this paper is to share some thoughts related to utility boards of directors’ governance and the responsibility for addressing cybersecurity.

What is a board’s responsibility for dealing with cybersecurity?  The question does not have a simple answer.  It’s essential that boards comply with best practice[i] protocols, but agreed-upon best practices for cybersecurity are scarce, especially in the board context.  Any response requires a thoughtful understanding of the situation, careful consideration of the implications, and a decision-making system for proceeding in unique circumstances.  There is no one size fits all – for either board governance or cybersecurity – so it should be no surprise that combining the two is tricky.

Click here to view article as fully-formatted PDF file. 

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Electricity Daily

California ISO begins West market benefits study amid regional interests

California ISO begins West market benefits study amid regional interests

By Bill Henry

February 11, 2106—A key stage in the process to transition the California ISO into a western regional market kicked off on Feb. 8 with an ISO-led discussion of benefits that would flow to California. That’s one of the steps required by 2015 California legislation (SB 350), that envisions a change in the current California-centric ISO governance structure. Such a change would smooth the ...

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FirstEnergy takes to Twitter to tout its plan, counter claims of opponent Dynegy

FirstEnergy takes to Twitter to tout its plan, counter claims of opponent Dynegy

Social media wars commonly erupt from athletic or political rivalries, but never before have electric power companies turned to Twitter to exchange tweets touting the superiority of their plans and the inferiority of their opponents’ positions. As Tom Knox reported in Columbus Business First yesterday, FirstEnergy Corp. has changed that. Akron-based FE is proponent of a controversial scheme to shift m...

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ERCOT panel weighs paying curtailed generators their lost opportunity costs

ERCOT panel weighs paying curtailed generators their lost opportunity costs

Generators required by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas to ramp down for grid reliability may be compensated under a proposal that ERCOT's board has asked stakeholders to reconsider, in response to an appeal of the proposal's failure in committee. At issue is Nodal Protocol Revision Request 649, which addresses ERCOT's out-of-merit dispatch overrides of generators' plans to produce at their...

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GTM Research counts 20 states at solar grid parity, with 22 more at threshold

GTM Research counts 20 states at solar grid parity, with 22 more at threshold

As solar installation costs continue to decline and retail electricity rates climb, residential solar economics have become increasingly attractive across the US. Twenty US states are now at grid parity, according to GTM Research , and 42 states are expected to reach that milestone by 2020 under business-as-usual conditions. Residential solar reaches grid parity, GTM Research says, when the levelized...

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PNNL tool rates bldg’s energy score

PNNL tool rates bldg’s energy score

Shouldn’t there be an easy-to-understand energy rating for buildings, like the efficiency rating for cars, to help people decide whether to buy or lease a building? That's the vision behind the Building Energy Asset Score, which was released during an event at the White House in late January. The approach, developed by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory , assigns commercial and multi-family build...

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Oregon bill to end coal use, boosting renewables, gains despite critics’ concern

Oregon bill to end coal use, boosting renewables, gains despite critics’ concern

By Robert Marritz

February 10, 2016—In a push for legislation in a crowded short session of the Oregon legislature, House Bill 4036 seeks to move Oregon’s two major investor-owned utilities— Portland General Electric (PGE) and Pacific Power , a unit of Berkshire Hathaway Energy ’s PacifiCorp —away from coal, eliminating coal from service to Oregon loads by 2030, and boosting the companies’ renewable energy...

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Editorials

Guest Editorial: Should state regulatory ratemaking decisions impacting customer-resource investments be based on analysis and a record?

Guest Editorial: Should state regulatory ratemaking decisions impacting customer-resource investments be based on analysis and a record?

Senators Angus King and Harry Reid proposed an amendment to the pending energy legislation in the United States Senate. As with many federal proposals relating to utility rate making, Senate Amendment 3120 has engendered a response from the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.

Speaking for NARUC, its President and Montana Public Service Commission member Travis Kavulla opposes ...

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It’s the infrastructure, _____&*%$@#!

It’s the infrastructure, _____&*%$@#!

Seeing the need for more civility in public discourse, we won’t apply an epithet to our headline, as pundit James Carville’s once famously did, pointing up the importance of the economy in the 1992 presidential campaign. Far be it from us to call anyone stupid, but...

We’re all pretty familiar with the notion that America’s infrastructure is in poor repair and in urgent need of an update, if not an...

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Solar net metering, demand charges and the need for transparent analysis

Solar net metering, demand charges and the need for transparent analysis

The current state of issues arising from customer-adopted distributed generation—most often customer-installed solar photovoltaic systems—is complex and controversial.

It is also emotionally charged. The utility is affected when customers self-generate and reduce their dependence on the utility. Self-generation, like adoption of major energy efficiency measures, reduces utility revenues.

When talk o...

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Can China mount a safe and cost-effective nuclear power future? Can anyone?

Can China mount a safe and cost-effective nuclear power future? Can anyone?

If anyone thinks nuclear power is fading globally, they’re forgetting about China. More than 100 nuclear power reactors   are planned to start up in China over the next decade, as outlined in China’s 2016-2020 Five-Year Plan . China has 30 nuclear reactors in operation, 24 under construction, and more about to start construction. It plans to begin seven new reactors annually between now and 2030, ...

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Investor-owned utilities are not anti-solar

Investor-owned utilities are not anti-solar

For those who believe that investor-owned utilities are anti-solar, please be advised they are definitely not. Increasing numbers of utilities are warming to the idea of adding large-scale solar to their generation portfolio as solar costs continue to probe record lows, making solar competitive with, and sometimes superior to, other resources. Adding to its appeal is solar’s popularity: customers ...

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Assessing 2015—fuel wars, technology, and our ongoing physics experiment

Assessing 2015—fuel wars, technology, and our ongoing physics experiment

Looking back at the amusement park ride that was 2015—and not always amusing—we’re filing the last 365 days in a folder marked “Transition - Major.”

Climate change.  2015 was not only about climate change, but the combination of events that culminated in the Paris COP21 climate change agreement—seen as a promising but aspirational goal by many, and as a meaningless sham by others—certainly will...

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