Research Reports

Electric Transmission Seams

A primer

March 2015
— Rishi Garg

Seams are the products of valuable interconnections to neighboring jurisdictions. They are the interface between two wholesale electricity control areas, systems, and markets. Seams issues are trading barriers between adjoining wholesale electricity markets resulting from the use of different rules and procedures by the neighboring markets. Put another way, where there are seams, inefficiencies arise that prevent the economic transfer of capacity and energy between neighboring wholesale electricity markets largely as a result of incompatible market rules or designs. These trading barriers can obstruct the trading or sharing of electric capacity and energy between the two markets, affecting the reliability of each system and increasing the ultimate cost to the ratepayer. This primer offers an examination of seams issues that are relevant to the Eastern Interconnection in the United States. Read More ›

Getting the Signals Straight

Modeling, planning, and implementing non-transmission alternatives

March 2015
— Tom Stanton

Non-Transmission Alternatives (NTAs) are electric utility system investments and operating practices that can defer or replace the need for specific transmission projects, at lower total resource cost, by reliably reducing transmission congestion at times of maximum demand in specific grid areas. NTAs can be identified through least-cost planning and action, one geographic area at a time, for managing electricity supply and demand using all means available and necessary, including demand response, distributed generation (DG), energy efficiency, electricity and thermal storage, load management, and rate design. This paper introduces and explores the subject of NTAs. Read More ›

Utility Involvement in Distributed Generation

Regulatory considerations

March 2015
— Ken Costello

The rapid growth of distributed generation (DG) over the past two years with the expectation of continuation through this decade has the potential to transform the U.S. electric industry. It has stimulated a dialogue, sometimes of a spirited nature, on core topics that relate to both utility operations and state utility regulation. The recent narrative on the electric utility of the future includes the efficacy of the existing utility business model and current ratemaking practices in financially sustaining utilities and DG providers, as well as in advancing societal goals. A new business model, for example, could enable DG to compete on a more equal basis with utility generation. Alternatively, existing or newly erected regulatory barriers and obstacles could prevent DG from reaching its full economic potential. The question also arises as to whether and how utilities might go beyond simply accommodating DG, to becoming active agents in growing DG for long-term profit. Read More ›

Nuclear Retention

Case Studies and Policy Options

March 2015
— Daniel Phelan

Nuclear power faces threats from low electricity prices and rising costs. This report summarizes the conditions surrounding nuclear, looks at case studies where plants have closed, and examines the policy decisions that impact the future of nuclear. Read More ›

Municipal Broadband

A Review of Rules, Requirements, and Options

November 2014
— Sherry Lichtenberg

The universal availability of high speed internet service (broadband) is a key goal for the country, the states, and the FCC. Today, 143 municipal networks throughout the country offer (primarily) fiber-based, high speed broadband service, with more in the planning stage. This paper explores the controversy surrounding municipal broadband through a factual lens. It reviews the statutes controlling municipal telecommunications and broadband projects across the nation, describes the conditions that some see as barriers to system deployment, reviews proposed state legislation limiting or expanding the reach of municipal systems. The paper also provides suggestions for understanding and addressing the competing points of view about the importance and value of municipally developed projects. The paper also provides an overview of the legal issues surrounding the municipal broadband debate, including two petitions currently pending at the FCC requesting that the agency use its authority under Section 706 of the federal Telecommunications Act to eliminate what the petitioners see as onerous conditions on the expansion of their existing municipal networks. Read More ›

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