On a bookshelf behind my desk I've stacked up a few older issues of PUBLIC UTILITIES FORTNIGHTLY. Some of them go back more than a half-century. Every so often I pull down a copy to see if I can learn anything from history.

Yes, the advertisements appear quaint (Royal typewriters; IBM punch-card machines; Ditto-brand duplicators). But some of the ideas still have legs, with lively quotations from the likes of Louis Brandeis, Harold Ickes, Walter Lippmann, and Fiorello La Guardia.


Mark your calendars for April 29, 1996. That's the date of the "filing of the century," according to Donald Garber, group manager for strategic plans and projects at San Diego Gas & Electric Co.

Garber is talking about plans to file a draft operating agreement at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for the proposed California Power Exchange. The April filing will mark an important step in executing the December 20 order by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).


There are essentially two kinds of reliability: sufficient generating capacity, and sufficient transmission capacity. Although it often receives the most attention, generation accounts for only about 10 percent of reliability concerns. Even when there is a problem, there is usually time to prepare; demand can be reduced through voltage reductions, interruptible customers, public appeals, and as a last resort, rotating blackouts.


For a good half a century, electric regulation has meant law, accounting, and economics. But no more. Now it's all about computers, telecommunications, and file-transfer protocols. Forget about CWIP, AFUDC, double leverage, and interest synchronization. They are all irrelevant.

Technology's Strategic Role

The electric utility industry is undergoing its most profound change since Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse battled over whether the American power system should be AC or DC. In essence, that technological choice shaped the industry we know today. Edison's low-voltage, DC system would have required many small generating stations and short distribution lines. The high-voltage Westinghouse AC system promoted development

of long-distance transmission networks that deliver electricity efficiently from large, remote power plants.