POWER DISTURBANCES COST U.S. ELECTRIC CUSTOMERS about $26 billion each year: nearly three times the anticipated annual saving from deregulation.
Competition and restructuring will only turn up the pressure, as the grid carries more low-cost power over longer distances to a wider variety of customers.
Already we are seeing a rapid rise in wholesale power transactions. Some utilities now complete as many such transactions in one day as they previously made in one week. Overall, the value of wholesale transactions has increased fourfold over the last decade. About one-half of the electricity now generated in the United States is sold in the wholesale market. This figure may rise to two-thirds with more deregulation.
Can the grid carry this new burden?
The rapid growth in bulk power markets comes at a time when many parts of the North American transmission system are operating close to stability limits. Loads are growing by 2 to 2.5 percent each year - about 30 percent in a decade - but the annual addition of new transmission circuit miles has declined by more than 60 percent over the last decade. The considerable political problems in siting new lines heightens the need for technological and managerial solutions.