Wait for the "second wave," when new products help suppliers escape the trench warfare of pricing.
A 75th Anniversary Retrospective
Let's look back over the past few years-what we got right and where we went wrong.
Do you recall how you felt at your last class reunion? Well, that's exactly what an editor feels when asked to reminisce in public about days gone by at the magazine to which he gave his best years.
And let me tell you: Nothing will make you wince more than re-reading the things you wrote only a few short years ago, or sober you up as having to re-evaluate the articles that you were once so eager to publish. With the benefit of hindsight, one can see the awful truth only too clearly. Many of the issues and ideas that once seemed are today consigned to the dustbin of history.
So we come to the 75th anniversary of the publication of . Few magazines ever live that long. Nor should they. Yet here we stand. Launched in 1929. Still kicking in 2004.
Alas, we lack space here to tell the whole story. (For you historians, let me recommend the magnum opus by former Editor Cheryl Romo on PUF's 60th anniversary, "To Furnish Our Readers With the Facts," . Or that pearl from our most famous editor, Francis X. Welch, "Fifty Years of Fortnightlies" . Or my own piece, written on PUF's 70th Anniversary, "Above All, A Name," .)
Nevertheless, we can learn from the experience of the past 10 years-a time of turmoil like no other in the utility industry. So let's lean back and have a little fun. What can we learn from Public Utilities Fortnightly over the past decade?
Dead Ends and Wrong Turns
In all candor, the magazine tilted a little too far overboard on a handful of topics:
- Stranded Investment
- Consumer Content
- Transmission Pricing
- PUHCA and PURPA Reform
- Gas vs. Electricity
Other topics come to mind, of course. For example, we once suggested that regulators might require an electric-style "ISO" to manage gas pipeline capacity (). But that came to nothing.
Stranded Investment. But you can hardly fault us for going over the top on stranded investment. What a terrific story for the mid-1990s. It had winners and losers. It could be reduced to dollars and cents. It made us feel smug.
After all, we had just won the cold war. The Soviet Union was defunct. We reveled in the superiority of free enterprise over a managed economy. Yet American utilities found themselves on the wrong side of history. As financial writer Charles Studness put it, "Stranded Cost Recovery: It's Un-American" ().
The parallels were compelling, but in the end, ultimately meaningless. As things turned out, nothing was really ever stranded. Utilities today value their precious nukes and coal plants like mother's milk. In hindsight, we can see that we wasted altogether too much space in print on this red herring.
Nevertheless, we did open our pages to some with a contrarian view, and for that we should now be grateful. Listen, for example, to Randall Falkenburg, explaining how, in a state adopting a central, pool-based spot market, utilities with large market