That ability develops with practice, I guess. I still feel like I'm awful at it, but if I look back at my older photos I can see the improvement. I'd agree with you about the importance of lighting in b&w especially; it also takes some experience to understand when something that looks good in color is going to turn to grey mush in b&w (this happens to me all the time with foliage, where the subtle shades of green don't end up well differentiated in the photo).The area where I feel most inadequate is just basic photographic skills when it comes to black and white. I still don't have the eye to be able to spot scenes and lighting situations with the naked eye and imagine how they will look in B&W.
The good news is, the required practice is fun.