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Frontlines

We Made Light Free

Will lighting drop to a tenth of residential consumption, then below? Every use of a machine, appliance, device shrunk in its significance to the household budget.
Author Bio: 

Steve Mitnick is Editor-in-Chief of Public Utilities Fortnightly and author of the book “Lines Down: How We Pay, Use, Value Grid Electricity Amid the Storm.”

As inexpensive as lighting was, twenty years ago, we’ve since made it close to free. Too cheap to meter?

Perfect Superstorm

Since Obama won reelection, we must ask whether we’d rather have EPA cracking down on carbon emissions, or whether a legislated framework would be better for everyone.

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Frontlines
Author Bio: 

Michael T. Burr is Fortnightly’s editor-in-chief. Email him at burr@pur.com

Could carbon taxes emerge in the election aftermath?

The Old Drawing Board

PUCs are concerned that a rapid shutdown of coal-fired plants will start a full-tilt dash to gas—similar to the one that caused bankruptcies among independent power producers in the late 1990s and early 2000s. But this time around, ratepayers and not IPP investors will be stuck with the risk, if utilities rush to add all that new gas-fired capacity to rate base.

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Frontlines
Author Bio: 

Michael T. Burr is Fortnightly’s editor-in-chief. Email him at burr@pur.com

Portfolio planning in the age of gas.

Dividend Double-Take

Congress again is embroiled in another hyper-partisan food fight that threatens to blow up into a fiscal crisis. And once again dividend-paying companies like utilities are caught in the crossfire.

Author Bio: 

Michael T. Burr is Fortnightly’s editor-in-chief. Email him at burr@pur.com

What happens when the Bush tax cuts expire?

Mitt Romney and You

The Republican nominee’s energy plan doesn’t say much about electricity or natural gas. But what it does say should sound familiar to anyone who’s followed energy policy for more than four years.
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Frontlines
Author Bio: 

Michael T. Burr is Fortnightly’s editor-in-chief. Email him at burr@pur.com

Bold plan for independence, or more partisan overreach?

Are We Smart Yet?

Yet another sweltering summer is causing its share of outages and supply problems, with predictable backlash from customers and policy makers. And with the advances we’ve seen in recent years, perhaps again we should be asking whether we’re adequately focused on our most critical mission: keeping the power on.

Author Bio: 

Michael T. Burr is Fortnightly’s editor-in-chief. Email him at burr@pur.com.

Rising expectations in the Dog Days of summer.

Rooftop Tsunami

A growing wave of rooftop PV projects is starting to look ominous to some utilities. Will lawmakers accept utilities’ warnings at face value—or will they suspect they’re crying wolf?

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Frontlines
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Transition to a PV World
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Keeping the lights on in a world of mushrooming solar rooftops requires several key technology and policy developments. During the 2012 EEI Annual Convention, panelists on a session titled “Distribution 2020: Implications of a Rapidly Evolving Distribution Grid,” offered several suggestions for managing the transition.

Technology requirements:

• Bi-directional smart grid

• New safety protocols

• Uniform interconnection standards

• Integrated distribution management systems (DMS)

Policy requirements:

• Focus incentives on installations in preferred locations

• Push the limits of demand response with direct load control

• Plan holistically—account for the total costs of distributed generation

• Apply formula rates to keep utilities whole

• Accelerate depreciation appropriately

Author Bio: 

Michael T. Burr is Fortnightly’s editor-in-chief. Email him at burr@pur.com

Utilities sound the alarm as PV nears grid parity.