On Wednesday May 7, FERC will host a conference in Washington, D.C. that might prove extraordinary. The commission staff promises not only to review the forward capacity markets now operating in...
A Champion for Public Power
Soft-spoken, but no featherweight,
APPA Director Alan Richardson will fight
toe-to-toe with well-heeled
adversaries. If he were a boxer, his name might be Alan "The Right" Richardson.
The executive director of the American Public Power Association (APPA) always toes the canvas, swinging for equity for his 1,750 members, shadowing its "heavyweight" adversaries, investor-owned electric utilities (IOUs).
When the IOUs align on one issue (em on mergers or competitive advantages, say (em APPA is there to counter, without fail. It has the reports, the filings at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and the press releases to build its case. APPA has to be among the most aggressive industry groups trying to ensure its place in the restructured electric market. It knows, too, when to step aside and let the IOUs duke it out among themselves.
To some extent, publicly owned power systems might be considered "lightweights." In terms of electric revenue sales to ultimate customers, publicly owned systems make up only 12.7 percent of the market; their installed capacity is 11.7 percent (according to Energy Information Administration Forms EIA-860 and EIA-861). Moreover, just 30 percent of public power systems own generating facilities. About 600 of the 2,000 public-power systems buy electric from the federal Power Marketing Administrations.
Meeting Richardson, you learn why his association does so well in or out of the ring. Sit next to him at an a industry banquet, and you'd describe him as "a nice guy." But hammer him in his sunny corner office with a pointed question (he doesn't like corners), and he'll brush down his reading glasses.
"Sham transaction," for instance, is a phrase that will get Richardson's glasses moving. Palm Springs, Falls Church, and now the Modesto and Turlock Irrigation Districts are attracting publicity for their relentless pursuit of non-IOU power in efforts that some critics call "sham transactions." Of these proposals, Richardson says, "If that's the course the community wants to pursue, I don't have a problem with that."
But where's the borderline between innovative solutions and unfair tactics?
"What's unfair?" asks Richardson. "Competition is competition. Is there something 'unfair' about a municipal utility trying to strike a deal with a customer? And something 'fair' about Detroit Edison or Consumers Power striking deals with all of GM's plants, regardless of where they are served? Or moving into Traverse City and arranging special deals with customers of existing municipal utilities? I'm saying it's competition, the effects of competition. The rules are still being made."
Indeed, the rules are still being made (em at both the state and federal level. Only five days after the debut of Orders 888 and 889, Richardson both praised and warned the FERC. The orders open up transmission access to competition, clarify state and federal jurisdiction, but prompt other questions. They don't, for instance, appear to clarify the issue of sham transactions.
"They [the FERC] have made great strides, but there are things that they need to be cautious about as we move forward," Richardson says. "Things that they need to look at very, very carefully to make sure that what