Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe has made it his mission to block environmental regulations, especially greenhouse gas constraints. His most recent attack targets John Bryson, former Edison International CEO and Pres. Barack Obama’s nominee for Commerce Secretary. But rather than protecting economic interests, as Inhofe purportedly aims to do, his actions have added to the ongoing policy chaos that frustrates clean coal development.
(August 2011) Economic consultant Michael Rosenzweig challenges Constantine Gonatas’s proposal for ensuring FERC’s demand response rulemaking achieves its objectives. Also, Juliet Shavit takes issue with Contributing Editor Steven Andersen’s characterization of utility customers as “crazy.”
Policies aimed at promoting one good thing can diminish a better thing, for a net loss to the overall public welfare. Raising prices to promote renewables, for example, makes electricity less affordable and hurts the economy. But artificially low prices can themselves create social ills — by preserving an unsustainable status quo.
The industry has struggled to craft a feed-in-tariff (FiT) structure that works for solar generators and utility customers, with mixed success. But now, the California Public Utility Commission might have found an approach that other states can replicate. CPUC’s FiT mechanism recognizes the value proposition of solar energy, and uses market forces to drive economic improvements, especially for distributed solar projects.
In the information age, big growth doesn’t come from putting steel in the ground; it comes from innovating and creating value. But if electricity customers care only about reliability and price, how can utilities create real value that didn’t exist before?
Getting the most from demand response—despite a flawed FERC rule.
FERC’s new rule on compensation for demand resources tips the market balance toward negawatts. Arguably the commission’s economic analysis is flawed, and the rule represents a covert policy decision that stretches federal authority. Nevertheless, economic benefits will result if DR programs are well implemented to avoid gaming the system and distorting the market.
Only the fittest solutions survive in America’s policy wilderness.
Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief
All things being equal, momentous events like the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the Arab spring would bring fundamental changes in U.S. energy policy. But things aren’t equal, and they never will be under America’s democratic and capitalistic process. Frustrating? Maybe, but it’s the only way to ensure our decisions are based on sound economic and environmental principles.
Because we can’t define the consequences of nuclear accidents — and because radioactivity is invisible and undetectable without a Geiger counter — nuclear power’s risks are like shadowy monsters of unknown proportions, inspiring irrational fear. But that’s no excuse for complacency. Learning the lessons of Fukushima-Daiichi requires first acknowledging that we might have overestimated our ability to manage nuclear risks.
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