Will Congress dare to put local wires under federal control?
Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief
Congress hasn’t amended the Federal Power Act in any way that would change the status quo, and a bright line still separates the distribution business from the federally regulated bulk-power system. Pending legislation, however, might change that.
Subsidies might not be the best solution for interconnecting renewables.
Supporters of renewable energy are seeking to socialize the cost of a new interstate highway system for transporting green power. But utilities and transmission owners will build or finance new transmission systems to serve economic demands. Policy makers shouldn’t pre-ordain the direction of industry progress.
State GHG policies confront federal roadblocks.
So far, states have taken the lead in carbon-control strategies. These state actions, however, could lead to constitutional conflicts—as recent court battles demonstrate. Only the U.S. Congress can regulate interstate trade, so states must step carefully in controlling carbon leakage.
FERC’s ROE incentive adder policy sends the wrong signals.
Scott H. Strauss and Jeffrey A. Schwarz
FERC is offering incentive rates to entice transmission investment. But the authors identify serious flaws in emerging policy regarding return on equity (ROE) incentive adders. Determining whether and when ROE adders are appropriate requires a more deliberative approach.
A billion-dollar ‘gold rush’ could send grid rates through the roof.
Money may be difficult to come by for Wall Street financiers in these dark days, but apparently not for electric transmission construction—at least so far. A rash of recent orders from FERC shows that generous financial incentives remain available to companies seeking to expand the nation’s grid capacity.
Utilities are gearing up for cyber security compliance. Will the standards prove worthy?
The NERC CIP standards represent an historic achievement. They include the first mandatory cyber security requirements of their kind to be imposed on a U.S. private-sector industry. Considering the scope and sensitivity of the grid-security issue, developing a set of enforceable standards inevitably would entail a complex and contentious process. From that perspective, NERC, FERC and the industry have made remarkable progress, and their efforts deserve accolades.
NERC’s new cyber security rules may minimize cost of compliance, but they leave utilities guessing on how to identify risks.
Liam Baker, vice president for regulatory affairs at US Power Generating, questions whether his company’s power plants and control systems in New York and Massachusetts must comply with the electric industry’s new mandatory standards for cyber security. Baker voiced his doubts in written comments he filed in October with FERC.
The 2005 Act, designed to streamline projects, may fall short of that goal.
David B. MacGregor and Matthew J. Agen
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 was supposed to streamline the siting process and provide a federal “trump card” for projects delayed at the local level, but it is far from clear whether these goals have been, or will be, achieved.
John S. Ferguson: I concur with Mark Williams’ assessment that the proposed KKR/TPG acquisition of TXU through a leveraged buyout (LBO) may “have negative consequences for Texas customers,” which he indicates as being a consequence of the nature of an LBO. I think it is more likely a consequence of the nature of the restructuring imposed by the Texas Legislature.
Stephen L. Teichler and Ilia Levitine: We take it with good humor that Scott Strauss and Jeffrey Schwartz used our report on the 9th Circuit’s recent Mobile-Sierra decisions as a foil to the grand argument that courts should return to the “statutory roots” in their interpretation of Mobile-Sierra.
The 9th Circuit’s Snohomish and PUC decisions rationalize what has been a confusing, conflicted area of law.
Scott H. Strauss and Jeffrey A. Schwarz
The 9th Circuit Court’s Snohomish and PUC decisions seek to rationalize what has been a confusing, conflicted area of law.