Electricity Policy

       

Sun04202014

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Democratizing Demand and Diversifying Supply: Legal and Economic Principles for the Microgrid Era

Democratizing Demand and Diversifying Supply: Legal and Economic Principles for the Microgrid Era

 

by Scott Hempling

Microgrids can enhance security and local control for discrete locations on the larger interconnected electric grid. The relationships and mutual responsibilities of the microgrid and the external grid need to be carefully defined, however. Here is a framework for doing just that.
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icrogrid policy, if carried out cost-effectively, offers two distinct benefits:  democratization of demand, allowing consumers to custom-design their own services; and diversity of suppliers, allowing consumers to choose providers based on their merits.  Whether these benefits emerge will depend on how well state legislatures and commissions resolve questions about market structure, customer responsibility and utility compensation.  This article identifies the main questions, along with the legal and economic principles necessary to answer those questions.

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Tapping Into the Potential of Energy Storage

Tapping Into the Potential of Energy Storage

 

 

by Hon. Carla J. Peterman and Melicia Charles

By legislation and regulatory decision, California has recognized that its long-term clean energy and environmental goals are not likely to be met absent a viable storage economy.  Regulators have set forth an open, flexible process intended to lead to that result.  

I. The Changing Needs of California’s Electric Infrastructure

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alifornia energy policy supports an ambitious transition from conventional fossil generation to renewable and other clean resources. Policies such as the state’s 33 percent Renewable Portfolio Standard, zero net energy goals, the Governor’s Zero Emission Vehicle Plan, and now energy storage targets are positioning the state to attain this future. Imbedded in this vision is the expectation that California will achieve these policy goals while promoting greater efficiency, reliability, affordability, and increased safety.

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New Suppliers for a New Century: Will Incumbency Trump Merit?

New Suppliers for a New Century: Will Incumbency Trump Merit?

 by Scott Hempling

On customer responsibility for infrastructure costs, the NRDC-EEI Joint Statement has it right; but it errs in failing to insist that keepers of the network and providers of new services be chosen based on merit, not incumbency.
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n the 20th century, state law protected electric utilities from competition, leaving customers no choice but to buy from vertically integrated monopolies.  Regulators based investor-owned utilities’ profits more on kWh sales and asset growth than on efficiency and innovation. 

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A Review of Fixed Price, Index & Blended Pricing Plans

A Review of Fixed Price, Index & Blended Pricing Plans

By John Domagalski, Lev Goldberg, and James Hua

Innovative pricing plans in retail choice markets can help customers better manage price and budget volatility over time. And, though past results are no guarantee of future performance, some pricing plans have proved more stable and lower cost than others.

Introduction

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key benefit of competitive retail electric markets is that they offer commercial, industrial, and other business and government customers an ever growing range of choices of contract duration and pricing plans.  These customers   can select contracts that range from monthly to annual to multi-year agreements and can choose among a number of widely available pricing plans.  Pricing plans readily available include “Fixed Price,” “Index,” and “Blended.”  In a fixed price plan customers lock-in a set rate for a defined period of time, whereas customers on an index plan pay a variable hourly ‘index’ price for their electricity.  A blended pricing plan fixes the price for a defined percentage of energy usage while allowing the remainder to ‘float’ on the hourly index.  These innovative options – many of which are not available in traditionally regulated states – have given customers, in competitive retail markets, unprecedented flexibility to align their energy cost strategy with corporate goals, budgets and business planning horizons.

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Two Trends in Tension:  Does Consolidation Reduce Innovation?

Two Trends in Tension:  Does Consolidation Reduce Innovation?

 By Scott Hempling

Utility merger proposals are likely to continue at a challenging pace, but the effect of a merger on innovation does not always receive the attention it deserves. Given the concurrent jurisdiction over state and federal regulators that a merger often warrants, its effect on innovation should move to the forefront of review.
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n a short three decades, several hundred investor-owned electric utilities have become 50 utility holding companies.  The 1984 breakup of AT&T has led not to atomistic competition among numerous telecommunications providers, but to horizontal consolidation in the local, long distance, wire line and cable sectors; and to the vertical integration of content and carriage, exemplified by the 2011 merger of NBC Universal and Comcast.

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Electricity Daily

NREL: US wind industry, jobs, will get clobbered without a full PTC

NREL: US wind industry, jobs, will get clobbered without a full PTC

 

By Kennedy Maize

April 18, 2014 – Without continued federal subsidies, wind power is unlikely to be competitive with electric generation from natural gas, according to a study this month from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The production tax credit for wind and other renewables has expired, and Congress is considering another extension, as it has repeatedly taken such action in the...

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FERC to hold June 10 tech conference on bulk power grid reliability

FERC to hold June 10 tech conference on bulk power grid reliability

 

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Wednesday announced it will hold a technical conference on June 10 to discuss reliability of the bulk power grid. The all-day conference at FERC’s headquarters at 888 First St. NE in Washington will begin at 8:45. The commission announced no details about the meeting, saying that they would come later, although some observers suspect the meeting is d...

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Tesla’s plans for a full-scale electric pickup sparks skepticism, suggestion

Tesla’s plans for a full-scale electric pickup sparks skepticism, suggestion

 

Elon Musk, the entrepreneur who owns electric car maker Tesla, says he wants to make an electric pickup truck to compete with the Ford F-150, the best-selling vehicle in the US market. But automotive writer Aaron Turpen, writing in Breaking Energy, says the state of electric vehicle technology and the demands of a working half-ton or larger pickup truck are in major conflict. It’s a combinatio...

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The Nature Conservancy: Damn right, we need to get dam policies right

The Nature Conservancy: Damn right, we need to get dam policies right

 

It’s time to get hydropower dams right, say two executives from The Nature Conservancy. Mark Tercek, the conservancy’s CEO, and conservancy water expert Giulio Boccaletti write in the Huffington Post that environmentalists and developers need to refine their views on hydropower. They write, “There are, of course, dams with such high environmental and social costs that they simply should not be...

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DOE investigation of radiation leak at WIPP moves slowly

DOE investigation of radiation leak at WIPP moves slowly

The Department of Energy’s investigation into the mysterious radiation leak from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico, which stores transuranic waste in underground salt caverns, is going slowly, the Albuquerque Journal reports . “The fundamental point is there is no example in the world of a radiologically contaminated underground salt mine,” Don Hancock, who runs the Nuclear Waste Safety ...

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D.C. Circuit Court upholds EPA’s mercury, toxics rule for coal plants

D.C. Circuit Court upholds EPA’s mercury, toxics rule for coal plants

 

By Kennedy Maize

April 17, 2014 – In a complex 2-1 decision, the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics (MATS) rule, which has led to closure of many US coal-fired generating plants.

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Editorials

Does size matter?

Does size matter?

 

How large should an interconnected electric grid be? It’s a question that was raised recently by scientists Benjamin Carreras, David Newman, and Ian Dobson. Their article, just published in the journal Chaos under the title “Does Size Matter?” has kicked over some embers in a fire that needs to be reignited. (The article is dead serious, though its title does reveal a mordant sense of humor....

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Change and risk: What’s a utility to do?

Change and risk: What’s a utility to do?

 

Last week we offered some brief thoughts on risk. Risk is what you can’t know. It lurks around the corner, in the weeds, waiting to undo even the best-laid plans. We noted the recent report of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group, the darkest yet in projecting impacts on the world we know.

Plainly, there is risk in doing nothing. And there is risk in all the alternatives w...

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Climate change and IPCC’s 5th Assessment: Risk everywhere you look

Climate change and IPCC’s 5th Assessment: Risk everywhere you look

 

Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability , the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Working Group II’s contribution to the IPCC’s 5 th Assessment Report, has just been issued. It projects a bleak picture indeed: ice caps melting, sea ice collapsing, heat waves intensifying, coral reefs dying, coastal cities and towns facing ruin.

Organic matter frozen in Arctic soils si...

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Eyeing China’s big gamble with CCS, a fuel-hungry world looks on

Eyeing China’s big gamble with CCS, a fuel-hungry world looks on

 

Holy provocative headline! The lurid cover in the April issue of Wired magazine features the image of a large, shiny  lump of coal and the headline, “ Coal: It’s Dangerous, Its Dirty, and It’s the Future of Clean Energy .” 

The cover article, by Charles C. Mann, has more depth and more credibility than his title, but that’s no surprise. 

Mr. Mann quotes former Energy Secretary Ste...

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How much change? How fast? How disruptive? How progressive?

How much change? How fast? How disruptive? How progressive?

 

Oh, a storm is threat'ning

My very life today

If I don't get some shelter

Oh yeah, I'm gonna fade away

—The Rolling Stones, “Gimme Shelter”

There’s no shortage of poetic references to change knocking at the door, from Dickens (“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”) to Dylan (“the times they are a-changin'”). But the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” was first to pop into my head.

Thi...

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Look out! The microgrids are coming!

Look out! The microgrids are coming!

 My first, kneejerk reaction to microgrids was: “Cute idea, but what about the economics?” On second thought … actually, I have lots of second thoughts. 

One of them is rooted in the issue of system security and reliability of service. The fact that through some of the worst of New York City’s and New Jersey’s pelting by Hurricane Sandy part of the New York University campus was able to k...

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