Power, Energy and Water Reports
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The February 2021 winter storm and widespread power outages have raised new concerns about the future of grid resilience.
One of the more thought provoking sessions I attended at this year’s NRECA PowerXchange conference focused on how the events of 2020 will likely accelerate transformation for the U.S. electricity industry.
Over the past decade, retail electricity prices have continued to rise despite declining costs associated with generating electricity.
With fuel competition unlikely to abate, there is little opportunity for a revival in the U.S. coal patch.
Many consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for the U.S. power industry have been extreme – from demand destruction to more intense supply-side competition.
The accumulated effects of deferred maintenance may pose a future reliability risk should staffing shortages persist.
Summer-time air conditioning demand masked underlying electricity demand weakness associated with COVID-19. As temperatures begin to moderate, loads will once again soften.
While the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on the power sector remain unclear, belt tightening is a must and the industry has an opportunity now to adapt.
Agricultural irrigation accounts for a significant share of the industrial electrical load served by U.S. utilities, especially in rural & semi-rural areas of Western & Central states.
The U.S. rural economy will continue to face headwinds in 2020 and is expected to underperform relative to the economy of urban America.
The world’s largest battery energy storage development project has received the green light from New York’s Public Service Commission. The project reaffirms what electric cooperatives in remote areas have known for years.
As the U.S. market for electric vehicles has grown in recent years, many electric utilities around the country have welcomed the resulting incremental demand for power. But the uncertainty over future U.S. national fuel economy standards isn’t helping the segment’s growth.
The EPA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking indicating that the agency seeks much greater authority in the infrastructure permitting processes regulated under the Clean Water Act. Under the EPA’s proposed rule, states and tribes could only prevent infrastructure construction in matters concerning water quality, ending some of their other long-held permitting authorities.
While vehicle-to-grid (V2G) integration remains more concept than reality in the U.S., it will likely afford economic value to cost-conscious utilities and their ratepayers in the long term.
The U.S. economy is still performing well by most key measures. However, consumers, investors, companies and other market participants have become more wary about the near-term future with seemingly good reason.
On November 6, 2018, Nevada voters rejected a proposition that would have fully liberalized the state’s electricity market.
Nevada’s Energy Choice Initiative that goes to vote in November poses many risks to electric coops. It could result in billions of dollars in stranded costs from the divestiture of NV Energy’s power supply assets.
Broadband communications is coming to rural America, but the pace of progress remains slow. There is good news in several areas. Rural electric cooperatives are entering the broadband space in increasing numbers. They are finding that their existing distribution networks can mean efficient deployment of broadband for their members.
Battery energy storage systems are gaining momentum beyond traditional markets in Hawaii, Alaska, California and the Northeast. Growth is dominated by lithiumion (Li-ion) battery technology, spurred by increasing demand for electric vehicles and stationary uses.
The early market for plug-in electric vehicles has been characterized by modest but steadily increasing sales, high vehicle reliability and customer satisfaction, and a rapid evolution of both vehicle and charging technologies.
As water utilities wrestle with increasing regulatory compliance and costly infrastructure needs, many are considering whether consolidation, also referred to as regionalization or partnering, could help them meet their challenges. Proponents say consolidation can help rural water systems leverage economies of scale and available expertise to make better use of resources and opportunities. But not everyone agrees on the rationale or approach to consolidation.
More and more rural electric cooperatives are learning that their existing distribution networks can lend themselves to highly efficient deployment of broadband for their member-owners. Based on the distances that define rural America, one of the surest ways to effectively build a broadband network is to use an existing electric co-op infrastructure.
Across the U.S., a growing number of rural water and wastewater systems are taking advantage of technological innovations to increase efficiencies, save money, reduce water waste and comply with environmental regulations.
As the cost of renewable energy continues to decline and it becomes more competitive with other power sources, electric cooperatives are turning increasingly to low-cost renewable energy to help meet their members’ power requirements. In lieu of building and owning these generation assets themselves, many are executing long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs) at contractually specified prices for renewable energy.
Some analysts have estimated that 50 percent of the rural water industry’s workforce will retire in the next few years. In its 2016 State of the Water Industry report, the American Water Works Association (AWWA) listed “aging workforce/anticipated retirements” as No. 13 of 28 top challenges.
The nation’s rural water systems are striving to improve their public image and address their pressing business challenges as they work to survive and thrive over the next few decades.
As a result of the coal industry’s severe contraction, many of the smaller companies will likely be wiped out, whereas the largest coal mining companies should emerge from bankruptcy being much more competitive both domestically and globally.
The proliferation of PV solar on the grid will continue to change traditional daily load curves, reducing net demand when PV power generation peaks during the middle of the day.
The Colorado River faces myriad threats as the limits of its ability to meet the diverse array of growing demands is tested by over-allocation and diminished streamflow, due in part to a 16-year drought considered among the worst in 1,200 years.
Renewable energy has taken center stage in the ongoing evolution of the U.S. electric industry. Declining installation costs, growing consumer demand, strong financial incentives, and environmental regulations will support the build out of renewable energy through the end of this decade and beyond.
Adoption of distributed solar among ag producers remains low, largely driven by incentives and tax appetite, but will accelerate when the levelized cost of energy for on-farm solar converges with retail electricity rates, which will likely occur by 2025 in most states.