How Congress opened another can of worms with its call for regional joint boards to study power-plant dispatch.
Bruce W. Radford is editor-in-chief for Public Utilities Fortnightly.
No energy bill ever became law without a little something for everyone, and last year’s EPACT law (the Energy Policy Act of 2005) proves true to form. Consider EPACT section 1298, codified as new section 223 of the Federal Power Act, which directs the Federal Energy Regulatry Commission (FERC) to convene joint boards on a regional basis to study the concept known as “security constrained economic dispatch,” as practiced around the country. These groups are then to make recommendations, with FERC reporting to Congress by August on findings of each regional board.
Nevertheless, while section 1298 may look very much like a harmless bone thrown to opponents of electric utility restructuring in an effort to win their support for the bill, the provision has proved troublesome, opening the door to a full range of collateral attacks on entrenched FERC policy.
The statute creates nothing more than a process for completing a study, so Congress may have seen little risk in spreading around a few crumbs to appease the dispossessed and help the bill become law. It invites only committee discussions and group recommendations, and appears to pose no real threat to existing policy.