Archive for the ‘efficiency’ Category

Beyond zero-sum games: liberal press is starting to realize how state grants of monopolies to public utilities are the chief obstacle to energy efficiency!

October 15th, 2009 No comments

Michael Giberson at Knowledge Problem points to recent press coverage of the profoundly negative and perverse role being played by public utilities and their regulators.

Who knows, but isn`t there an opportunity here for market liberals and environmentalists to push for deregulation and greater competition in retail power markets, spearheaded by the federal government, and to have a deregulatory effort included in the climate bill?

Says Giberson: (emphasis in original)

The New Republic has an excellent article by Bradford Plumer about the current state of the electric power industry and the prospects of the industry achieving what diverse interests expect of it. (Yes, in TNR, who’d a thunk it?)
The article highlights the political economy of regulated electric
utilities and their immense lobbying savvy and political sway, and how
the existing regulatory framework acts to perpetuate the status quo.

The article leads off with an anecdote about Tom Casten
wishing to develop a combined heat and power (CHP) plant for a chemical
plant in Louisiana in the early 2000s
– you know, one of those
win-win-win projects that recycle waste heat to make electric power,
reduce air emissions, reduce costs to the industrial company host, and
still makes a profit for the CHP company. The proposed project
never got off the ground due to the lack of support from the local
utility, and that lack of support was attributed to a regulatory
structure which rewards utilities for owning power plants rather than
minimizing the cost of power to consumers.

The article goes on to tell more stories, and delves into issues
like renewable portfolio standards, distributed power, smart grid
visions, and how a mostly-regulated industry is going to do tackle all
of these changes while not upsetting existing political deals and
getting paid a fair rate of return.

Giberson further reports on another story:

A story posted Tuesday at the New York TimesGreen Inc. blog provides another example: “Discord Over Regulation of Car Charging.”
The story reports that the three major regulated electric utilities in
California each advocate different models for the regulation (or not)
of electric car charging stations by the California Public Utilities
Commission. Entrepreneurial companies like Better Place, trying
desperately to provide the electric vehicles that many consumers,
environmentalists, and policymakers say the country desperately needs,
find themselves caught in a regulatory battle.


Beyond zero-sum games: Instead of mandating "green power" and greater efficiency, why not mandate MORE COMPETITION in power markets?

October 11th, 2009 No comments

To my disappointment, it turns out that Joe Romm, who  maintains the Center for American Progress` Climate Progress blog, didn`t let through my prior comment about how our discussions about green/efficiency mandates ignore the 800 lb. gorilla in the room, namely, inefficiency stemming from the lack of competition in consumer electricity markets.

But I`m not so easily discouraged; on the heels of Google`s roll-out of software and a monitoring device specifically to enable consumers to more efficiently use electricity, I tried again (toned down so he would not have to see how guys like Steven Milloy mirror him).  Here`s the comment I submitted:

Joe, on the issuie of mandates, both you and Henderson fail to consider WHY our power system isn`t MUCH more efficient and doesn`t provide greater consumer choice – namely, grants by local governments of power monopolies and related regulatory balkanization.

Let`s not forget that the “ethical” argument for interfering with the market for electrical products is based on the fact that local governments have prevented competition in local markets for power generation and distribution.

That there are huge efficiency gains to be made in improving consumer electricity markets is precisely why Google is focussed on providing consumers with greater information about their electricity consumption.

Thus we see one of the continuing problems presented by the fight for control over the wheel of government: those who want to steer it their way are so sure they`re right – and convinced that the others are stupid or evil – that they can`t be bothered to try to notice or try to achieve shared objectives.