"He's a snake in the grass, I tell ya guys; he may look dumb but that's just a disguise; he's a mastermind in the ways of espionage." Charlie Daniels, "Uneasy Rider" Paul Joskow: What electric power regulatory reforms are need? A Federal Power Act of 2009 - TT's Lost in Tokyo

Paul Joskow: What electric power regulatory reforms are need? A Federal Power Act of 2009

Further to my previous posts, excerpted below are the recommendations that Paul Joskow (energy expert, MIT economist and current president of the Alfred P Sloan Foundationn) recently made in a speech at the National Press Club:

What is to be done?


We need to stop dealing with the electric power sector by placing band aids on the Federal Power Act of 1935. We need a comprehensive national policy for the electric power sector --- a Federal Power Act of 2009 to replace the Federal Power Act of 1935. A policy that respects legitimate state rights but also reflects the contemporary attributes of electricity generation, transmission and distribution technologies, opportunities for innovation, and the public policy demands that are or will be placed on the electric power sector. While, I recognize that there are many technical differences between them, the restructuring of the U.S. natural gas industry provides a very successful basic organizational model to start with for the electric power industry. The special attributes of electricity and electricity networks can be layered on top of this model.


What provisions might a Federal Power Act of 2009 contain?


1. The economic, planning, reliability, and siting review and regulation of high voltage transmission facilities with voltages above, let’s say, 69 kv, should be federalized and the prices for transmission service over this network fully unbundled from generation and distribution service and made transparent. This would follow the structural and regulatory reform model associated with interstate pipeline transportation of natural gas and the successful implementation of electricity sector reform models introduced in other countries. Recent federal legislation effectively “federalized” reliability rules and made them mandatory. This is a step in the right direction.


2. The key provisions of FERC Order 2000 should be put into law. This would require the creation of [additional] TROs [regional transmission organizations] that manage the operation of large regional transmission networks, implement FERC’s transmission access, pricing, and planning regulations, and operate voluntary wholesale markets for electric energy, ancillary services, capacity and transmission rights. There is abundant evidence (a) that RTOs are needed to support efficient competitive markets, (b) that expanding the geographic expanse of RTOs and improving the market designs for energy, ancillary services and capacity lead to efficiency improvements, (c) and that wholesale market designs built around what is generally referred to as the “standard market design,” augmented by capacity obligations and capacity markets, promote economic efficiency.


3. Vertically integrated utilities should be required to unbundled generation service from distribution service so that their respective costs or prices are transparent. They should also be required at least to move their generation facilities to a separate generation affiliate. Existing cost-of-service arrangements governing existing generating capacity can be replicated through properly structure long-term wholesale contracts between distribution and generation affiliates that are regulated by FERC. This will preserve the imbedded economic benefits (or costs) of existing generating capacity for retail consumers. These contracts would be transparent wholesale power contracts and regulated by the FERC.


4. The states would be free to decide whether or not they wanted to introduce retail competition for some or all customer classes. Where distribution companies continue to have obligations to serve retail customers at regulated retail prices, however, they would be required to meet at least their incremental power supply needs through competitive wholesale market solicitations managed by the states using procurement mechanisms that meet reasonably flexible FERC competitive procurement criteria. In states that have already restructured and adopted a competitive wholesale market model, all default retail supply obligations would be met through approved competitive procurement programs.


5. Any federal loan guarantees available for financing nuclear, CCS, or renewable generation would be available only for “merchant” generating facilities and not to facilities subject to traditional cost-of-service regulation. Generators should get loan guarantees only once. Regulated generators can effectively get loan guarantees through cost of service regulation. Merchant generators can get similar financing relief from federal loan guarantees. This would roughly place regulated and merchant generation investment options on a level playing field.


6. [Assuming that a cap and trade program is enacted,] Any free CO2 allowances allocated to the electric power sector should go directly to electricity consumers through non-distortionary lumpsum distributions based on, say, historical consumption in a base period. All generators that emit CO2 would be required to buy allowances in the market to cover their emissions. Generators subject to cost-of-service arrangements would be allowed to pass the associated costs through the retail price regulatory process and they would be reflected in retail prices. Consumers would get a lump sum “dividend” on their bills each month for the value of the allowances allocated to them. That is, consumers would face the efficient retail price on the margin, while receiving a dividend that would not depend on whether their consumption increases or decreases, but would lower their total bills. This would then provide better retail price signals on the margin where it matters for stimulating wise consumption decisions.


7. State regulatory jurisdiction and regulation would continue over distribution facilities, sub-transmission facilities below 69 say kv, whether and how retail competition will be permitted, energy efficiency programs, and competitive procurement of generation consistent with FERC procurement criteria. This is no different from the states’ jurisdiction in the natural gas industry.  ...


It will take significant political courage to design and implement a comprehensive electricity sector reform program because there are powerful interest groups that benefit from the status quo. 


(emphasis added)


I encourage interested readers to see Joskow`s full written remarks, linked above.


H/T Lynne Kiesling.

Published Sun, Feb 8 2009 9:20 AM by TokyoTom


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