A candid commentary on current topics in electric restructuring.
John A. Bewick is Fortnightly’s contributing editor and formerly was secretary for environmental affairs for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He holds advanced degrees in nuclear science and business management.
Energy planners and utility owners are hearing rumblings about tsunamis of change in the electricity market, triggered by earthquakes of uncertainty. Where does the uncertainty arise? The growth of renewables, the emergence of regional electricity markets, innovations in energy technology, changes in distribution systems with smart metering, demand management, and global economic upheavals all contribute to this tectonic shifting.
The lack of a clear national energy policy hasn’t helped to add clarity, as Fortnightly Editor-in-Chief Michael Burr pointed out in a recent “Frontlines” column (see “Mitt Romney and You,” September 2012). The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has contributed to uncertainty with controversial regulations that some view as confiscatory. While investors try to preserve and protect traditional energy sources and maintain profitability, they oppose plans for investment in new renewable innovations.
Since technology developments will dictate the future, resistance to change isn’t productive. Yet, keeping electricity on all the time is much more complex with a stream of less-reliable renewables.