Meredith Angwin has become an authority on the arcane topic of governing electric grids in the United States. She’s concerned and thinks others will may share her concern when they recognize there is a key missing element in grid governance.
There is no organization or individual that is responsible for making sure that electricity is generated, transmitted and delivered to customers.
Various organizations, often with competing or conflicting interests, have shared responsibility for different parts of the system that includes generators, transformers, switchyards, transmission lines, distribution lines and billing systems, but “the market” has been assigned the responsibility of supplying wholesale electricity.
And that market is not the free market, but instead is a hybrid that is governed by an ever changing stack of layered rules where many of the important decisions are made by participant groups that do not include customers or even enabled representatives of customers.
A growing portion of the grid’s electricity is dependent on free, but uncontrolled natural flows. Another portion comes from generators whose fuel is delivered by capacity-limited pipes in a “just in time fashion.” When the natural flows are interrupted or something interferes in the pipelines’s capability to deliver fuel, generators stop producing power.
There are processes that can be called into action, but costs can skyrocket in times of scarcity. Some market players thrive in times of crisis and have few incentives to ensure those crises never arise.
Meredith has produced an accessible, clearly written book that reveals important aspects of a complex topic. It deserves to be on the reading list for people who are interested in electricity.
It belongs in the library of every congressional and senatorial office. At least one person in each staff should be assigned the task of reading it and preparing a report for their member.
Governors and state level legislators might want incorporate lessons revealed in the book and reconsider their decisions to rely more heavily on markets than on well-regulated monopolies with an obligation to serve.
Meredith is a delightful guest who brings the wisdom of a long and productive professional career to her writing and speaking engagements. I’m pretty sure you are going to like this show.
As always, I invite you to participate in the discussion thread.