PUF’s March Madness, A Preview


A tiny peek at the new March issue, its 72 pages of articles, columns, cartoons, photography, puzzles, perspectives on our past

Today in Fortnightly

March Birthdays

Gustav Kirchhoff, who you can blame for the miserable complexity of electrical transmission and distribution systems, was born on March 12. Kirchoff's collaborator, in finding two of the 118 elements, was Robert Bunsen. That's right, he's the one that invented the mainstay of chem labs since, the Bunsen burner.

Reddy Kilowatt almost starred in a Disney movie. Discussions took place in 1943 but the distractions of World War II derailed the idea. The short film Reddy Made Magic hit the theaters three years later. Walter Tetley was Reddy's high-pitched voice, who was the voice of Sherman, the dorky boy who accompanied beagle Mr. Peabody in Rocky and His Friends and The Bullwinkle Show.

Robert Millikan, whose work on the photoelectric effect led to the solar industry and ultimately the net metering controversy, was born on March 22. 

David Raskin, A Rose By Any Other Name (a response to "Solar Battle Lines") 

The vitriol aimed at the utility industry on this subject is not about the merits. It is part of a strategy to exploit the public's natural inclination to favor solar energy in order to make utilities (and regulators who may agree with them) pay an exorbitant political price for seeking to have an important energy policy issue decided on the merits in a public forum. 

Dr. William Hogan, Demand Response: Getting the Prices Right

Good markets depend on good prices. The demand response pricing rule in Order 745 creates perverse incentives and works in the direction of more regulation to hamper innovation and counteract the incentives the rule creates. There is a better way. Given the mandate explained by the Court, FERC should act now to get the prices right. 

Recharge the Economy with Renewable Energy Tax Credits

March's Crossword Puzzle: FERC Fun

37 across, three letters: QF rhymes with bug 

Dr. Ahmad Faruqui, Letters to the Editor Re: Time-Varying Rates

If there are specific customers of concern to the utility, then an alternative is to make the dynamic rate opt-in for "vulnerable" customers, mandatory for the largest customers, and default for everyone else.

Steve Huntoon, Musk and Me

With all the talk of the "existential threat" to traditional utilities from solar and other disruptive technologies (and the blowback against net metering in various states), I thought I'd check out SolarCity first hand. When Elon Musk isn't running Tesla Motors (and colonizing Mars and storing electricity) he's chairing the SolarCity board.

I signed up for a free quote on line, and immediately got a call from a friendly and knowledgeable representative who I will call Robert. He ran a credit check while we talked, and used Google Maps (or equivalent) to actually look at the roof of my house.

Robert told me it would take less than hour to get a proposal together. Sure enough he emailed a link to a proposed agreement that was indeed customized for me (and a simulation of what the solar array would look like from the sky - cool stuff).

Terrance Fitzpatrick, Future of Retail Electricity Competition in Pennsylvania

Given the polar vortex episode and the data suggesting that shopping customers pay more than those on regulated default service, the primary focus should be on consumer protection. While the rules governing interactions between suppliers and utilities may evolve as circumstances change, it will not be productive to pursue additional policies to "jump start" the market. The experience to date with these policies warrants skepticism as to whether they are successful or cost-justified.

Phillip Lookadoo & Jamie Jackson, Recent Transmission Developer Selections Based on Cost Containment: Harbinger or Anomaly?

As it becomes more routine for developers to offer cost containment commitments, it will likewise become increasingly difficult for RTO Regions to ignore the cost impact of the various proposals while making selection on factors that do not easily translate to ratepayer costs. Such cost containment commitments are a sea change for cost of service transmission projects. 

Off Peak: A Soul's Like Electricity (Ray Charles)

Recharge the Economy with Renewable Energy Tax Credits

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation produced in 2005 an award-winning eight-part radio series, The Wire: The Impact of Electricity on Music. The host says: "Making music with electricity changed everything - the art, the social structure, and the economy of music. Think about what it did to guitars. Here's this genteel kind of instrument and all of sudden Chuck Berry is duck-walking across the stage with a Gibson ES 335."


E-mail me with your address and I'll send you the March issue. Free, no-obligation. I'll be interested in what you think.

Steve Mitnick, Editor-in-Chief, Public Utilities Fortnightly
E-mail me: mitnick@fortnightly.com