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The Good News and Bad News about Energy in President Obama’s Budget

President Barack Obama's FY2013 budget includes $27.2 billion for the Department of Energy. US DOE says the budget priorities are focused on the 'all-of-the-above' energy strategy laid out in the President’s state of the union message. There are many lofty energy goals articulated in the budget: R&D support for clean energy technologies including $276 million for clean coal and carbon capture and storage; $350 million for more ARPA-E early stage R&D; Reduce the cost of solar energy …Continue Reading »

Are We Rushing the Smart Grid?

That was the interesting title of an article by Dick DeBasio, Chair of the IEEE 2030 Smart Grid Working Group.  That is the group tasked with developing the interoperability standards for the grid.  It has been a tedious slog for them and it must feel like little progress is being made. FERC recently rejected a proposed order adopted several interoperability standards proposed by the National Institute of Standards & Technology claiming the commissioners did not feel there was yet a solid …Continue Reading »

Smart Grid and Beer Futures

Smart Grid is reaching a rough patch on the road to the promised land of our clean energy future.  Oh we’re installing smart meters everywhere, but that is the easy part.  And besides many of those smart meters were paid for with stimulus money that is, pardon the pun, unsustainable.  But now that we have all those smart meters installed what are we going to do with them? That’s where beer comes in!  It is going to take a lot of beer and discussion to get agreement on the standards for living …Continue Reading »

Beacon Power Goes Chapter 11 as Red Ink from Green Energy Keeps Flowing

News hit the trade press today that Beacon Power had become the second DOE loan guarantee company to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  In August 2010 DOE provided a $43.5 million loan guarantee for this maker of flywheel technology to provide back-up power for grid stability.  Beacon used $39 million of that loan guarantee to keep its Stephentown, New York plant in operation.  The plant has produced 18 MW of the 20 MW of frequency regulation committed and is generating revenue.  It was not clear …Continue Reading »

Renewable Energy Buyers Remorse: How Big a Risk?

Municipal utilities have been good laboratories for experimentation because they are close to customers and generally risk averse.  Munis have been among the most assertive buyers and strongest advocates of renewable energy.  Generally free of state rate regulation, public power has been able to plan and executive strategies and deals that push the envelope of their portfolio share from renewable energy. Given lower rate structures typically than investor-owned utilities this was worked. But …Continue Reading »

USDOE to FERC—Never mind!

Maybe Energy Secretary Steve Chu felt he had enough battles to fight on Capitol Hill with the Solyndra mess.  Maybe he felt it was impolitic to pick a fight a fight the state public utility commissions.  Maybe he took Senator Bingaman’s advice not to do it to heart. Whatever the reason, USDOE blinked today and said it would not delegate its transmission planning responsibilities to the Federal Energy Commission after all.  Instead, Chu said US DOE would work more closely with FERC to get the …Continue Reading »

FERC Order 1000 is Looking Busy, while Not Solving the Electric Transmission Problems

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) adopted Order 1000 on July 21, 2011 to push the line of scrimmage a little closer to the goal without getting sacked in the process.  Order 1000 attempts to speed up resolution of transmission issues by: Requiring a regional transmission planning process; Setting procedures to reconcile differing public policy issues such as renewable portfolio standards and other state clean energy requirements); Limiting the right of first refusal for …Continue Reading »

Could Solyndra's Failure turn into Customer Benefits

The fallout from the Solyndra bankruptcy has turned the entire US DOE loan guarantee program into a political food fight.  The President is wisely silent on the issue, but his Republican rivals are like pigs at the trough over the headline grabbing incident in an effort both to tarnish President Obama as well as score points by being against Federal spending---a two-fer. The US Department of Energy Loan Guarantee Program has issued $38.6 billion in loan guarantees and says those projects have …Continue Reading »

Transmission Hell

Do not touch the transmission line siting process! That was the straight talking advice from Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM).  And since he is Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman his advice counts.  He addressed his comments to the US Department of Energy which recently proposed a workaround to its long stalled responsibility to facilitate national interest interstate electric transmission construction.   US DOE issued a Transmission Siting Narrative and a Transmission Outline seeking …Continue Reading »

National Demand Response Action Plan Message to Customers: You Win!

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) required US DOE and FERC to prepare a National Action Plan on Demand Response and tell Congress what it would take and by whom to achieve the potential of demand response.  On July 11, 2011 the agencies delivered their report.  The report was more a retrospective rather than a prescription.  It recited all the work done by Federal agencies and laboratories in research on the potential for energy efficiency and demand response. The Process …Continue Reading »