Find Common Ground and Focus the Debate
Jay Morrison is an Energy Bar Association Primer Dean and Vice President of Regulatory Issues at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. This screed solely reflects the views of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of NRECA or any of its members.
At the recent Energy Information Agency's annual energy conference, one of the speakers offered a rousing defense of the RTO markets against perceived challenges from state policy mandates. He considered the mandates to be reregulation piece-by-piece.
He further explained the multitude of benefits that RTOs have offered consumers and the system including: elimination of multiple control areas, regional planning, the use of redispatch instead of transmission line-loading relief, increased utilization of the grid, and increased transparency.
The speaker contrasted the present state with the "bad old days" in the 1970s, before competition developed in the electric utility industry, when consumers were "mad as hell." He then suggested that state policies supporting individual resources or resource types put all of the benefits of RTOs at risk and threatened to return us to the bad old days. To prevent that retrogression, he supported policy and market-design responses that would pre-empt or mitigate the effects of state policies.
Unfortunately, the speaker's argument conflates some settled historical issues with current policy disputes on which parties disagree. And, in so doing, it makes it more difficult to focus on the crux of the policy disagreement underlying the conflict between the RTOs and the states.