EnergyBiz Magazine March/April 2009
In This Issue
  • THINK OF ALL THE ELECTRIC POWER USED by residential consumers in New York City. Multiply that vast virtual battery by 14.That is the amount of electricity that can be saved in 2030 if we finally get serious about rescuing every wasted crumb of an electron that can be scrounged from our energy feast. The price tag would range between $19 billion and $47 billion, according to a yearlong study just...
  • TENNESSEE EVENT HIGHLIGHTS ISSUE
    THE THUNDEROUS COLLAPSE OF AN 80-ACRE coal ash pond at the Kingston, Tenn. TVA plant last December was the lead story on the evening news across the country. Suddenly, the public was aware that coal ash is a major environmental concern. Actually, that's hardly news. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been studying the health and environmental impact of coal combustion waste for almost...
  • PICKING WINNERS AND LOSERS
    OF THE TOP FIVE PERFORMERS AMONG major utility stocks in 2008, only two ended the year in positive territory. The third best-performing stock, Unisource, was down 6.9 percent. What happened and will it happen again this year?Barry Abramson, utility analyst at Gabelli Funds, took a look at five of the worst-performing stocks of 2008 to parse the negatives. Constellation, of course, is a case apart...
  • RENEWABLE MANDATES GOING NATIONAL
    A FEDERAL MANDATE REQUIRING UTILITIES TO ACQUIRE increasing amounts of renewable energy could be enacted as soon as this year. President Barack Obama had it as one of his energy campaign planks and in recent years both houses of Congress have passed a version, though not at the same time and never as part of a final bill to reach the president's desk.That is changing this year, renewable energy...
  • DEALING WITH RETIREMENT SURGE
    COMPARED WITH THE PLIGHT OF the United Automobile Workers, which has seen its membership cut in half to 140,000 in three years, the two major utility unions have been bastions of calm and stability. Both the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) have seen steady membership and limited downsizing since linesmen and other employees...
  • A NEW APPROACH TO WIND DEVELOPMENT
    THE IMAGE OF A SOLITARY WIND TURBINE rising above a farm in a lone prairie is a romantic idea – but usually not a profitable one. Yet the idea of dozens or hundreds of turbines owned by a corporation that profits from the wind over their land is appalling to many landowners.One wind developer is trying to marry the two visions of independence and profitability for landowners in the West, and so...
  • WE DON'T NEED FINANCIAL ENGINEERING
    WE HAVE PLENTY OF GOOD REASONS TO blame Wall Street financial firms for the progressive deterioration of our economy. Here are some more.Demand for electricity continues to climb. Supply keeps going down. In some areas, like Texas and the Northeast, the ratio between the two is getting critical. The industry is embracing renewable energy, smart meters, conservation and energy efficiency, but...
  • A NEW DIRECTION FOR DOE
    SINCE THE DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY WAS founded in 1977, it has been headed by an economist, a businessman, a retired admiral, an engineer turned financier, and several lawyers and politicians. It has been part of the presidential spoils – a home for a defeated senator like Spencer Abraham – and a safe way to diversify the cabinet with an African-American, a Lebanese-American and a couple of Hispanics...
  • Helping Shape Energy Policy
    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA AIMS TO TRANSFORM the energy sector. His conservation programs aim to save more oil in the next years than the United States currently imports from the Middle East and Venezuela combined. Obama supports a cap-and-trade program designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. He also wants to put 1 million plug-in hybrid cars – cars that can get up to 150...
  • PURSUIT OF A NUCLEAR STRATEGY
    Electricite de France's 49 percent acquisition of Constellation Energy's nuclear assets signifies its belief that nuclear energy will gain traction in the United States. As a first step, EDF will join forces with a company with which it already has relations and which is an established entity.While a full nuclear resurgence may be more than a decade away, the fundamentals are in place for it to...
  • ELECTRICITE DE FRANCE IS THE FIRST WORLDWIDE nuclear operator with its French 58 reactors generating roughly 80 percent of the country's electricity needs. It is also building in Normandy a third-generation European passive reactor manufactured by the French company Areva.EDF was involved more than 20 years ago in China when it assisted China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group in operating its first...
  • A CONVERSATION WITH DAVID CRANE
    NRG Energy aspires to become the first company to end the long drought on nuclear power plant construction in the United States. NRG, based in Princeton, N.J., generates 24,000 megawatts at 50 facilities. It has been in the news lately as the target of a hostile takeover bid exchange offer by Exelon. At a recent public lecture, David Crane, the company's president and chief executive officer,...
  • SMART METERS PROVIDE NEW GATEWAY TO CONSUMERS
    CALIFORNIA'S INVESTOR-OWNED UTILITIES are at the heart of a massive rollout of smart meter technology statewide. Advanced in part by the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which set out rules for a statewide greenhouse-gas emissions cap for 2020, automated metering infrastructure plans also offered California energy consumers a clear way to take charge of their energy consumption....
  • MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS
    UTILITY CUSTOMER INFORMATION SYSTEM AND customer relationship management (CIS/CRM) vendors had been dealing with a prolonged slump in CIS replacements by major utilities before the U.S. economy went into serious recession. They were looking forward to major restructuring in the industry involving the advent of widespread advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) and smart grids to kick-start CIS...
  • SOLAR PHOTOVOLTAIC ELECTRICITY HAS historically suffered from a troika of complaints that limited its deployment to niche markets: “Solar is too expensive,” “Solar is not reliable” and “Solar is not scalable enough to solve major energy needs.” The newest wave of technologies, equipment makers, module manufacturers and installers are putting an end to those misperceptions once and for all.At the...
  • 2009 AND BEYOND
    THE FINANCIAL ENVIRONMENT AND ECONOMIC OUTLOOK darken many segments of the national and global economies. Will the electric power industry significantly scale back planned capital expenditures and operations and maintenance spending on transmission and distribution automation? To find the answer, we conducted a global study of capital-expense budgets.Several key reasons underpin the continued...
  • COMING ATTRACTIONS
    LIKE ANALYSTS FOR MANY INDUSTRIES, photovoltaic industry analysts are all over the map with predictions. But what most energy executives don't realize is that some respected analysts are forecasting that one-third of annual global generating capacity additions will come from electricity generated by photovoltaics by 2012 – and this forecast does not include additional capacity from solar thermal...
  • THE VULNERABILITY OF THE GRID
    SEVERE WEATHER EVENTS IN SPACE POSE operational threats to the North American electric power grid. A large geomagnetic storm in March 1989, for example, triggered a blackout of the Quebec power grid and also came close to causing similar widespread blackouts across regions of the U.S. power grid. Geomagnetic storms pose the risk of long-term outages to major portions of the North American grid....
  • IMPROVING SUBSTATION MEASUREMENTS
    AS POWER DEMANDS GROW, THERE ARE inevitable strains on the grid, transmission and delivery systems.These strains drive up the need for more frequent and better measurements of the state of equipment deployed at distribution points and in substations. Additionally, utilities want more frequent measurements than were taken in the past, whether the measurements were possible or not with the then-...
  • UTILITIES STUDY IMPACT
    IF THE UNITED STATES IS SERIOUS ABOUT lessening its dependence on foreign oil for surface transportation – gas for cars, really – there appear to be three options available to change over from what's been the fuel of choice for more than a century.Fuel cell vehicles are still probably a couple of decades away from affordable mass production, even though Honda recently took the small step of...
  • DAVID SOKOL'S VIEW OF THE UTILITY UNIVERSE
    MIDAMERICAN ENERGY HOLDINGS COMPANY HAS A WAY OF ending up center stage. Perhaps that's because 87.4 percent of MidAmerican is owned by Berkshire Hathaway, which is ruled by legendary investor Warren E. Buffett. Buffett has expressed an interest in deepening his investments in the power sector. Recently, MidAmerican battled Electricite de France to acquire Constellation Energy Group, lost, but...
  • ACCOMMODATING CALIFORNIA'S RENEWABLE REVOLUTION
    NEVER BEFORE IN CALIFORNIA HISTORY HAS THE confluence of environmental stewardship and the power industry been stronger. The public and policy-makers want to make the important and challenging move to a greener, cleaner world and the California Independent System Operator Corp. is ready to help make that vision a reality.After the California General Assembly passed Senate Bill 107 in 2006, which...
  • TRANSPARENCY VALUED
    ONE IRONIC TURN OF EVENTS DUE to the financial crisis is an increase in commodity exchange trading and clearing on regulated exchanges. This federal regulatory oversight has brought investors and traders safety with regard to performance, credit and counterparty risk management. Government market oversight and transparency are important components for future exchange growth. The fact is that...
  • EUROPE MARKET UPDATE
    BASED IN GERMANY, AT THE HEART OF Central Europe, the European Energy Exchange is the largest and fastest-growing commodity exchange in Europe, operating both spot and derivatives markets for power, gas, emission and coal products. With more than 200 trading participants from 20 countries including U.S. members, EEX boasts the largest number of trading participants and the highest turnover in...
  • TOWARD CRAFTING A NATIONAL ENERGY POLICY
    DEMOCRATIC REP. RICK BOUCHER WAS recently moved from a key committee post in the U.S. House of Representatives where he helped craft energy legislation to a new assignment as part of a realignment ordered by the Democrats controlling Congress. EnergyBiz late last year sat down with Boucher to discuss pending national energy policy issues. The comments of the Virginia congressman, edited for style...
  • THE STRUGGLE TO PAY
    THE SERVICE SHUT-OFFS BY SOUTHERN California Edison last year say all that needs to be said about the financial pressure on some of the company's 4.8 million Los Angeles-area customers. Through October, 2008, SCE had cut electrical service at the average rate of 30,000 customers each month – 3,000 more per month than in the same period in 2007.Linda Yamauchi, SCE's consumer affairs manager,...
  • THE QUEST FOR NEW SOLAR MATERIALS
    PLASTIC. IT MAY BE THE FUTURE OF solar cells, according to many researchers, In fact, solar cells made of organic plastic materials have the potential to be lower cost and lighter weight than today's silicon-based cells, making them a better candidate for large-scale, commercial, electric-generation systems.However, when it comes to converting solar energy to electricity, today's organic cells...