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

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

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

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

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

National Grid’s REV demonstration project, an interview with lead project manager Jonathan Nickerson

Energize Weekly, March 1, 2017 In July 2015, National Grid launched the Fruit Belt Neighborhood Solar REV Demonstration project, which will install photovoltaic (PV) solar arrays on as many as 100 homes in a low-to-moderate-income neighborhood in Buffalo, N.Y. The solar systems will be owned and operated by the utility and put power directly onto the grid rather than into

By - Jim Vess

Batteries seen as a more than $2 billion market by 2020, but challenges remain

Energize Weekly, February 22, 2017 Battery storage has been getting a big boost from financial and market analysts who see revenues reaching more than $2 billion by 2020. Still, some renewable energy experts caution that there remain a number of hurdles the technology must overcome. In early February, Morgan Stanley issued a report saying that the growth of battery storage

By - Jim Vess

Black & Veatch: DER the single biggest accelerator of change

Energize Weekly, February 15, 2017 The major concerns of utility executives remain traditional ones—reliability, security, infrastructure and environmental rules—but new technologies and distributed generation are roiling the industry, according to a survey by Black & Veatch. “It’s the arrival of environmentally conscious microturbines, fuel cells, photovoltaics, wind turbines, improved energy storage and other advanced power technologies—all pushing distributed generation toward

By - Jim Vess

Natural gas-fired generation set to grow rapidly in U.S. fueled by low gas prices

Energize Weekly, February 8, 2017 The utility industry is set in the next two years to add 36.6 gigawatts of natural gas-fired generation—the most in more than a decade, according to data from the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA). If all the proposed projects come online, it would increase natural gas generating capacity 8 percent over the capacity at the

By - Jim Vess

Natural gas and wind are cheapest clean generation technologies, Texas study finds

Energize Weekly, February 1, 2017 Natural gas and wind are the lowest cost options for new electricity generation in the vast majority of the United States when health and environmental impacts are factored in along with traditional costs, according to a University of Texas study. Wind energy dominates in the core of the country—home to a high-wind corridor—from north Texas

By - Jim Vess

Corporate energy plans are playing a bigger role in the renewable energy market

Energize Weekly, January 25, 2017 Big companies—from Google to the candy maker Mars—have become big players in the renewable energy market, which has until now been dominated by utilities. In 2105, large corporate customers contracted for a record 3.2 gigawatts of renewable energy, including the majority of wind power purchase agreements (PPAs) for the year, and another 1.6 gigawatts was

By - Jim Vess

Renewable electricity could overtake coal-fired by 2040 according to federal forecasts

Energize Weekly, January 18, 2017 In the next two decades, the nation’s utility sector faces a transformation in which natural gas and renewable energy could become the dominant sources of electricity generation, according to projections from the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA). Among renewable generation sources, both wind and solar generation will surpass hydropower, which has historically been the main

By - Jim Vess

Solar installations led by utility-scale projects poised to set a record for 2016

Energize Weekly, December 21, 2016 Installations of solar photovoltaic (PV) generation in the United States reached a record 4,143 megawatts in the third quarter of 2016—double the previous quarter and up 191 percent compared to same quarter in 2015, according to a study by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association. Solar accounted for 60 percent of all the

By - Jim Vess

Connecting renewable generation to the grid faces technological and regulatory challenges

Energize Weekly, December 14, 2016 A wave of renewable energy generation construction has swept the nation, accounting for the majority of new capacity over the last two years, and that has led to a new challenge—getting it all on the grid in the most efficient way. “The competitiveness of wind and solar has made them a go-to option,” said Aaron

By - Jim Vess

Big utility projects can present big challenges in dealing with the public

Energize Weekly, December 7, 2016 Big utility projects—wind farms, power houses and transmission lines—often spark big public opposition or at a minimum, public concern. Addressing these issues is a key step in getting the projects off the ground, utility executives say. When it comes to transmission lines, Arlee Jones, project manager for Tampa Electric, said, “The biggest concerns we hear

By - Jim Vess

NREL Data Book charts growth of renewable-electricity generation in 2015

Energize Weekly, November 30, 2016 Renewable energy generation continued to grow in the U.S. even as demands for electricity decline, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) 2105 Renewable Energy Data Book. The Data Book  issued this month is compiled by NREL for the U.S. Department of Energy. “Since it was first released in 2009, the Renewable Energy Data

By - Jim Vess

Colorado utility commission approves sweeping Xcel rate and solar plans

Energize Weekly, November 16, 2016 The Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) last week approved a sweeping settlement agreement for Xcel Energy that will boost solar energy and introduce new rate structures for the state’s largest electricity provider. “Unlike some other states in the country, we were able to break the stalemate between the utility industry and the solar industry,” said

By - Jim Vess

Xcel plans for large, low-income solar energy program in Colorado

Energize Weekly, November 2, 2016 The growth in solar energy has been dramatic in the U.S., but for the most part, low-income households unable to afford rooftop arrays or shares in solar gardens have been left out in the cold—that may be about to change in Colorado. Xcel Energy, the state’s largest electricity provider, is proposing a plan for nearly

By - Jim Vess

City policies can cut carbon emissions and energy use, NREL study says

Energize Weekly, October 26, 2016 Cities—through policies ranging from building codes to improved mass transit to solar generation—could reduce nationwide carbon emissions by 210 million tons a year or more by 2035, according to a new analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The study by the Golden, Colo.-based lab used a set of analytic tools to look at

By - Jim Vess

Utilities wrestling with clean energy technologies DOE calls revolutionary

Energize Weekly, October 12, 2016 Renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies have reached a threshold that makes them competitive in the marketplace and revolutionary for the nation’s electric system, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). “The clean energy revolution is already underway . . .  providing real-world benefits, and continues to promise new solutions

By - Jim Vess

NREL PV Solar Benchmark shows continue drop in costs in 2016

Energize Weekly, October 5, 2016 The price of photovoltaic (PV) solar installations – from rooftop arrays to large-scale utility projects – continued to drop in 2016 as costs for panels, equipment and installation all declined, according to National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). NREL, based in Golden, Colo., has been benchmarking solar costs for the last eight years and has traced

By - Jim Vess

Electric vehicles looking for a charge from the utility industry to boost adoption and sales

Energize Weekly, September 21, 2016 The electric vehicle (EV) has been a conundrum for the utility industry as the vehicles offer a chance to sell more electricity, but demand a new type of investment. Now that puzzle is slowly being untangled. At a time when the industry is facing “stagnant growth, rising costs and a need for greater infrastructure investment,”

By - Jim Vess

NREL Annual Technology Baseline shows big gains where the wind blows and the sun shines

Energize Weekly, September 21, 2016 The cost of renewable energy will continue to decline over the next three decades, but the economics of renewables vary widely based on the strength of the wind and sun, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL)  2016 Annual Technology Baseline. The Annual Technology Baseline or ATB, is a large data set looking at

By - Jim Vess

Cost of wind forecast to fall with bigger turbines and cheaper capital expenditures

Energize Weekly, September 14, 2016 The cost of wind-generated electricity is projected to fall by as much as 30 percent by 2030 and 41 percent by 2050, according to a survey of the world’s top windpower experts. The reductions will come largely from advances in technology, as well as a drop in project costs. In 2015, wind-generating capacity provided 4.3

By - Jim Vess

The utility-scale solar market continues to grow

Energize Weekly, September 7, 2016 The market for utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) solar arrays is growing as efficiency rises and prices fall, and projects are beginning to penetrate new areas in the United States, according to a study by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Utility-scale solar—projects larger than 5 megawatts (MW)—has led the overall U.S. solar market in

By - Jim Vess

What will the electric distribution grid look like in the future?

Energize Weekly, August 31, 2016 The web of wires, substations and transformers designed to carry electricity to homes and business has remained pretty much the same for more than a century—but that is all about to change. The old grid, with technologies that date back to Thomas Edison, is being forced to be transformed by a series of technological, regulatory

By - Jim Vess

In Colorado, Xcel Energy and stakeholders strike accord on “Our Energy Future” plan

Energize Weekly, August 24, 2016 Battles, some bitter, have flared up across the nation as utilities in at least 18 states have sought to bolster charges and place limits on distributed solar arrays—but there is peace in Colorado. On Aug. 14, Xcel Energy, the state’s largest utility, and 22 parties, ranging from the advocacy group Vote Solar to Wal-Mart Stores

By - Jim Vess

Black & Veatch survey: reliability and security are major concerns for utilities

Energize Weekly, August 24, 2016 The major concerns of utility executives remain traditional ones—reliability, security, infrastructure and environmental rules—but new technologies and distributed generation are roiling the industry, according to a survey by Black & Veatch. “It’s the arrival of environmentally conscious microturbines, fuel cells, photovoltaics, wind turbines, improved energy storage and other advanced power technologies—all pushing distributed generation toward

By - Jim Vess

Preparing for the worst, utilities beef up security

Energize Weekly, August 17, 2016 The nation’s electricity system faces a spate of potential threats such as hurricanes, terrorist attacks and most recently, Pokémon Go. Yes, at 3 a.m. one July morning, security guards found three teenagers on the grounds of the Perry Nuclear Power Plant, in northeastern Ohio, in search of Pikachu or maybe it was Wigglytuff. “A nuclear

By - Jim Vess

Mountain West Transmission Group: pancakes and RTOs

Energize Weekly, August 10, 2016 A group of seven transmission operators and utilities covering an area from South Dakota to Arizona are working to create a uniform transmission tariff – potentially the first step in creating a regional wholesale electricity market. The Mountain West Transmission Group includes operators ranging from investor-owned Xcel Energy to rural cooperative wholesale power provider Tri-State

By - Jim Vess

Fish, water and lawsuits make it tricky for power plants to meet new rule

Energize Weekly, July 27, 2016 Fish and power plants both need a lot of water—this can be a problem. Generating stations, after agriculture activities, account for the largest water withdrawals in the country, and those withdrawals suck up billions of aquatic organisms from minnows to sea turtles to seals. In an attempt to balance the demand for power and need

By - Jim Vess

As the business model changes, utilities rethink rates

Energize Weekly, July 13, 2016 The way electricity is made and used is changing and creating a wave of new challenges for the utility industry. New technologies from smart meters to solar panels are transforming the power grid while at the same time utilities are facing unsettled revenues and the need to make major investments. At the center of these

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