Land-constrained Northeastern states looking to decarbonize their electricity systems and maintain affordable, reliable electricity service have renewed interest in an old resource – imported Canadian hydroelectricity. Several projects underway across America, including a successful Minnesota model, show the Northeast how to overcome traditional siting challenges to access Canadian hydro.
With such low wind and solar costs in Colorado, the question became: how can fossil plants that raise the cost of service to consumers be shut down or retired in favor of new wind and solar to support, rather than oppose the utility’s financial interests?
Like any corporation, investor-owned electric utilities have a duty to maximize shareholder profits. But today, how utilities make money must change to adapt to new grid needs, customer demands, and technological realities.
New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative is transforming how utility stakeholders view the power sector’s future, but for the first time polling has revealed widespread support from consumers themselves. Evidence of strongly positive attitudes toward clean energy in general, and REV in particular, has major implications for utilities and regulators.
Texas’ cold winter and hot summer in 2011 triggered debate on how best to guarantee long-term grid reliability. In 2014, regulators decided against a standard forward capacity market for an energy-only market design. This decision has likely saved Texas consumers billions even as reliability improved, evidencing an energy transition driven by load reductions, incread renewables generation, and cheap natural gas.
Distributed energy resources (DER) and better system awareness made possible by information technology have created massive new opportunities for utilities to minimize costs while optimizing the grid system around reliable, safe, and clean service.
Independent System Operators have empowered aggregators of distributed energy resources (DERs) to sell services into the transmission grid through market mechanisms. But since the flow of electrons between DERs and the transmission grid is mediated by distribution utilities, simply opening the door for DERs to join the party only goes so far.
Change is constant for the electric utility industry and government regulators. New York State has been facing this change by “reforming the energy vision” (REV) – a far-reaching statewide energy policy initiative. REV demonstrates successfully managing large-scale change depends upon context, commitment, collaboration, and consultation.
Electricity from competitive wholesale power markets keeps the lights on for two-thirds of all Americans, but things may be about to change – for the better. Four factors will make 2016 a turning point for policymakers, clean energy providers, and wholesale market operators to work together and modernize America’s regulated wholesale power markets.
With the Paris talks just ending and policymakers thinking about how to meet national commitments, it is a useful time to review the current status of U.S. power sector emissions and energy trends shaping the next decade.