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Reinventing Electric Utilities by Ed Smeloff and Peter Asmus

1997; 239 pp.

$17.95

Island Press

Reinventing does what Donella Meadows advocates: celebrates complexity, expands the boundaries of caring, listens to the wisdom of the system, stays a learner, and locates responsibility.

Regionalism thrives in the transmission lines. Intimate and informed?told through the story of the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District, the third largest US utility? Reinventing is absolutely hypeless. Here are the political hard knocks and the unexpected wild cards frustrating change in our sources of energy and energy infrastructure, and corroding fair deals for consumers. An optimistic take on how to deal, for instance, with how "stranded costs" of failed and over-budget nukes have prevented negawatts and cheaper fuels from lowering consumer bills. I especially like how Smeloff and Asmus compare Californian, New Englander, Minnesotan and Texan attitudes on energy/cash comingling.

"Rancho Seco...was originally scheduled to go into operation in October of 1974. Several thousand people had gathered at the site to dedicate Sacramento's new source of electricity. President Gerald Ford had sent a telegram congratulating SMUD for helping to reduce the nation's imported oil by one million barrels of oil a day. What the crowd didn't know was that the plant's steam turbine had malfunctioned, forcing a shutdown before the ceremony began. Although the concealed problem didn't dampen the festivities on its dedication day, it turned out to be an omen of things to come."

"Rather than build transmission lines and distribution facilities to move electricity from central power plants to the consumer, some utilities like SMUD are looking at ways of producing power closer to the customer through many small power plants. With plants scattered throughout the utility system, and even located on customer premises, this arrangement can save money and minimize the need for rights of way through public and private property. It would also signal a return to a more decentralized electricity system similar to the one existing at the turn of the century."

"The [California Energy Commission] identified three steps that could be taken to maintain or increase the benefits created by utility [demand side management] programs. The first step is to separate the generation and distribution portions of utilities to eliminate financial conflicts of interest between the sale of energy as a commodity and energy efficiency as a service. The second is to use [performance-based ratemaking] mechanisms that link revenue recovery to the number of customers served by the distribution utility rather than to the number of kilowatt hours sold. The third is to create a nonprofit organization to oversee the use of rate-payer-funded expenditures on energy measures".

 

ISBN: 1559634553

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