Will tomorrow's transmission be privately funded, with the first-class seats reserved for investors?
The six o'clock news has locked its radar on California's power market meltdown, and rightly so. But that's no reason to overlook the nation's heartland, where a utility coming late to the game has set the pot boiling.
I'm thinking about Entergy, which hasn't really been on the cutting edge since the mid-1980s. That's when, under its former name of Middle South, it rocked regulators in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi with its cost allocation scheme for the Grand Gulf nuclear plant. Energy's multi-state plan threatened to place the local power infrastructure under federal control. That fight offered a stage to crusading politicians, including the young Bill Clinton. He worked to protect the state's rate-setting authority against encroachment from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. He should have been governor of California.
Now, Entergy is in the limelight again, and not just for its planned merger with Florida's FPL Group. Faster than FERC Chairman Curt Hébert can say, "Incent and they will come," Entergy has proposed an ambitious plan to award huge premiums to grid investors. It has included the incentives in the rate design it proposes for its stand-alone, for-profit transmission company, or "transco," filed with the FERC as part of a hybrid regional transmission organization with the Southwest Power Pool.