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The Regulators Forum - States to Feds: Don't tread on Me

How far do states rights go in transmission planning?
Fortnightly Magazine - November 15 2003

wholesale electricity trading formalized in the Western Systems Power Pool tariffs FERC approved in the late 1980s. The West also has a long history of cooperation and coordination on electricity issues. The Committee on Regional Electric Power Cooperation of the Western Interstate Energy Board has provided a forum for many years for discussion among the Western states and provinces of issues affecting the Western grid. In the past year, at FERC's urging, the Seams Steering Group-Western Interconnection has established a forum for discussion of issues to be resolved between regional markets to facilitate the creation of a seamless Western market.

Although no one in the West is anxious to repeat the impacts of the Western energy crisis in 2000-2001, neither do I think a rush to judgment is an appropriate response. Rather, allowing regional stakeholder processes addressing electricity issues to unfold and develop makes sense because it is more likely to lead to solutions best tailored for the unique characteristics of the electricity industry in the West.

F: What is the issue of most concern in Idaho?

PK: Providing affordable stable prices while maintaining safe reliable service has, and will continue to be, the most important concern facing the Idaho PUC.

Our commission's success in dealing with this concern forces us to confront a multitude of significant issues including natural gas price volatility, increased wholesale electric power purchases spawned by drought conditions within a hydro system, and the need for system upgrades that are sufficient to meet existing load and future growth. Addressing these issues requires diligence, patience, and an even-handed approach as we attempt to understand and balance the needs and concerns of the utilities and the customers they serve.

At the core of this concern is a need to constantly question the prudence of the actions our utilities are taking and to be willing to adjust our regulatory approach if it no longer adequately meets the magnitude of the problems facing the regulated companies.

Peninsular Identity

Florida: Still Nixes Merchant Generation

Lila A. Jaber, chairman, Florida Public Service Commission

F: After the August blackout, what is your commission doing to ensure such an event doesn't take place again?

Lila A. Jaber: While there is no such thing as a system that is designed for and functions with 100 percent reliability, it is unlikely that Florida would experience a widespread blackout like the one that occurred in the Northeast. The primary reason for this is our unique geography. Being a peninsula limits our ability to import power from surrounding states. Our state is connected electrically to the Eastern Interconnection grid system through a series of transmission lines into Georgia. Under optimal conditions, we can import about 8 percent of our energy needs to support our grid.

Because of this import limitation, Florida has appropriately relied on the construction of native generation within the peninsula to reliably serve its customers. Based on the 2003 Load and Resource Plan prepared by the Florida Reliability Coordinating Council (FRCC), Florida utilities own and operate 44,848 MW of generation capacity with an additional 4,534 MW being