By - Jim Vess

Coordinated Vegetation Management Programs Lead to Better Communities

By Joe Bennett, Vice President, Engineering, ITC Holdings Corp. When blackouts hit, they serve as a harsh reminder of the critical role of electricity in modern life. The 2003 blackout left 50 million people in 13 states and Ontario without power for days.  Eleven deaths were attributed to the blackout, and the economy suffered billions of dollars in lost productivity.

By - Jim Vess

Western utilities get ready for a solar power blackout during coming total eclipse

Energize Weekly, August 8, 2017 The total solar eclipse set to sweep across the sky on Aug. 21 is going to knock out power from photovoltaic solar panels, and nowhere will the darkness have more impact than in the West. The eclipse will cast a 70-mile-wide shadow across the country affecting solar arrays from Oregon to South Carolina, briefly turning

By - Jim Vess

Corporate power purchase agreements are rapidly growing

Energize Weekly, August 2, 2017 Corporate power purchase agreements, initially the domain of high-visibility, multi-billion-dollar enterprises, are increasingly being used by smaller companies, as well as municipalities and non-profit institutions. The use of the agreements, or PPAs, has soared in the last two years and is on pace for another robust year, according to the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Business Renewables

By - Jim Vess

New York announces $440 million transmission project to boost renewable energy generation

Energize Weekly, August 2, 2017 A $440 million project to upgrade a 75-year-old transmission line to carry renewable energy was announced last week by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The rebuilt 78-mile transmission line—the project has been dubbed the Moses-Adirondack Smart Path Reliability Project—will help carry wind and hydropower from northern New York to the populated areas downstate. The plan

By - Jim Vess

Minnesota study shows solar-storage tandem becoming an alternative to peakers

Energize Weekly, July 26, 2017 Solar arrays linked to energy storage could be an economic and environmental alternative to natural gas peaking plants in Minnesota by 2023, according to a study submitted to the state’s Public Utilities Commission. The study, Modernizing Minnesota’s Grid: An Economic Analysis of Energy Storage Opportunities, was developed by the Energy Transition Lab (ETL) at the

By - Jim Vess

As natural gas prices rise, coal-fired electricity generation takes the lead

Energize Weekly, July 26, 2017 After natural gas-fired generation slipped ahead of coal as the main source for U.S. electricity for the first time in 2016, rising natural gas prices are giving coal new life this year, according to the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA). In 2016, natural gas supplied about 34 percent of total U.S. electricity generation, while coal,

By - Jim Vess

Western utilities eye joining Southwest Power Pool, state regulators are wary

Energize Weekly, July 19, 2017 The Mountain West Transmission Group, which represents utilities in eight western states, is considering joining the Southwest Power Pool’s (SPP) wholesale market, a move that is raising cost and reliability questions among state officials. More than 60 percent of the nation’s electricity moves through regional wholesale markets, operated by Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs) or Independent

By - Jim Vess

New analytical tool measures generation costs on price of natural gas, strength of the wind and sun

Energize Weekly, July 12, 2017 Utilities across the country, when building new generation, are opting for natural gas-fired plants, wind farms or solar installations. The three have dominated industry investment and a new analytical tool could aid utility executives in deciding which to build. The electricity industry is already planning to increase natural gas-fired generating capacity by 36.6 gigawatts in

By - Jim Vess

Suniva trade cash could slash solar installations, company challenges those estimates

Energize Weekly, July 5, 2017 The push by an U.S.-based solar panel manufacturer to have tariffs slapped on imported solar cells could lead to more than a 50 percent drop in new solar installations between 2018 and 2022, according to analysis by GTM Research. The company seeking the tariff, Norcross, Ga.-based Suniva Inc., said GTM Research has gotten the figures

By - Jim Vess

Minnesota is adopting a methodical approach to grid modernization

Energize Weekly, July 5, 2017 Minnesota—unhampered by the pressures facing some other states—is taking a step-by-step approach in planning and developing a smart grid, one that could be a template for others. The biggest initiatives in grid modernization are in states like New York, where in the wake of Hurricane Sandy there were serious reliability issues, or California and Hawaii,

By - Jim Vess

Colorado Utilities Commission approves Xcel grid modernization plan and revenue decoupling

Energize Weekly, June 28, 2017 The Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) took two steps toward modernizing the state’s electricity system June 21 by “decoupling” Xcel Energy revenues from the sale of kilowatt-hours and approving a $612 million grid modernization program. The commission endorsed a five-year decoupling pilot under which the PUC will set an annual revenue target for Xcel, the

By - Jim Vess

More than $10 billion to be spent on new generation worldwide—most of it on renewables

Energize Weekly, June 28, 2017 The world’s energy mix is continuing to evolve with wind and solar projected to account for 82 percent of the installed generation capacity by 2040, as the role of coal and even natural gas decline, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) forecast. Installed solar capacity will increase 14-fold and wind capacity fourfold by

By - Jim Vess

Price of solar falls below $1 a watt, but future prices imperiled by trade case

Energize Weekly, June 21, 2017 The federal SunShot Initiative set a goal of an installed price for photovoltaic solar modules of less than $1 a watt by 2020. It looks like the future is now as module prices in 2017 have dipped below $1 a watt. “The price for a module dropped much faster than anyone expected,” said Ben Gallagher,

By - Jim Vess

Natural gas-fired plants cheapest to build, wind farms the cheapest to operate, EIA data shows

Energize Weekly, June 14, 2017 The cost of building new electricity generation is coming down across the board with the biggest strides in natural gas-fired plants, according to construction surveys by the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA). From 2013 to 2015, the most recent year for which data is available, the cost of a natural gas plant dropped 28 percent

By - Jim Vess

States and utilities across the country are moving on grid modernization, survey finds

Energize Weekly, June 7, 2017 Actions to modernize the nation’s electric grid—some small, some sweeping—are underway this year by utilities, state regulators and legislators in 37 states and the District of Columbia, according to a new survey by the NC Clean Technology Center. “We are still at an early stage,” said Autumn Proudlove, a senior policy analyst with the center.

By - Jim Vess

As renewable electricity is added to the grid, are power markets misfiring?

Energize Weekly, May 31, 2017 When increasing megawatt-hours of variable solar and wind energy began coursing through the grid, the initial concern was an operational one—could grid reliability be maintained. But it turns out those megawatt-hours are creating market challenges, as well. What needs to be done to right the markets? Travis Kavulla, vice chairman of the Montana Public Service

By - Jim Vess

Xcel grid modernization gets wary reception at Colorado utilities commission

Energize Weekly, May 24, 2017 A proposed $612 million grid modernization program by Xcel Energy for its Colorado system came under sharp questioning from the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) at a hearing May 16. The plan is contained in a unanimous settlement agreement between Xcel and 10 parties, including the commission staff, big industrial customers, representatives of the solar

By - Jim Vess

Trump getting serious about cybersecurity

Energize Weekly, May 17, 2017 Last Thursday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order designed to strengthen the cybersecurity of federal IT networks and critical infrastructure, including the electric power grid. Trump has said that improving cybersecurity is a top priority for his administration. Making cybersecurity a national security issue, Trump plans to hold agency and department heads accountable for

By - Jim Vess

FERC has a heavy workload ahead

Energize Weekly, May 10, 2017 Since February, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has had just two commissioners – not enough for the quorum necessary to approve new projects. This has stalled or slowed the approval of almost $50 billion in new energy projects. This week, President Trump nominated Neil Chatterjee, an adviser to Republican U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, and

By - Jim Vess

Colorado legislation seeks to retire aging plants while softening local job and tax impacts

Energize Weekly, May 3, 2017 The utility industry is going through a time of transformation as it moves away from older generating units—coal-fired and in some cases, nuclear—to newer technologies such as combined-cycle natural gas and renewable resources. With that change can come not only expense, but economic and social dislocations as communities lose tax base and jobs. In Colorado,

By - Jim Vess

Does coal have a future?

Energize Weekly, April 26, 2017 President Trump took steps to keep his promise to revitalize the coal industry by signing executive orders aimed at reducing the environmental regulatory burden on coal. But is it too little, too late to save coal? Even with the president’s actions, large coal plants in the U.S. are still facing early retirement – not for

By - Jim Vess

Lawrence Livermore energy flow charts show renewable energy increase, energy efficiency down

Energize Weekly, April 19, 2017 Renewable energy resources are growing in the U.S., but overall energy efficiency is flagging, according to the most recent energy flow charts released by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The flow charts track the sources of energy for the nation and where it is used. Comparing 2016, the most recent year available, with 2011 showed

By - Jim Vess

Demand charges seen as a barrier to the growth of public EV charging stations

Energize Weekly, April 12, 2017 The growth of electric vehicles (EVs) and the charging stations they need is often described as a “chicken-and-egg” problem—but the prospects for adding stations is being scrambled by high electricity rates, according to a study by the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI). The analysis of 230 California stations run by EVgo, the nation’s largest operator of

By - Jim Vess

NREL study finds battery storage expensive, but future prospects bright

Energize Weekly, April 5, 2017 A new federal study seeking to get beyond “the hype” on residential energy storage and set baseline costs puts the price of including a home battery with a solar photovoltaic (PV) installation at $12,000 to $14,000. “There has been a lot interest recently and a lot of hype,” said Kristen Ardani, principal author of the

By - Jim Vess

California lawmakers introduce plan to align renewable generation with peak demand

Energize Weekly, March 29, 2017 In keeping with their reputation as champions of innovative clean energy and climate change policies, California lawmakers introduced legislation that would require more renewable generation be offered during the times of the day when consumers are more likely to consume energy. The bill, introduced by Assemblymember Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo), is intended to align California’s

By - Jim Vess

U.S. reverses course, greenlights Keystone Pipeline

Energize Weekly, March 29, 2017 President Donald Trump has formally approved the controversial Keystone XL pipeline extension, reversing a previous decision by former President Barack Obama to reject the 1,179-mile pipeline over environmental concerns. The action fulfills a key campaign promise of President Trump, who pledged to build the pipeline.  The $8 billion project, which is being developed by TransCanada,

By - Jim Vess

Aging electrical grid could cost $5 trillion to replace

Energize Weekly, March 29, 2017 The aging U.S. electricity grid, which has been an integral part of American life since the late 19th century, could cost almost $5 trillion upgrade and replace, according to a new analysis. Joshua D. Rhodes, a Postdoctoral Researcher of Energy at the University of Texas at Austin, says that the currently depreciated value of the

By - Jim Vess

U.S. Senate forwards bill to license advanced nuclear power

Energize Weekly, March 29, 2017 A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators easily advanced a bill last week that will update regulations to help drive advanced nuclear power plants into the market. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted 18-3 to pass the bill, sponsored by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), which is an updated version of a similar bill that

By - Jim Vess

Illinois launches major utility reform study

Energize Weekly, March 29, 2017 Illinois regulators have approved an ambitious, 18-month study to determine new technologies, business models, and regulatory regimes that will help transform the state’s electric grid into one that is more flexible and allows for greater customer choice. The effort, called NextGrid, is reminiscent of other utility reform initiatives, including New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision

By - Jim Vess

Trump signs executive order eliminating Clean Power Plan

Energize Weekly, March 29, 2017 President Donald Trump made due on a key campaign pledge this week after he signed an executive order dismantling his predecessor’s sweeping plan to reduce carbon emissions from the U.S. power sector. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt told media outlets over the weekend that the order will undo the Obama administration’s Clean

By - Jim Vess

Growth of distributed renewable generation poses challenges for bulk electricity market

Energize Weekly, March 29,2017 The growth in renewable energy resources—particularly ones distributed across the grid—provide both an opportunity and a management challenge for the wholesale bulk-power market, according to a report from the ISO/RTO Council or IRC. The report by IRC’s Emerging Technologies Task Force identifies three key areas that operators of these regional power systems must deal with: integrating

By - Jim Vess

Washington D.C. to initiate green bank to fund renewable investments

Energize Weekly, March 22, 2017 Washington D.C. could become the first city in the country to create a bank dedicated to investing public funds for clean energy projects. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has introduced plans to create a “green bank”, which will fund efficiency upgrades, renewable energy projects, lower emissions and create jobs.  Washington would become the first city to

By - Jim Vess

New research suggests natural gas methane emission may be far higher than reported

Energize Weekly, March 22, 2017 A new peer-reviewed study suggests methane emissions from natural gas power plants and oil refineries may be much higher than what is currently reported. Researchers from Purdue University say they estimate average hourly methane emissions to be 11 to 90 times higher for refineries and 21 to 120 times higher for natural gas power plants

By - Jim Vess

ComEd to launch first community storage project for Illinois ratepayers

Energize Weekly, March 22, 2017 Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) has launched a pilot energy storage project to test the use of battery technology to reduce the impact of power outages in residential areas which experience service interruptions, including areas prone to severe weather. ComEd’s Community Energy Storage (CES) pilot will be conducted in Beecher, Illinois, about 40 miles south of Chicago. 

By - Jim Vess

White House proposes revising Yucca nuclear waste site

Energize Weekly, March 22, 2017 President Donald Trump is seeking to revive the controversial Yucca Mountain nuclear storage facility in Nevada, according to the President’s recent budget blueprint. According to the budget blueprint released last week, President Trump is asking Congress to approve $120 million in spending to restart licensing activity at the Yucca Mountain repository and to fund an

By - Jim Vess

Wind and Solar dominate a big year for new generating capacity in 2016

Energize Weekly, March 22, 2017 The broad shift in U.S. electricity generating capacity—as coal declines while natural gas and renewable resources rise—has been easy to see in the overall numbers, but a federal analysis has drilled down in the data, offering stark illustrations of what is going on. The percentage of electricity from coal-fired generation declined to 33 percent in

By - Jim Vess

Solar PV sets a record in 2016 and is top choice for new generating capacity

Energize Weekly, March 15, 2017 The U.S. solar market—led by utility-scale projects—set a record in 2016, doubling its previous high and adding more generating capacity than wind or natural gas for the first time ever, according to a new report. A total of 14,762 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) came online in 2016 or 39 percent of all the

By - Jim Vess

Trump to rescind EPA’s Clean Power Plan

Energize Weekly, March 15, 2017 President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order this week directing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to dismantle controversial Obama-era climate regulations, including the Clean Power Plan, which set limits on carbon emissions from U.S. power plants. The order would also instruct the Justice Department to withdraw its legal defense of the

By - Jim Vess

Wind energy accounted for 5.5 percent of U.S. demand in 2016

Energize Weekly, March 15, 2017 Wind power accounted for 5.5 percent of all electricity consumed in the United States in 2016, up from 4.7 percent in 2015, according to new data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). In addition, the EIA data shows that Iowa, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, and North Dakota all sourced more than 20 percent of

By - Jim Vess

Wood Group buys Amec Foster Wheeler for $2.7 billion

Energize Weekly, March 15, 2017 In a deal highlighting the pressures of weak prices on the UK oil industry, Wood Group has offered to buy struggling rival Amec Foster Wheeler for $2.7 billion. Wood Group, based in Aberdeen, said that the deal would enable it to expand in areas better suited to take advantage of rebounding oil prices, specifically the

By - Jim Vess

New York PSC mandates grid-scale storage projects for investor-owned utilities

Energize Weekly, March 15, 2017 With the mass proliferation of energy storage capacity, New York regulators have mandated investor-owned utilities deploy energy storage systems by the 2018. The state Public Service Commission (PSC) issued an order last week requiring each individual utility to have energy storage projects “deployed and operating at no fewer than two separate distribution substations or feeders.” 

By - Jim Vess

Six years after meltdown, some Fukushima areas deemed safe to return

Energize Weekly, March 15, 2017 Six years after experiencing one of the worst nuclear disasters in recent memory, a new study shows that radiation over some areas nearby the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan have returned to safe levels. The study was conducted by Makoto Miyazaki, a radiologist at Fukushima Medical University, and Ryugo Hayano, a physicist from

By - Jim Vess

Ohio PUC launches New York-style grid modernization, utility reform initiative

Energize Weekly, March 15, 2017 The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) has launched a review of the latest technological and regulatory innovation aimed at modernizing the electric grid and enhance the utility customer experience. PUCO officials said that the program, dubbed “PowerForward”, aims to chart a path forward for future grid modernization projects and regulations that could be integrated

By - Jim Vess

Arizona Public Service, solar companies reach settlement on solar rates

Energize Weekly, March 8, 2017 Solar companies and Arizona’s largest utility have reached a long-sought rate design settlement that could hopefully bring an end to years of contentious policy debates. The settlement between Arizona Public Service (APS) and solar installation companies includes a smaller net metering rate cut for rooftop solar customers than originally proposed, and includes rate design options

By - Jim Vess

Feds to open 73 million acres in Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas drilling

Energize Weekly, March 8, 2017 The federal government is proposing to put up for lease some 73 million acres offshore from Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, and Florida for oil and gas exploration and development, the U.S. Department of Interior announced this week. Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke, in one of his first act’s since being confirmed by the U.S. Senate last

By - Jim Vess

FirstEnergy to spend $540 million on Ohio electricity transmission, distribution

Energize Weekly, March 8, 2017 FirstEnergy has laid out plans to spend over half a billion this year on infrastructure improvements for its Ohio service areas. The Akron-based utility said it will be investing $172 million in its five-county The Illuminating Company territory in Northeast Ohio, and another $371 million in its 34-county Ohio Edison territory, for a total investment

By - Jim Vess

NRC approves FitzPatrick nuclear plant transfer to Exelon

Energize Weekly, March 8, 2017 A revival of the James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in upstate New York cleared a final hurdle last week, after federal regulators approved the transfer of the 838 megawatt power plant to its new owner. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) signed off on the transfer of the plant from Entergy to Exelon, part of

By - Jim Vess

PG&E to offer agricultural discounts for marijuana cultivation

Energize Weekly, March 8, 2017 Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), California’s largest utility, is giving marijuana farmers a break when it comes to their energy bills. The company has announced it will consider cannabis as an agricultural crop, enabling marijuana growers to take advantage of energy discounts available to other farmers.  The decision comes four months after California voters passed

By - Jim Vess

After pledging to abolish DOE, Rick Perry gets sworn in as Energy Secretary

Energize Weekly, March 8, 2017 Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been sworn in as the 14th U.S. Secretary of Energy, despite having once pledged to eliminate the Department of Energy (DOE) as a presidential candidate. The U.S. Senate confirmed Gov. Perry last week in a 62-37 vote.  He will now lead an agency that is tasked with overseeing the

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