EnergyBiz Magazine January/February 2009
In This Issue
  • IT IS BREATHTAKING HOW EASILY MANY now say, “This is the worst economic crisis since the Depression.” The Depression remade America. It spawned the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935, transforming the business landscape occupied by electric and natural gas utilities. It led to the construction of towering federal hydroelectric dams in the West, and brought electrification to the poorest...
  • Nuclear Breakthroughs Sought
    NATIONAL RESEARCHERS ARE WORKING diligently to advance all forms of energy production. While they are focused on science and technology, politics pervades their efforts.The laboratories all point to nuclear energy's viability as a fuel source, saying that future reactors will be safer, more cost effective and highly efficient. That will give nuclear energy a regulatory advantage and therefore...
  • Powering Up Renewable Energy Research and Development
    NEVER IN OUR COUNTRY'S HISTORY HAVE energy efficiency and renewable energy played more vital roles than they do today. Renewable energy has become a national priority, with leaders from government and industry acknowledging that the United States must wean itself from an oil addiction that threatens not only our national security but also our environment and our economy. There is no single...
  • Federal Budget Could Provide Signal
    AS THE NEW YEAR BEGINS, THE FATE OF THE YUCCA MOUNTAIN nuclear repository project in Nevada remains as murky as ever. It was only in September that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission accepted the licensing application for Yucca Mountain, mandated in 2002 legislation, and docketed it, opening the formal process for licensing. But the NRC now has three to four years before it has to come to a...
  • Utilities Take Cover
    WITH BIG-TIME TROUBLE pounding at the door of the economy, you have to wonder about the fate of America's power companies. They are among the most capital-intensive industries at a time when the credit wellsprings of business have all but dried up. To learn more about the impact of unprecedented financial turmoil on utilities, EnergyBiz recently conducted a roundtable discussion with five...
  • T. Boone Pickens on Energy
    T. Boone Pickens is a billionaire on a mission to rein in America's strategic vulnerability caused by its dependence on imported oil. Recently, he has been spending a share of his personal fortune trying to educate Americans about the dimensions of the problem and force the hand of political leaders to address it. At the same time, he is developing the largest wind generation projects in the...
  • Forbes on Energy
    Noted business journalist and one-time presidential candidate Steve Forbes has an informed opinion about most of the most pressing issues of the day — including energy. Recently, his Forbes magazine hosted a conference on ways to intelligently shape the $20 trillion in investment energy companies will make in hardware and technologies in the next 20 years. In turn, consumers and business will pay...
  • Healthy Balance Sheets Today
    There's one class of company that won't be lining up with a hand out for help from the troubled asset-relief program. Electric utilities have enough free cash flow to keep their balance sheets healthy for the foreseeable future, and electric utility executives can sleep nights knowing their prudence in the last eight years has served them well in the financial crisis, debt-rating agencies...
  • The Appeal of Mine-Mouth Power
    Perhaps the largest coal-fired power plant now under construction, the 1,600-mega- watt Prairie State Energy Campus in down- state Illinois might become a model for other successful build-outs as the electrical industry negotiates the green transition.Early on in the Bush administration, Peabody Energy, the largest public coal-mining company in the world, decided that one way to increase its...
  • Here Come Renewable Energy Zones
    If the new administration wants to jumpstart investments in renewable energy, it can look west for examples of how to encourage new wind, solar and geothermal energy.Texas, California, Colorado and Minnesota are all in various stages of initiating the construction of new transmission lines to areas they have dubbed as renewable energy zones where new renewable generation is expected. Texas is...
  • Regulators Take Aim
    The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners are looking for a smarter way to implement smart meters and the smart grid. Early last year, the two groups collaborated to focus attention on smart grid systems, and by the middle of this year, their efforts should pay off with a nationwide database of advanced meter and smart grid pilot...
  • Addressing Regulatory Challenges
    Customer benefits associated with investments in the smart grid – coupled with smart-rate design – are widely known. For example, a significant customer benefit involves the avoided capital costs associated with a reduced need for peaking plant and the avoided energy costs associated with reduced dispatch of the plants with the highest fuel costs. Similarly, customers benefit from the reduction...
  • New Criteria for Building Transmission
    “N minus 1” will not do it. The reliable grid that the North American Electric Reliability Corp. has fostered begets a transmission system that has handicapped fully competitive markets for electricity generation. We need to change our criteria for building transmission so we are capable of moving more economical electricity from distant generation sites to population centers. We need the...
  • The Future of Transmission and Distribution
    AUTOMATION HAS COME TO THE UTILITY industry in waves over the last 30 years, and utilities usually are on the backside of the wave, not near the crest, and very rarely in the white foam of the breaker. There are two reasons for that. First, utilities are controlled by regulators and can do very little without regulatory approval. Second, because of their regulated monopoly status for most of the...
  • Corridors Need an Assist
    WHEN THE ENERGY ACT OF 2005 WAS passed three years ago, some of its sections included the now well-known creation of transmission corridors throughout the United States. It also included backstop siting authority the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission might need to prod states to work to site those transmission lines needed to build these corridors, and to prevent interminable delays common to...
  • Utilities' Crystal Ball and the New President
    IT DOESN'T TAKE A GREAT DEAL OF divination to predict that energy and the environment will be high on the new president's list of priorities, once the country's economic crisis has been definitively addressed.Shortly before the election, Barack Obama told an MSNBC show host, “One of … the most important infrastructure projects that we need is a whole new electricity grid,” adding, “and we're...
  • Grid Operators Prepare for Surge in Renewable Power
    DURING THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS, MANY OF THE NATION'S Independent System Operators and Regional Transmission Organizations have seen dramatic increases in the number of projects entering their interconnection queues. For example, between 2006 and 2007, the Midwest ISO saw a 62 percent increase in requests for development of new generation, with the overwhelming majority of those projects wind-...
  • CIOs Discuss Top Issues
    WORLDWIDE FINANCIAL TURMOIL HAS joined global warming, aging infrastructures, generation constraints, regulatory and legislative turmoil and uncertainty in vexing utility chieftains. In the face of these mounting challenges, utility chief information officers are under increasing pressure to keep networks running, software systems updated and utilities functioning even as they must do so with...
  • The Elements of Smart Grid
    EVERY NOW AND THEN, CONDITIONS demanding major change are undeniable. And for reasons no one wanted, that's where we are today. With the global economy in flux, and our financial markets restructuring themselves, this isn't just a period of turmoil – it's a period of discontinuity.Our energy systems are not immune. For more than a century we have systematically built a productive, yet complex...
  • Profiting from Curbing Greenhouse Emissions
    TECHNOLOGY THAT PROMISES TO economically sequester carbon dioxide by turning it into fuel is poised to make the move from research labs to the development stage.Carbon Sciences, a California startup, is planning a prototype project for early 2009 that the company will use to evaluate the challenges of commercializing its new conversion technology.In many past efforts to break apart carbon dioxide...
  • Shedding Light On a New Solar Cell Material
    PHOTOVOLTAIC SOLAR CELLS ARE NOTORIOUSLY inefficient when it comes to converting energy from the sun into electricity. But a new material, dubbed black silicon, has the potential to substantially increase a cell's output current.Harvard University researchers discovered black silicon and, in October, the technology behind the material was licensed in an exclusive arrangement to SiOnyx, a...
  • Areva Points the Way to Expanded Nuclear Operations - An interview with Jacacques Besnainou
    FRANCE'S AREVA HAS DEVELOPED A BUSINESS plan that envisions building one-third of the new nuclear reactors in the United States. To better understand the aspirations of the European nuclear giant, EnergyBiz submitted a dozen questions to Jacques Besnainou, president of Areva Inc., the group's North American subsidiary. His written responses follow.ENERGYBIZ   What new policies are...
  • On FERC's Agenda
    A DEMOCRATIC-RUN FEDERAL ENERGY Regulatory Commission is apt to make at least some subtle changes in its approval strategy for interstate pipelines and liquefied natural gas terminals. “I have been in the business since 1973 and I cannot say that I have ever seen dramatic shifts in policy at FERC as a result of a change in administration,” said Henry Morse, project manager, Palomar Gas...
  • Industry Watches RGGI
    ALL OF A SUDDEN, CARBON EMISSIONS HAD A REAL price, not as high as environmentalists would like, perhaps, but a real price nonetheless. Last September, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, RGGI, pronounced “reggie” for short, held its first auction of carbon-emission allowances, the first such auction of its kind, and the fact that it went off without a hitch and generated a positive price was...
  • A Stealth Tax on Energy
    BARACK OBAMA AND HIS TEAM HAVE MADE it clear that a cap-and-trade system will be an important tool for the new administration to provide green jobs and reduce the nation's greenhouse-gas emissions. But the real purpose of cap-and-trade is to increase the cost of energy. The European experience shows that countries lose their enthusiasm once they experience the actual costs of these programs....
  • Partnering with Utilities to Get It Done
    SPURRED ON BY A DESIRE TO LIMIT GLOBAL warming, a number of colleges are spearheading efforts to limit CO2 emissions, become energy self-sufficient and increase their use of renewable energy. Typifying a college's efforts to become more energy sustainable is the College of the Atlantic's $6.2 million new residence for 50 students in Bar Harbor, Maine, which opened in the summer. If is heated by...