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Electricity in Europe And North America: The Grand Experiment

Has restructuring succeeded on either continent?

Fortnightly Magazine - February 2007

wondrous technologies to more and more people. 8 How rapidly will the electric industry adopt new electric technologies in the production, delivery, and consumption phases? 9 Will an InfoCom utility emerge that fully leverages electricity infrastructure and modern communications to manage information within the system and to help customers optimize the value of services and products and to provide telecommunication services to end-use customers or to other telecom providers?

Expect the Unexpected

In the years immediately following the proposal of the “Ten Point Plan” over two decades ago, the lines were drawn between those who advocated a upending of the status quo and those who defended the traditional system as the essential condition for continued reliable and affordable service. Few would have suggested the landscape we now behold as the Grand Experiment. One lesson from the past two decades of change in network industries is that no prescription is valid for long and that the human factor refuses to be confined within any model.



1. For a description of the variations in EU electricity policy directive implementation, consult a scholarly analysis and lament on this point presented by Jean-Michel Glachant and François Lévêque in their September 2005 paper Electricity Internal Markets in the European Union: What to Do Next? as part of the SESSA project of the Center for Energy Policy and Research. Glachant and Lévêque identify specific shortcomings in EU member states with respect to implementing electric competition policy directives and offer a set of primary and secondary actions to remedy the situation.

2. Interestingly, while total Canadian electricity exports to the United States have grown by about 12 percent between 1993 and 2004, U.S. electricity exports to Canada have grown by well over 700 percent, meaning that the ratio of Canadian exports to its imports for the United States was about 3:2 in 2004 compared with about 11:1 a decade before. See Table 6.3 U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Electric Power Annual 2004.

3. These figures are interpolated from Table 6.2 of the EIA’s Electric Annual Report 2004 and may be somewhat understating the role on non-utility generation in 2006.

4. Strong evidence of the demise of the old verities of the industry can be found in the recent survey of North American utility executives by GF Energy. First, the diversity of opinion about the likelihood of various possible developments in the industry during the next several years is quite striking. Deep division can be seen on the role of competition and regulation, issues that would have found near unanimity two decades ago, or would not have been contemplated at all. Second, irrespective of views on retail open access, there is a strong current of opinion that technology and information developments will have a significant impact on customer usage patterns. GF Energy 2006 Electricity Outlook, GF Energy LLC,

5. The more significant methodological problem in applying the Ten Tests is not the quantification of the measures but, rather, the classification of the units of analysis into the two categories of old regime and new paradigm.

6. An interesting