EBF 483
Introduction to Electricity Markets



EBF 483: Introduction to Electricity Markets (Summer 2019)

This syllabus is divided into several sections. You can read it sequentially by scrolling down the length of the document or by clicking on any of the links below to “jump” to a specific section. It is essential that you read the entire document as well as material covered in the Course Orientation. Together these serve as our course "contract."


 Seth Blumsack

Alisha Fernandez
Instructor, Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering
College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University

  • E-mail: If you need to contact me about anything, please send me a Canvas e-mail (Canvas Conversations) using the “Inbox” link (Canvas Inbox icon) in Canvas.
  • Office Hours: Help with course material can be arranged by request via Canvas Conversations using the “Inbox” link (Canvas Inbox icon) in Canvas.

NOTE: I will read and respond to Canvas e-mail and the "Questions about EBF 483" discussion forum at least once per day during the work week (Monday through Friday). You may see me online occasionally on the weekends, but please don't count on it!

Course Overview

This course is designed to teach students about the structure of the electricity industry, the regulatory institutions that oversee the industry, and the new market institutions that have been put into place since electricity restructuring.  Much of the focus will be on the U.S. electricity industry. Since Pennsylvania has been a national leader in electricity restructuring, we will place particular emphasis on events in the Mid‐Atlantic region, but will also discuss other market structures in the U.S. and in other countries.

Relationship to the EBF Major and EBF Minor:
EBF 483 counts as either an upper‐level EBF elective or as a substitute for EBF 484, but not both. If you wish to use this course to fill a requirement for the EBF major, you will need to fill out a course exemption form. If you are in the EBF minor, you can use this course as an upper-level elective. You'll also need a course exemption form filled out.

Prerequisites and concurrent courses:
The official prerequisites for this course are ECON 102 or EBF 200; and MATH 110/140. We will be using simple differential calculus and optimization concepts in this course. This course also requires a working knowledge of Microsoft Excel. You will be asked at various times in the course to use Excel or a similar software program to perform simple calculations and create simple charts and graphs.

Students who do not meet these prerequisites may be dis-enrolled during the first 10-day free add-drop period after being informed in writing by the instructor (see Senate policy 34-60, Prerequisites and Concurent Courses). If you have not completed the listed prerequisites, then promptly consult with the instructor if you have not done so already. Students who re-enroll after being dis-enrolled according to this policy are in violation of Item 15 on the Student Code of Conduct.

Course Objectives
When you successfully complete this course, you will be prepared to:

  • describe the structure of the electricity industry
  • explain the regulatory institutions that oversee the industry,
  • evaluate the new market institutions that have been put into place since electricity restructuring.


On average, most students spend ten to twelve hours per week working on course assignments. Your workload may be more or less depending on your study habits.

I have worked hard to make this the most effective and convenient educational experience possible. The Internet may still be a novel learning environment for you, but in one sense it is no different from a traditional college class: how much and how well you learn is ultimately up to you. You will succeed if you are diligent about keeping up with the class schedule and if you take advantage of opportunities to communicate with me as well as with your fellow students.

Specific learning objectives for each lesson and project are detailed within each lesson. The class schedule is published below and in Canvas (the course management system used for this course).

Required Course Materials

Required textbook
There is no textbook for this course.  Required readings will be available online through the course web site, as PDF files on Canvas, or as links to documents on the world wide web. One of the trickiest things about maintaining a web course is that URLs can change, so if you notice a broken link in the course materials please notify the instructor right away!

Online lesson content
All other materials needed for this course are presented online through our course website and in Canvas. In order to access the online materials, you need to have an active Penn State Access Account user ID and password (used to access the online course resources). If you have any questions about obtaining or activating your Penn State Access Account, please contact the World Campus Helpdesk.

Computer Requirements
This course will be conducted entirely via the world wide web. All course material will be delivered over the web as internet web pages, PDF files and videos. Students are responsible for maintaining access to a functional computer and internet access for the entire course period. Students may be able to see course material over smartphones or tablets, but these should not be considered appropriate substitutes for a working laptop or desktop computer. Technical issues with computers or lack of internet access are not valid excuses for missing assignments or late submission. Malfunction of drop boxes or quizzes on smartphone or tablet platforms are also not acceptable excuses for missing assignments or late submission. Taking classes online does give you some freedom to be away from the Penn State campus, but it comes with the added responsibility of complete and uninterrupted access to sufficient technology for the duration of the course.


This course will rely on two methods to assess and evaluate student learning:

  • Homework Assignments
    There will be twelve homework assignments throughout the course of the semester, one for each of the twelve lessons. Weekly assignments will generally be due by 11:59 eastern time eight days after each lesson opens. Homework assignments must be typed and submitted to the drop box as PDF files on Canvas by the due date and time. No handwritten work will be accepted, and no file types other than PDF will be accepted. This includes graphs, tables and mathematics/calculations in addition to written responses. With a few exceptions, solutions to the homework problems will be posted on the course Canvas site 48 hours after the homework is due. Late homework assignments will be penalized by 30 points per day, beginning five minutes after the official due date.

    Students are responsible for maintaining access to a functional internet connection and computer equipment. In the event of any disputes about the time of submission, the time stamp on Canvas, not on a student’s phone, tablet or personal computer will represent the official submission time of record for this course. Do not wait until the last minute to submit assignments!

    When evaluating average homework grades, the instructor will drop the two lowest homework grades over the course of the semester.

    Every student must type up and submit his or her own individual assignment. This means that even if you work with other members of the class, you must write out the answers to the questions in your own words. Even if you work together with someone on a homework assignment, you may not copy and paste each other’s work onto the assignment that you hand in (this includes equations, tables and graphs). Copying and pasting of other students’ work will be reported to the Earth and Mineral Sciences College and will be punished to the maximum extent permitted by the EMS Academic Integrity Policy.
  • Examinations
    There will be four examinations during the course. Each examination will be open in Canvas for a period of 72 hours and will be 60 minutes in length. Examinations will be taken and timed on Canvas. Students may not consult with other students about the exam during the examination period for any reason.

It is important that your work be submitted in the proper format to the appropriate Canvas Assignment or Discussion Forum and by the designated due date. I strongly advise that you not wait until the last minute to complete these assignments—give yourself time to ask questions, think things over, and chat with others. You'll learn more, do better...and be happier!

Due dates for all assignments are posted on the course calendar in Canvas.


Your grade in this course will be determined by your performance on weekly assignments and four examinations. Each of the weekly assignments will be worth 60 points and each of the four examinations will be worth 100 points total. The two lowest weekly assignment grades will be dropped, and no examination grade will be dropped. There are 1,000 total possible points to be attained through the course, 600 of which are represented by the weekly assignments and 400 of which are represented by the four examinations.

If a student believes that there has been a grading error on a homework assignment or exam, the student must contact the instructor with a detailed description of the grading issue within one week of the homework or exam grades being posted on the Canvas gradebook.

To make up work in the case of an unavoidable conflict, major illness, or documented emergency, a student may be able to make up work or have an extension provided the student has given 48 hours of notice.

There will be no extra credit opportunities in the class.

Breakdown of each assignment's value as a percentage of total course grade.
Assignment Percent of Grade
Homework - 60 points each (10 of 12 count - Drop 2) 60%
Exams - 100 points each (all 4 count) 40%

I will use the Canvas gradebook to keep track of your grades. You can see your grades in the gradebook, too. Overall course grades will be determined as follows. Percentages refer to the proportion of all possible points earned.

Letter Grade and Corresponding Percentage
Letter Grade Points Percent
A 930 - 1,000 93 - 100 %
A- 900 - 929 90 - 92.9 %
B+ 870 - 899 87 - 89.9 %
B 830 - 869 83 - 86.9 %
B- 800 - 829 80 - 82.9%
C+ 770 - 799 77 - 79.9 %
C 700 - 769 70 - 76.9 %
D 600 - 699 60 - 69.9 %
F < 600 < 60 %

Unsatisfactory (student did not participate)

Late Policy
Late homework assignments will be penalized by 30 points per day, beginning five minutes after the official due date. This means that no late assignments will be accepted more than 48 hours past the due date.

EBF 483 Course Schedule

imagePrintable Schedule

Below you will find a summary of the primary learning activities for this course and the associated time frames. This course is twelve weeks in length, with an orientation week preceding the official start of the course. Each lesson is one week long. See our Syllabus/Calendar in Canvas for specific lesson time frames and assignment due dates.

Each lesson will open at 9:00 a.m. eastern U.S. time on Mondays. Unless otherwise stated on the Canvas calendar, all homework assignments will be due to the relevant Canvas drop box by 11:59 p.m. eastern U.S. time on Tuesdays.

I will be opening the lessons one week at a time. While you can complete each lesson at your own pace within the week that the lesson is open, you cannot work ahead. Please plan to have access to a computer and reliable internet access each week that the course runs.

NOTE: See the Canvas Calendar tab for a full semester calendar of events.

Lesson 0: Course Orientation
Readings Read the online material for the orientation and review the course syllabus.
Assignments Course Orientation Quiz
Lesson 1: Introduction to the Electric Power Grid
Readings Read the online Lesson 1 material and any additional readings mentioned within the lesson
Assignments Lesson 1 Homework Assignment
Lesson 2: Basics of Electric Power Flow
Readings Read the online Lesson 2 material and any additional readings mentioned within the lesson
Assignments Lesson 2 Homework Assignment
Lesson 3: Economics of Power Generation
Readings Read the online Lesson 3 material and any additional readings mentioned within the lesson
Assignments Lesson 3 Homework Assignment
Lesson 4: Economic Dispatch of Power Plants
Readings Read the online Lesson 4 material and any additional readings mentioned within the lesson
Assignments Lesson 4 Homework Assignment
Exam 1
Lesson 5: Regulation of Electric Utilities
Readings Read the online Lesson 5 material and any additional readings mentioned within the lesson
Assignments Lesson 5 Homework Assignment
Lesson 6: Problems with Utility Regulation and Electricity Restructuring
Readings Read the online Lesson 6 material and any additional readings mentioned within the lesson
Assignments Lesson 6 Homework Assignment
Lesson 7: California's Electricity Crisis
Readings Read the online Lesson 7 material and any additional readings mentioned within the lesson
Assignments Lesson 7 Homework Assignment
Lesson 8: Day-ahead and Real-time Energy Markets
Readings Read the online Lesson 8 material and any additional readings mentioned within the lesson
Assignments Lesson 8 Homework Assignment
Exam 2
Lesson 9: Capacity and Ancillary Services Markets
Readings Read the online Lesson 9 material and any additional readings mentioned within the lesson
Assignments Lesson 9 Homework Assignment
Lesson 10: Financial Transmission Rights and Hedging
Readings Read the online Lesson 10 material and any additional readings mentioned within the lesson
Assignments Lesson 10 Homework Assignment
Lesson 11: Market Power
Readings Read the online Lesson 11 material and any additional readings mentioned within the lesson
Assignments Lesson 11 Homework Assignment
Exam 3
Lesson 12: Integrating Wind and Solar Power
Readings Read the online Lesson 12 material and any additional readings mentioned within the lesson
Assignments Lesson 12 Homework Assignment
Exam 4

Course Policies

Technical Requirements

For this course, we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on the World Campus Technical Requirements page, including the requirements listed for same-time, synchronous communications. If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the HelpDesk (for World Campus students) or the IT Service Desk (for students at all other campus locations).

Internet Connection

Access to a reliable Internet connection is required for this course. A problem with your Internet access may not be used as an excuse for late, missing, or incomplete coursework. If you experience problems with your Internet connection while working on this course, it is your responsibility to find an alternative Internet access point, such as a public library or Wi-Fi ® hotspot.

Mixed Content

This site is considered a secure web site which means that your connection is encrypted.  We do however link to content that isn't necessarily encrypted.  This is called mixed content.  By default, mixed content is blocked in Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome.  This may result in a blank page or a message saying that only secure content is displayed.  Follow the directions on our Technical Requirements page to view the mixed content.


This course must be viewed using one of the following browsers: Firefox (any version), Safari (versions 5.1 or 6.0), Chrome (0.3 or later), or Internet Explorer with the MathPlayer PlugIn. If you use any other browser, there will be pages containing equations that do not render properly. If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the HelpDesk (for World Campus students) or the IT Service Desk (for students at all other campus locations).

Penn State E-mail Accounts

All official communications from the Penn State World Campus are sent to students' Penn State e-mail accounts. Be sure to check your Penn State account regularly, or forward your Penn State e-mail to your preferred e-mail account, so you don't miss any important information.

Academic Integrity

This course follows Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Guidelines for undergraduate students and Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Guidelines for graduate students. Penn State defines academic integrity as "the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner." Academic integrity includes "a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception." In particular, the University defines plagiarism as "the fabrication of information and citations; submitting others' work from professional journals, books, articles, and papers; submission of other students' papers, lab results or project reports and representing the work as one's own." Penalties for violations of academic integrity may include course failure. To learn more, see Penn State's Academic Integrity Training

Course Copyright

All course materials students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but unauthorized distribution and/or uploading of materials without the instructor’s express permission is strictly prohibited. University Policy AD 40, the University Policy Recording of Classroom Activities and Note Taking Services addresses this issue. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials may be held in violation of the University’s Code of Conduct, and/or liable under Federal and State laws.

For example, uploading completed labs, homework, or other assignments to any study site constitutes a violation of this policy.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Office for Student Disability Resources website provides contact information for Campus Disability Coordinators at every Penn State campus. For further information, please visit the Office for Student Disability Resources website

In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled. You will participate in an intake interview and provide documentation. See documentation guidelines at Applying for Services from Student Disability Resources. If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus’s disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.

Inclement Weather

In case of weather-related delays at the University, this online course will proceed as planned. Your instructor will inform you if there are any extenuating circumstances regarding content or activity due dates in the course due to weather delays. If you are affected by a weather-related emergency, please contact your instructor at the earliest possible time to make special arrangements.

Reporting Bias-Motivated Incidents

Penn State takes great pride to foster a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff. Acts of intolerance, discrimination, or harassment due to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, or veteran status are not tolerated (Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance) and can be reported through Educational Equity via Report Bias.

Counseling and Psychological Services

Many students at Penn State face personal challenges or have psychological needs that may interfere with their academic progress, social development, or emotional wellbeing.  The university offers a variety of confidential services to help you through difficult times, including individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, consultations, online chats, and mental health screenings.  These services are provided by staff who welcome all students and embrace a philosophy respectful of clients’ cultural and religious backgrounds, and sensitive to differences in race, ability, gender identity, and sexual orientation.  Services include the following:

Counseling and Psychological Services at University Park  (CAPS): 814-863-0395
Counseling Services at Commonwealth Campuses
Penn State Crisis Line (24 hours/7 days/week): 877-229-6400
Crisis Text Line (24 hours/7 days/week): Text LIONS to 741741

Military Personnel

Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made.

Connect Online with Caution

Penn State is committed to educational access for all. Our students come from all walks of life and have diverse life experiences. As with any other online community, the lack of physical interaction in an online classroom can create a false sense of anonymity and security. While one can make new friends online, digital relationships can also be misleading. Good judgment and decision making are critical when choosing to disclose personal information to others whom you do not know.

Deferred Grades

If you are prevented from completing this course within the prescribed amount of time for reasons that are beyond your control, it is possible to have the grade deferred with the concurrence of the instructor, following Penn State Deferred Grade Policy 48-40. To seek a deferred grade, you must submit a written request (by e-mail or U.S. post) to the instructor describing the reason(s) for the request. Non-emergency permission for filing a deferred grade must be requested before the beginning of the final examination period.  It is up to the instructor to determine whether or not you will be permitted to receive a deferred grade. If permission is granted, you will work with the instructor to establish a communication plan and a clear schedule for completion within policy.  If for any reason, the coursework for the deferred grade is not complete by the assigned time, a grade of "F" will be automatically entered on your transcript.


This course will be conducted entirely online. There will be no set class meeting times, but you will be required to complete weekly assignments with specific due dates. Many of the assignments are open for multiple days, so it is your responsibility to complete the work early if you plan to travel or participate in national holidays, religious observances or University approved activities.

If you need to request an exception due to a personal or medical emergency, contact the instructor directly as soon as you are able. Such requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Diversity, Inclusion, and Respect

Penn State is “committed to creating an educational environment which is free from intolerance directed toward individuals or groups and strives to create and maintain an environment that fosters respect for others” as stated in Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance. All members of this class are expected to contribute to a respectful, welcoming and inclusive environment and to interact with civility.

For additional information, see:


Please note that the specifics of this Course Syllabus can be changed at any time, and you will be responsible for abiding by any such changes. All changes will be communicated with you via e-mail, course announcement and/or course discussion forum.