EnergyBiz Magazine November/December 2010
In This Issue
  • MY YOUNGEST SON ASKED ME IF I WAS GOING to write an editorial comment about our family’s purchase of a Prius. Of course not, I responded. If I snagged a new electric plug-in vehicle, perhaps I would write about that. But the sale of one more Prius, now in its fourth generation, is hardly comment-worthy.However, I have been thinking a lot about game-changing innovations, which is the theme of the...
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  • How long will it last?
    The Chu Effect
    WHEN ENERGY SECRETARY STEVEN CHU IN MAY suggested using high-powered gamma rays for imaging the blowout preventer in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the seasoned oil engineers at BP were skeptical.Chu is a nuclear scientist, not an engineer -- what could he tell them about diagnosing drilling equipment?After a week, however, as Chu told The Atlantic, the BP experts came back and said he was...
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  • Blowing Away the Old
    Teaching Smart Grid
    THE SMART GRID ISN'T SO MUCH AN EVOLUTION AS AN explosion, blowing away the old paradigm even before a coherent new one emerges. Where almost from the beginning, the power infrastructure has assumed one-way transmission from a central source of power to end-users, the emerging model is a system of interactive entities, dynamically connected and governed by highly complex switching and IT...
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  • U.S. Utility Execs Study Japanese Solar Initiatives
    EDITOR’S NOTE A large group of utility executives and senior managers and energy experts recently toured Japan with the Solar Electric Power Association to study that nation’s push to become a global power in solar electricity. The participants spoke about the highlights of the mission on its concluding day, riding on a bus to Kyoto. The highlights of their comments, edited for style and length,...
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  • STATES REGROUP ON RENEWABLE PORTFOLIO STANDARDS
    A STRUGGLING ECONOMY IS SLOWING states’ progress toward meeting renewable energy portfolio standards even as some states ratchet up solar-specific requirements.The pace at which renewable power generation is being constructed is slowing. In July, the American Wind Energy Association reported a 71 percent drop in U.S. wind farm installations for the second quarter, compared with 2009. The trade...
  • CARBON LOOMS LARGE
    WITH ENERGY COSTS STILL RISING AND energy regulations still in flux, industry regulators find themselves struggling to guide their states’ energy policies during a period of great uncertainty. The nation’s energy future looks more green, but the way to reach that path still lacks clarity. State regulators are focused on controversial issues as they balance the competing interests of utility...
  • CALIFORNIA VOTERS REJECT MOVE BY PG&E
    CALIFORNIANS, FOR GOOD OR BAD, OFTEN decide their own fate by voting on ballot measures ranging from gay marriage to property tax restrictions. The initiative process was originally championed by Governor Hiram Johnson in 1911 as a way to diminish the political reach of corporate interests. That original intent has morphed into a system in which corporations can fund signature gatherers to place...
  • THE MOVE TO FLAT MONTHLY FEES
    TWO YEARS AGO, THE PUBLIC UTILITY Commission of Ohio took a new approach to natural gas rates that consumer advocates say is unfair to customers who use little gas or conserve. The natural gas delivery charge in most areas of the state now is a flat monthly fee – none of the delivery charge is adjusted according to the cubic feet of gas burned.As consumers reduce natural gas use, local delivery...
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  • UTILITIES GET READY FOR ELECTRIC VEHICLES
     THE SLOW ADOPTION AND ROLLOUT OF plug-in hybrid electronic vehicles has prevented a true assessment of their effect on the electrical grid.While most experts believe the grid can handle the initial onslaught of electric vehicle use, there is definitely a need for more studies, information and trials. As a result, many efforts are under way to better understand the effect of electric...
  • Utility and Solar Sector Collaboration Essential
    A Sustainable Marriage
    MORE THAN 400 MEGAWATTS OF NEW SOLAR ELECTRIC generation capacity was brought online in the United States in 2009, a 37 percent increase over the previous year. However, this number is dwarfed by the potential of solar energy. According to a 2008 report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, America’s empty rooftops could generate more than 800 terawatt-hours of electricity annually if...
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  • Building Boom Continues
    THE GREAT RECESSION HAS DONE MANY bad things to the overall economy and utilities in particular, especially lowering overall power demand. But that has not yet translated into a massive cancellation of power plant construction. And while there appears to be a power glut now, an economic recovery would eventually see a return to increased power demand.Industry sources say there has been a modest...
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  • Boosting the Output of the Fleet
    NUCLEAR PLANT OPERATORS HAVE SIGNIFIcantly increased the output of the U.S. nuclear fleet over the years by improving reliability and uptime. And they are now looking to use new technologies to squeeze even more power out of each plant.The megawatt-hours of electricity generated by U.S. nuclear plants more than doubled in the last 30 years and increased by more than 6 percent in the last 10 years...
  • NEW USES FOR GEOGRAPHIC SOFTWARE
    AN AUGUST 2003 BLACKOUT THAT AFFECTED large portions of the Northeast and Midwest United States and Ontario, Canada, sent a warning shot across the bow of transmission and grid operators. One of the primary causes was inadequate tree pruning and removal. This raised vegetation management along the rights of way of power lines to a new level of importance.In the years since that blackout, there...
  • THE DRIVE TOWARD A SELF-HEALING NETWORK
    MOST OF THE ENERGY AND TECHNOLOGY spending provisions of the 2009 U.S. economic stimulus package have been awarded to advance technologies for the smart grid build-out. Although much of the funding involves smart meters, technology to ensure the reliability and resilience of the grid is of equal importance.Smart grid has a variety of definitions. Regardless of the definition, everybody agrees...
  • INFORMATION GAINS VISIBILITY AND POWER IN UTILITIES
    TECHNOLOGY CONTINUALLY EVOLVES; however, the past decade has seen unprecedented advances in information technology. “There are technologies available today that no one could have dreamed of a few years ago,” said Wanyonyi J. Kendrick, chief information officer at JEA. With computer storage, processing power and network bandwidth all gaining more power, energy companies can now use IT systems to...
  • THE PROMISE OF A STRONGER AND SMARTER GRID
    THE SEVENTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE AUGUST 2003 blackout, with more than $6 billion in losses, the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, with more than 1,800 deaths and $150 billion in economic losses, and the collapse of Minneapolis’s I-35W bridge, killing 13 and disrupting traffic and the local economy for a year, have stimulated a growing public awareness of the necessity for accelerated programs...
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  • Investments Yield Benefits
     UTILITIES AND ENERGY COMPANIES are increasingly looking at ways to upgrade mature generation facilities to make them more energy-efficient. Many of these companies are implementing new technologies to address this issue, and are finding additional benefits such as lower environmental emissions and decreased downtime for maintenance often are associated with these new technologies.One new...
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  • TIME FOR A CARBON TAX
    AS THE WORLD'S FIRST AND ONLY STAND-UP economist, I've had my fill of most economics jokes. What's every economist's favorite one-liner? "Let's do the math!" Even the words of George Bernard Shaw -- "If all economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion-- ' no longer ring true now that more than 2,500 American economists, including eight Nobel Laureates, have signed...
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