2010 Law & Lawyers Report
Fortnightly Magazine - November 2010
The industry isn’t as robust as we might think.
Investor-owned utilities might seem fairly robust, but they’re not impervious to unpredictable black-swan events. Ensuring the industry’s survival might depend on our ability to reduce our dependence on fragile and unsustainable regulatory structures.
State case has national implications for grid modernization.
Strict adherence to cost-of-service ratemaking led to what might be considered a Luddite decision in the Maryland PSC’s initial rejection of BGE’s smart-grid filing. More than 60 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that ratemaking calls for “pragmatic adjustments” to regulatory policy, toward the goal of sensible and effective rate orders. Delaying modernization doesn’t serve the aims of customer choice, conservation or electric system efficiency.
Correcting misconceptions about load-management programs.
Do low-income customers respond to dynamic rates? The answer is yes, and in fact such customers can benefit from dynamic pricing without shifting loads”contrary to conventional wisdom. A study co-authored by the Edison Foundation’s Institute for Electric Efficiency and the Brattle Group shows that restricting access to dynamic rates might actually be harmful to most low-income customers.
FERC modifies its enforcement guidelines.
FERC’s revised policy provides greater predictability and transparency in the commission’s approach to determining civil and criminal penalties under its statutory authority. Despite a more systematic framework, however, FERC retains discretion to assess penalties based on the facts of individual cases.
Rate case risk in a climate of declining sales.
(November 2010) Data from 2010 ROE Survey documents the industry’s struggle to reconcile rate trackers and decoupling provisions in utility rate cases.
2010 Law & Lawyers Report
The U.S. utility industry has never faced a more uncertain legal and regulatory landscape. From FERC demand-response pricing to state ratemaking disputes, legal trends and decisions are reshaping the power and gas market. The industry’s top legal minds provide strategic counsel. By definition, a battlefield is an ugly place. Conflict creates chaos, uncertainty and danger.
Are subsidies the best way to achieve smart grid goals?
FERC has proposed that wholesale energy markets should subsidize load reductions with full LMP (locational marginal price), without deducting the customers’ retail savings. Such a policy could distort the market, and other solutions might achieve the same objectives more efficiently.
Understanding consumer preferences in energy efficiency.
Utilities are just beginning to learn how to engage customers. Across business models and regulatory frameworks, realizing the full potential of smart metering requires a new core competence in consumer support.