U.S. Policies Favor Concentration of Utility Ownership

Decisions made last week by two federal agencies in the United States are contrary to efforts to build local electricity systems in that country.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota, US, 2001-04-30 <SolarAccess.com> Decisions made last week by two federal agencies in the United States are contrary to efforts to build local electricity systems in that country. On April 24, the Senate Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs Committee voted 19-1 to repeal the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935. PUHCA was designed to reverse concentration of ownership in the utility industry. The next day, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission agreed to impose modest wholesale price caps on electricity sold in California this summer, but only if California submitted a proposal to join a new regional transmission operator. “These two decisions reflect an unfortunate bipartisan effort to move electricity decision-making even further away from electricity consumers,” says David Morris, vice president of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and author of the book, ‘Seeing the Light: Regaining Control of Our Electricity System.’ “It is instructive that FERC is demanding that California subordinate itself to a regional, privately owned transmission authority just when Governor Davis is trying to buy out privately owned transmission lines so that California can have more authority to design its electricity future.” FERC has repeatedly expressed its desire to give transmission construction and pricing authority to regional enterprises owned or controlled by large utilities and large power producers. “While the Senate and FERC make decisions that favor concentration, communities and entrepreneurs are busily constructing a more decentralized and democratic electricity system,” he says. “Thousands of small power plants are being installed in households, office buildings, factories and shops. Cities are beginning to design their own energy policies, which favor increased conservation and local generation.” “The emissions from our fossil-fueled past need to be drastically reduced in the future and policies that promote energy efficiency and the increased use of renewable energy technologies can be part of the solution,” says the book. It examines the renewable energy mandates in many states, with particular focus on Iowa and Minnesota which it calls ‘models’ for other states to jump start renewable energy development. It also examines renewables portfolio standards which require a steady increase in the percentage of renewables over time. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance is a national research organization.

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