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As technologies change, communities grow and customer needs evolve, Finley Engineering has remained successful by mastering the latest practices and staying on top of innovation in the industries of Energy, Telecom, IP Services and Broadband. Download our whitepapers for access to the most current expert information.


Ratemaking and Rate Structure: New Paradigms Part Three – New Ratemaking Models

In Part One, we looked at the challenges that utilities face related to the increased expenses that are required to introduce “grid modernization,” which is more and more being expected by policymakers – legislatures and regulatory bodies. In Part Two, we looked at the second challenge – how utilities are expected to come up with this extra money while often facing declining revenue as a result of reduced utility-generated power demand from customers. Here, we look at new trends in ratemaking – and how some of these forward-looking models might actually allow utilities to receive the rates they need in order to address both challenges.




Ratemaking and Rate Structure: Part Two – Flat Declining Demand

In Part One, we looked at the increasing requirements on utilities by policymakers (legislatures and regulatory bodies) to spend more money to implement “grid modernization.” Here, we look at the second piece of that puzzle – the challenge that utilities have in doing so, while often facing flat, or even declining, revenue, as a result of reduced demand for utility-generated power by customers.




Ratemaking and Rate Structure: Part One – New Paradigms
Three Part Series

Until about a decade ago, utility ratemaking and the resulting rate structures were determined in a very traditional manner and tended to be based on very traditional needs that utilities had, which had essentially been the same for decades. These included: the increasing costs of fuel (coal, natural gas, etc.); overall operational cost increases; cost of living wage increases and benefits for employees; the cost of recurring system upgrades; the cost of repairs on non-working equipment; the cost of undergrounding certain parts of the infrastructure to eliminate problems associated with poles and lines; and the cost of expanding the utility’s infrastructure to new areas that needed power, as the result of new subdivisions, urban sprawl, etc.




The Importance of System Data And Communications For GIS And System Inventory

The utility industry is being transformed by grid modernization, including smart grid, distributed energy resources (DER), cybersecurity requirements, utility-scale renewables, and integrating the rapidly-growing demand for electric vehicle charging infrastructures.




Rural Broadband Becoming More Of a Reality

According to a March 2018 report, “Broadband Loan and Grant Programs in the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service,” prepared by the Congressional Research Service for members of Congress, concern has been raised over the “digital divide” between rural and urban or suburban areas with respect to broadband deployment. “While there are many examples of rural communities with state of the art telecommunications facilities, recent surveys and studies have indicated that, in general, rural areas tend to lag behind urban and suburban areas in broadband deployment,” said the report.




Improving Electric Infrastructure: Don’t Throw The Baby Out With The Bath Water

The electric grid’s infrastructure is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination in terms of being able to meet all of modern society’s needs for completely reliable, resilient, on-demand, and secure electric service. However, while there are those who suggest that the whole thing needs to be replaced with “all new everything,” clearer heads point out that the majority of the desired results can, in most instances, be achieved through thoughtful plans that are focused on strategic repair, upgrades, and additions.




A “Triple-Intersection Challenge” for Electric Utilities

Utilities are facing a number of challenges these days, one of which is a looming trifecta of interconnected issues related to the reduced demand for grid-generated electric power in general, the fact that more and more power generation is becoming intermittent because of the growth of renewables, and that, in spite of these first two challenges, utilities still need to find ways to meet peak demand needs.





Are Gas-Fired Peaking Plants On The Way Out?

The electric utility industry has seen very significant changes in the last decade, especially with the advent of renewables and other technologies that facilitate energy efficiency. The latest projection is that, before long, natural gas-fired peaker plants will be replaced by “solar plus storage” technology.

To date, “solar plus storage” has been a very effective strategy for utilities that want to guard against short, intermittent outages or to stabilize voltages, in that the technology can “keep the lights” on for a few minutes.





Have Energy Efficiency Programs Gone Too Far For Utilities?

As the cost of creating new generation has become more expensive, and as it has also become more difficult to site new generation (especially coal and nuclear) as a result of federal and state hurdles, more and more utilities have invested a significant amount of  time, money and expertise in helping reduce energy demand. The idea of course: If they can reduce demand, then the need to build new generation can also be reduced.




Integrating Intermittent Resources: Challenges and Opportunities

Things are changing for utilities, especially as a result of the growing integration of distributed generation, also known as “intermittent resources.” At a surface level, the first pass is going to be the change in the way utilities need to look at their distribution grids. In the past, it was about looking at it from a design and operation perspective. The energy flowed from the substation out to the end user.


Are Coal and Nuclear Plant Retirements Threatening Grid Reliability and Resilience?

With the increasing role of renewables, particularly wind and solar, in providing generation on the nation’s electric grid, there is concern among some that not enough attention is being paid to the continuing role of traditional baseload generation, primarily coal and nuclear, in ensuring the reliability and resilience of the grid.


Major Storms Trigger Increased Interest in Microgrids

In general, microgrids have been increasing in popularity and actual installation over the last year or two, largely because of the ease in adding “solar plus storage” (large-scale batteries) to the microgrid profile. However, the two recent massive hurricanes (Texas and Florida), and, to some extent, the massive hurricane in Puerto Rico, have jump-started interest in microgrids even more.


Uses for Utility-Scale Battery Storage are Increasing

According to a recent report by Platts, the combined power rating of installed electricity storage in the U.S. grew 181.5 MW over the past year, to a new high of 585.5 MW at the end of the second quarter of 2017, based on reports filed with the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. This means that almost one-third of the current installed electricity storage has come on line in just the last 12 months.


The Role of Local Utilities in Improving Community Energy Resilience 

A new report, “Indicators for Local Energy Resilience,” published by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), suggests that communities can become more resilient by strengthening local energy systems and helping to provide more reliable and affordable energy to users in their communities. “A reliable energy supply allows businesses to serve their communities, homes to maintain habitable temperatures, and transportation systems to operate,” said the report.


Energy Efficiency Programs: How Much do Customers Really Care? 

In June, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released the first edition of its “Utility Energy Efficiency Scorecard,” rating the 51 largest U.S. electric utilities (by retail sales volume) across a wide range of energy efficiency metrics.


New Comprehensive “National Standard Practice Manual” For Utility Energy Efficiency Program Assessment

The first-ever comprehensive national guide for utility-funded energy efficiency programs, called the National Standard Practice Manual (NSPM), is now available to assist utilities, regulators, and other interested parties in making the best possible energy efficiency decisions for their jurisdictions.


Grid Modernization Efforts at the State Level: Implications for Utilities 

While legislative and other regulatory bodies have always been instrumental in determining how electric utilities operate in the U.S., recent advances in technology are now being viewed by these bodies as “opportunities” to “reshape” utilities and how they operate even more than they have in the past. As such, it is important for utilities to remain abreast of these trends and their subsequent implications.


The Expanding DER Trend: Will Utilities be Observers or Participants? 

According to a new report from Accenture, “Power Surge Ahead: How Distribution Utilities Can Get Smart With Distributed Generation,” utility executives are worried about the growing distributed energy resources (DER) trend and its adverse effect on revenues. In addition, there is concern around how it directly affects the technology in their distribution grids.


System and Equipment Dependability: Critical to Grid Reliability and Resilience

The reliability and resilience of the nation’s electric grid is gaining more and more attention, and utilities are looking for ways to continue to increase their systems’ reliability and resilience. And more work needs to be done. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that the average customer experiences 198 minutes of electric power unavailability per year.


 Substations Of The Future 

Until about 20 years ago, substations weren’t expected to do much more than be what they were – substations, whether they were generating station switchyard substations, system stations, customer substations, or distribution substations.


Legislative Support For Energy Storage Is Growing

In October 2012, the Electricity Storage Association (now known as the Energy Storage Association) released a report titled, “What Do State Policymakers Know About Energy Storage?” At the time, according to the ESA’s report, the majority of legislators had some knowledge of energy storage, but had not participated in, or even seen, any proposed legislation that included energy storage.




The ASCE Infrastructure Report Card: Implications For Electric Utilities

According to the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, published by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Energy sector rated a D+, as did Hazardous Waste, Public Parks, Schools, and Wastewater.In worse shape are Aviation, Dams, Drinking Water, Inland Waterways, Levees, and Roads (all rating a D), and Transit (rating a D-).

Energy Storage A Larger Trend  

Energy Storage A Larger Trend Than Once Thought

According to a new report, titled “An Underappreciated Disruptor,” published by Morgan Stanley, new renewable energy storage technology has the power to turn solar and wind energy into a reliable source of electricity generation for U.S. utilities.

Benefits of Demand response  

Benefits of Demand Response

According to a recent report from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), demand response programs can reduce utilities’ peak demand an average of 10 percent, complementing savings from energy efficiency programs. Both programs, of  course, help utility customers reduce their energy costs.

MO Utilities Press for Change  

Missouri Utilities Press For Net Metering Changes 

As more and more utility customers opt for renewables and other forms of self-generation, utilities are faced with a challenge: Most of these utilities are required to purchase back excess energy from these customers at retail prices. This, of course, ends up being unfair to the utilities, which, in order to maintain profitability, need to either generate their own power or purchase it at wholesale prices, so they will have funds available for system maintenance, etc.

New Org Focuses on Energy Storage Stds Thumbnail 



New Organization Focuses on Energy Storage Standards

The Modular Energy Storage Architecture (MESA) Standards Alliance ( is a new industry trade association composed of a number of utilities and vendors. MESA’s mission is to accelerate the growth of the energy storage industry through the development of open, non-proprietary
communication specifications (standards) for energy storage systems. Through standardization, MESA hopes to accelerate interoperability, scalability, safety, quality, and affordability in energy storage components and systems.

FERC's Moving Fwd with Integration of Elec Storage  

FERC’S Moving Forward With Integration of Electric Storage Into Organized Marketing 

In November, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) proposed to more effectively integrate “electric storage resources” into organized wholesale markets, as a way to enhance competition and help ensure that these markets produce “just and reasonable rates.”

The proposal stems from FERC’s concerns that electric storage resources may face barriers that limit them from participating in organized wholesale electric markets. FERC wants to “remove barriers to the participation of electric storage resources and distributed energy resource (DER) aggregations in the capacity, energy, and ancillary service markets.”

FERCs Reliability Standards Primer thumbnail  

FERC’S Reliability Standards Primer

Recently, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released the “Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Reliability Primer: An Overview of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Role in Overseeing the Reliable Operation of the Nation’s Bulk Power System.” The 80-page document is divided into three sections.

The first section, “Overview and History of the Electric Power System,” covers the structure of the North America electric power system, the function and concepts of electric power system operations, and the shift of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) from a voluntary council to an electric reliability organization with responsibility for mandatory Reliability Standards.

Capacity and Energy Issues Integrated Grid 2016  

Capacity and Energy Issues in the Integrated Grid: An EPRI Perspective

A recent report published by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), titled, “The Integrated Grid: Capacity and Energy in the Integrated Grid,” attempts to address the following issues:
– How individual resources may contribute differently to the system’s capacity to deliver energy.
– How changing supply and load characteristics make it necessary to distinctly address both energy and capacity on wholesale and retail levels…

Electric Grid Security Whitepaper


Electric Grid Security: A Coordinated Effort or Confusing Patchwork?

For individual utilities looking for a single, centralized source of comprehensive and authoritative information on physical and cyber security, there doesn’t seem to be one. There are almost a dozen federal agencies involved; several industry organizations; a number of specially created councils, programs, and centers, many of which are public-private partnerships; and numerous “field exercises” being coordinated by multiple agencies.


New Company Stockpiles Utility Transmission Equipment

On May 6, six energy companies officially launched Grid Assurance™ an independent company whose purpose is to provide spares for critical electric transmission equipment. By doing so, the utilities hope that the company can enhance grid resiliency by providing electric transmission owners with faster access to long-leadtime critical equipment that would be necessary to recover from catastrophic events that could impact the nation’s electric grid. 


NewEnercy Economy Bluepring for Utilities



New Energy Economy: A Blueprint For Utilities Focused on Economic Growth.

In June 2011, Doyle Beneby, CEO of San Antonio, Texas-based CPS Energy, made the announcement that the largest municipallyowned utility in the country would become  unapologetically aggressive” in pursuing local economic development.

The plan was to leverage billions in buying power to bolster local job growth and infrastructure development, protect the environment, increase energy effi ciency, and diversify the utility’s energy portfolio in the face of increasing regulation.





Coal to Hydrogen Generation



Coal Generation to Hydrogen Generation: The New Trend?

In 2015, the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) announced plans to replace an existing coal-fi red boiler (Unit 2) at its Sheldon Station plant in Hallam, Nebraska, with a boiler that uses cleanburning hydrogen fuel.

Hydrogen has been burned to create electricity on a small scale in the past, such as in refi neries, but not anything approaching the magnitude of the NPPD project.







Information Technology meets  Operational Technologies

In decades past, utilities could sit on the sidelines for a while as new technological advancements occurred, and then eventually decide if and when they wanted to enter, and to what degree. Utilities don’t have that luxury today. These days, technologies and changes in the market are moving too rapidly, and are becoming too widespread and universal, for utilities to take a “sit and wait” approach. Doing so may lead them to situations in which they are eventually unable to “overcome the curve” and end up in the back of the pack – unable to compete anymore. Today, embracing new technologies…



 Battery Storage – Set for Massive Growth

Energy storage has always been somewhat of a “holy grail” for the utility industry and its customers.Traditional storage technologies include batteries, pumped hydro, compressed storage, thermal storage, and fl ywheels. While all have their place, interest in one of these technologies in particular, battery storage, has been growing exponentially in the last two years as a result of rapidly-advancing technologies that can guarantee dependable and large-scale storage, continually falling prices, ease of installation and maintenance, and the ability to set up virtually anywhere in the U.S.



Battery Storage Set for Massive Growth -Part II Customer-Owned Energy Storage

In Part I of this white paper, we looked at utility-scale energy storage battery systems being planned, installed and used by utilities themselves. Here, in Part II, we look at customer-owned energy storage – batteries being used by industrial, governmental, commercial and residential customers. In Part III, we will look at how the future of the trend might play out, particularly as it relates to advances in battery storage technologies, government regulations of battery usage, and industry-created standards for battery storage.



 Battery Storage Set for Massive Growth Part III, Determinants of Future Growth

In Part I of this white paper, we looked at utility-scale energy storage – battery systems being installed and used by utilities themselves. In Part II, we looked at customer-owned energy storage – batteries being installed and used by industrial, governmental, commercial and residential customers.

Here, in Part III, we will look at the various factors that will determine how the future of the trend might play out.



 Aging Infrastructure   Addressing the Challenges of an Aging Infrastructure

In an April 9, 2015, Reuters press release, Tom Willie, CEO of Blue Pillar, a company that manages backup energy systems, stated, “If Thomas Edison came back and saw the electric grid, he would still recognize it.” A recent Utility Dive survey of utility executives reported that their most signifi cant challenge was Old Infrastructure (47%), followed by Aging Workforce (39%), and the Current Regulatory Model (38%).




The Enernet, The Convergence of the Energy Grid and the Internet?

As utilities are facing exponentially-increasing fuel costs, the importance of, and demand for, conservation and efficiency are growing rapidly. And, of course, demands for reliability continue to increase, not only from customers, but from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).



The Enernet: The Convergence of the Energy Grid and the Internet Part II

As noted in Part I of this whitepaper, in order to effectively manage the massive and complex communication needs of the modern electric grid and all of its components, it will be important for utilities to have access to a robust, reliable, interoperable, broadband, nationwide digital telecommunications network that can handle literally tens of billions points of monitoring and control in real time. The information network capable of handling this digital information blizzard must be ubiquitous, self-healing, and have sufficient speed and capacity to monitor and manage billions of intelligent electronic devices within the grid and inside consumers’ homes and businesses.


 Enernet3   The Enernet: The Convergence of the Energy Grid and the Internet Part III

In Part I of this three part white paper on “The Enernet,” we looked at what the Enernet is and how it will impact electric utilities going forward. In Part II, we covered the challenges associated with moving forward with the Enernet. Here, in Part III, we look at how to actually begin moving forward with introducing the Enernet into your utility.




Easements and Rights-of-Way: Eliminating the Confusion

While landowners are rarely familiar with the “ins and outs” of easements and rights-of-way, not all utilities are completely familiar with the details either. This report provides a brief summary of easements and rights-of-way, what they entail, some of the challenges associated with them, and how they can be addressed.



Smartmeters: Are Customer Concerns Groundless?

Ever since the introduction of cell phones, numerous concerns have been raised about their health, safety, privacy and security. Yet, hundreds of millions of people around the world seem comfortable enough to ignore such concerns, and sales and use of cell phones continue to grow, because, as people say, “I need my cell phone.”


  GIS – The Importance of Quality Data in the Age of Smart Grids More and more these days, utilities are in the process of converting their records and maps to a more sophisticated platform that incorporates many aspects of mapping, location, customer data, electric model, outage management, meter information, facilities, and property records into a single system. In so doing, these utilities are getting better data – data that is more complete, more ”real-time” and more accurate, on what they have in the fi eld and at their various locations.



New DOE Distribution Transformer Efficiency Requirements

New increased efficiency requirements for transformers will go into effect in 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The DOE estimates that the new standards will save up to $12.9 billion in total costs to consumers, and 3.63 quadrillion BTUs of energy for equipment sold over the 30-year period between 2016 and 2045.



Using High-Speed Communications Technology to Improve Substation Physical Security

There has been a lot of discussion this past year on substation physical security, especially in light of the coordinated attack on PG&E’s Metcalf substation early in 2013. While there are numerous strategies that can be effective in improving substation physical security (see Finley’s earlier whitepaper on “Substation Security”), one that utilities should not overlook is typing physical security into high-speed, higher-bandwidth technologies.



Before You Dig: The DWDM Difference

The large amount of CapEx involved in building out new fiber is enough to make any service provider pause before starting up a cable plow. Digging up the ground also takes a great deal of time and expends a lot of resources.



Asset Management: The Importance of Quality Data

More and more these days, utilities are in the process of converting their records and maps to a more sophisticated platform that incorporates many aspects of mapping, location, customer data, electric model, outage management, meter information, facilities, and property records into a single system. In so doing, these utilities are getting better data – data that is more complete, more “real-time” and more accurate, on what they have in the field and at their various locations.


Substation Attack Gains Natl Attention  

Substation Attack Gains National Attention

A lot of attention is being paid to security initiatives designed to prevent cyberattacks on utilities. However, not as much seems to be paid to the prevention of physical attacks. Until now. It was not widely publicized until The Wall Street Journal reported it in early February 2014, but, on April 16, 2013, there was a physical attack on PG&E’s Metcalf transmission substation in San Jose, California.



Microgrids: An Omen or Opportunity?

More and more in recent years, new trends have been occurring that have challenged the electric utility industry: physical security concerns, cybersecurity concerns, new FERC requirements, rising costs of fuel, challenges in siting new generation plants, revenue being lost to distributed generation and net metering, and more.


The Future of Power on Demand

While demand for power has continued to grow over the last 130+ years, some forecasters believe that demand for power in the future, while it won’t decrease, certainly will NOT grow as quickly as population and GDP. There are several reasons for this, many of which are already having an impact.

Distributed Generation 2much  

Distributed Generation: Too Much of a Good Thing?

Electric utilities face a number of challenges these days. One of the most serious is the increasing difficulty associated with siting new generation plants. For example, with environmental regulations continuing to tighten, it is almost impossible to site a new coal plant these days. And, while nuclear remains a viable option, it can take many years and millions of dollars to get a new site up and running.



Net Metering: A Nice Option But Not Without Challenges

As more and more residential and small business customers are becoming involved in distributed generation (DG), they are able to take advantage of a concept called net metering. The most popular DG technology for residents and small businesses is rooftop solar. However, some customers have also installed energy storage devices, fuel cells, microturbines, small wind, and combined heat and power (CHP) systems.



The NESC and Resiliency

While utilities have been talking about reliability and redundancy for years, more recently they have begun to talk about resiliency. One reason for the increased interest in resiliency is that large storms seem to be the “new norm,” and there is more concern with how resilient a system will be during and right after these storms, rather than simply how reliable or redundant the system is in the absence of storms.



Considerations for UtilityScale Solar Projects

According to the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), 4.2 GV of solar capacity was installed in the U.S. in 2013, bringing the total cumulative capacity to over 10.5 GW. Utility-scale photovoltaics (PV) increased from five percent of total annual PV installations in 2008 to 54 percent in 2012. In fact, 2012 was the fi rst year that utility-scale PV composed the largest segment of the U.S. PV market, a position it is likely to retain through at least 2016, when the Investment Tax Credit drops from 30 percent to 10 percent.



The Smart Grid: The Future of Power in the United States

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the nation’s current electric grid is the largest interconnected machine in the world, consisting of over 9,200 electric generating units with over 1,000,000 megawatts of generating capacity, connected to more than 300,000 miles of transmission lines. Growing demand on the grid is stretching it to its limits, and there is no end in sight. The DOE estimates that nationwide demand for electricity is expected to grow 30 percent by 2030, and electricity prices are forecast to increase 50 percent over the next seven years.



Joint Use Attachments: Getting More Complex & Challenging

More and more these days, utilities are becoming increasingly aware of the potential issues, challenges and problems that can occur related to joint use activities (third-party pole attachments) that are not done properly. Many attachers would prefer to complete the engineering however this is not in the best interest of the owner.


  When it Comes to Reliability, is Underground Always the Answer? Following a large storm that results in widespread and lengthy power outages, one can almost bet money that at least one major media outlet will report a story or offer an editorial suggesting that the local utility (or utilities) should move their lines underground. That way, the media suggests, future outages will be prevented, or at least significantly reduced, because there will be no more overhead lines to lose power as a result of trees or limbs falling on them, or the poles breaking. And, the stories usually add for good measure, underground lines are safer, in that the potential for children or others to come in contact with live wires above ground is eliminated.



The Growth of Small Cells

A relatively new technology, “small cells,” is experiencing significant growth, and, while most of the growth, at least so far, is in metro areas, small cell technology provides opportunities for teleco and it seems, these opportunities will grow in the future.



Vegetation Management

Following the 2003 Northeast Blackout, the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) responded with a new industry standard for managing trees and other plants within transmission right of ways (ROWs). That standard has recently been updated, with some significant changes.



Wildlife-Related Outage Management

While vegetation-caused outages tend to occur most often during inclement weather, such as strong storms, excessively windy conditions, ice storms, blizzards, etc., wildlife-related outages can occur any time of day or night, any time of the year, and under any weather conditions.



Strategies To Improve Cybersecurity

According to a 2013 survey of power and utility company executives by EY (formerly Ernst & Young), only 11 percent of respondents reported feeling that their current data security measures fully met their needs. In addition, 60 percent of respondents reported that they were running no, or just informal, threat assessments. And, 64 percent agreed with the statement that their security strategy “is not aligned with today’s risk environment.”


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