Archive for the ‘Giberson’ 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.