Congress renews PURPA’s call for conservation and load management, but the world has changed since the 1970s.
Bruce W. Radford is editor-in-chief for Public Utilities Fortnightly.
The “N-word” in the title first appeared in this journal more than 20 years ago, courtesy of the celebrated environmentalist Amory Lovins and his widely quoted piece, “Saving Gigabucks with Negawatts.” (Public Utilities Fortnightly, March 21, 1985, p. 19.)
The concept was simple: You satisfy power needs and ease strains on generation resources by curtailing consumption. The benefits—measured in terms of “avoided costs”—would outweigh the price of building new power plants.
In the United States, Congress already had lent support to the concept. In section 111(d) of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA), Congress had set a federal “standard” asking state regulators to study the benefits of energy conservation. It told public utility commissions (PUCs) to consider the idea of forcing electric utilities to offer load management to retail consumers, and interruptible rates to commercial and industrial (C&I) customers.