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The Energy Journal
Volume 38, Number 3

Designing Compensation for Distributed Solar Generation: Is Net Metering Ever Optimal?

David P. Brown and David E. M. Sappington

DOI: 10.5547/01956574.38.3.dbro
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Electricity customers who install solar panels often are paid the prevailing retail price for the electricity they generate. We demonstrate that this rate of compensation typically is not optimal. A payment for distributed generation (w) that is below the retail price of electricity (r) often will induce the welfare-maximizing level of distributed generation (DG) when the fixed costs of centralized electricity production and the network management costs of accommodating intermittent solar DG are large, and when centralized generation and DG produce similar (pollution) externalities. w can optimally exceed r under alternative conditions. The optimal DG compensation policy varies considerably as industry conditions change. Furthermore, a requirement to equate w and r can reduce aggregate welfare substantially and can generate pronounced distributional effects.

The Valley of Death for New Energy Technologies

Peter R. Hartley and Kenneth B. Medlock III

DOI: 10.5547/01956574.38.3.phar
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It is often claimed that a difficulty of raising investment funds prevents promising new energy technologies from attaining commercial viability. We examine this issue using a dynamic intertemporal model of the displacement of fossil fuel energy technologies by non-fossil alternatives. Our model highlights the fact that since capital used to produce energy services from fossil fuels is a sunk cost, it will continue to be used so long as the price of energy covers merely short-run operating costs. Until fossil fuels are abandoned, the price of energy is insufficient to cover even the operating costs of renewable energy production, let alone provide a competitive return on the capital employed. The full long-run costs of renewable energy production are not covered until some time after fossil fuels are abandoned.

Improved Regulatory Approaches for the Remuneration of Electricity Distribution Utilities with High Penetrations of Distributed Energy Resources

Jesse D. Jenkins and Ignacio J. Pérez-Arriaga

DOI: 10.5547/01956574.38.3.jjen
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Under increasing penetration of distributed resources, regulators and electricity distribution utilities face greater uncertainty regarding the evolution of network uses and efficient system costs. This uncertainty can threaten revenue adequacy and challenges both cost of service/rate of return and incentive/performance-based approaches to the remuneration of distribution utilities. To address these challenges, this paper proposes a novel methodology to establish allowed utility revenues over a multi-year regulatory period. This method combines several "state of the art" regulatory tools designed to overcome information asymmetries, manage uncertainty, and align incentives for utilities to cost-effectively integrate distributed energy resources while taking advantage of opportunities to reduce system costs and improve performance. We use a reference network model to simulate a large-scale urban distribution network, demonstrate the practical application of this regulatory method, and illustrate its performance in the face of both benchmark and forecast errors.

Managing Energy Price Risk using Futures Contracts: A Comparative Analysis

Jim Hanly

DOI: 10.5547/01956574.38.3.jhan
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This paper carries out a comparative analysis of managing energy risk through futures hedging, for energy market participants across a broad dataset that encompasses the largest and most actively traded energy products. Uniquely, we carry out a hedge comparison using a variety of risk measures including Variance, Value at risk (VaR), and Expected Shortfall as well as a utility based performance metric for two different investor horizons; weekly and monthly. We find that hedging is effective across the spectrum of risk measures we employ. We also find significant differences in both the hedging strategies and the hedging effectiveness of different energy assets. Better performance is found for West Texas Intermediate Oil and Heating Oil while the poorest performer in hedging terms is Natural Gas.

Deregulation and Investment in Generation Capacity: Evidence from Nuclear Power Uprates in the United States

Zhen Lei, Chen-Hao Tsai, and Andrew N. Kleit

DOI: 10.5547/01956574.38.3.zlei
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Nuclear power uprates are investments in generation capacity that enable reactors to operate beyond their original power limit. We find that owners of deregulated reactors are more likely to make investment in power uprates. Moreover, after deregulation owners of boiling water reactors are more likely to choose Extended Power Uprates (EPUs) that could add up to 20 percent of the original power, but owners of pressurized water reactors, another type of reactors for which EPUs are more technically challenging, tend to select other types of uprates that add less of reactor power. Deregulation incentivizes reactor owners to pursue profitable investments and propels them to make careful investment decisions more consistent with the technological nature of their plants.

Electricity Sector Performance: A Panel Threshold Analysis

Michael L. Polemis and Thanasis Stengos

DOI: 10.5547/01956574.38.3.mpol
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This paper introduces a panel threshold model to empirically estimate the main drivers of electricity performance. The empirical analysis is based on a panel data set including 30 OECD countries over the period 1975-2013. We argue that effective regulatory reforms have positive interaction with the electricity generated leading to a higher capacity utilization and an increase in the level of labor productivity of the sector. The threshold analysis suggests that for already economically liberalised countries the level of economic freedom does not affect electricity generation and subsequently the level of electricity performance. Finally, the results do not drastically change when the Renewable Energy Sources (RES) are taken into account.

Energy Affordability and Subjective Well-Being: Evidence for European Countries

Heinz Welsch and Philipp Biermann

DOI: 10.5547/01956574.38.3.hwel
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This paper uses data on the life satisfaction of more than 100,000 individuals in 21 European countries from 2002 to 2011, to study the relationship between subjective well-being and the affordability for households of electricity, heating oil and natural gas. We find that energy prices have statistically and economically significant effects on subjective well-being. The effect sizes are smaller than but comparable to the effects of important personal factors of well-being. Effects above average are found in individuals from the lowest income quartile. In addition, effects are strongest at times when required energy expenditures can be expected to be high. The empirical results are consistent with the prediction that greater fuel poverty implies a greater effect of energy prices on well-being. Keywords: Energy affordability, Energy price, Fuel poverty, Welfare, Subjective well-being

Spatial Dependence in State Renewable Policy: Effects of Renewable Portfolio Standards on Renewable Generation within NERC Regions

Eric Bowen and Donald J. Lacombe

DOI: 10.5547/01956574.38.3.ebow
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While several studies have examined the effect of renewable portfolio standard laws on renewable generation in states, previous literature has not assessed the potential for spatial dependence in these policies. Using recent spatial panel methods, this paper estimates a number of econometric models to examine the impact of RPS policies when spatial autocorrelation is taken into account. Consistent with previous literature, we find that RPS laws do not have a significant impact on renewable generation within a state. However, we find evidence that state RPS laws have a significant positive impact on the share of renewable generation in the NERC region as a whole. These findings provide evidence that electricity markets are efficiently finding the lowest-cost locations to serve renewable load in states with more stringent RPS laws. In addition, our results suggest that RPS laws may be more effective tools for environmental policy than for economic development.

A Quarter Century Effort Yet to Come of Age: A Survey of Electricity Sector Reform in Developing Countries

Tooraj Jamasb, Rabindra Nepal, and Govinda R. Timilsina

DOI: 10.5547/01956574.38.3.tjam
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More than two decades have passed since the start of the worldwide market-oriented electricity sector reforms. The reforms have varied in terms of structure, market mechanisms, and regulation. However, the passage of time calls for taking stock of the performance of the reforms in developing countries. This paper surveys the empirical literature on electricity sector reforms and draws some conclusions with a view to the future. Overall, the reforms have tended to improve the technical efficiency of the sector. The macroeconomic benefits of reforms are less clear and remain difficult to identify. Also, the gains from the reforms have often not trickled down to consumers because of institutional and regulatory weaknesses. In order to achieve lasting benefits, reforms need to adopt measures that align their pursuit of economic efficiency with those of equity and provision of access. Reforms can deliver more economic benefits and alleviate poverty when the poor have access to electricity. New technologies and institutional capacity building can help improve the performance of reforms.

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