What Provisions Might a Federal Power Act of 2009 Contain?

Michael Giberson

“What provisions might a Federal Power Act of 2009 contain?” asks Paul Joskow in the middle of his advice-giving essay on the state of U.S. electric power policy.

In brief, Joskow supports completing the task of restructuring the electric power industry by unbundling transmission, distribution, and generation in places where that action has not yet been taken, and installing voluntary RTO-type wholesale power markets in areas not yet served by an RTO.  Also, Joskow urges federal loan guarantees for merchant power companies to match the implicit loan guarantees available to state-regulated electric utilities, and wants any carbon permits given away free to go directly to consumers rather than to electric utilities.

But, you say, Joskow’s proposal would run roughshod over existing jurisdictional boundaries between state and federal government.  Yes, I say, and I think that is part of Joskow’s point.

He wrote, “Unlike every other energy sector, the electricity sector lacks a comprehensive national policy framework consistent with achieving [current policy] goals.”  Much of the nation remains stuck in an organizational and regulatory framework first established in the Federal Power Act of 1935, and federal action is required to help reorganized the industry in a manner better suited to current conditions.  Hence his suggestions for a “Federal Power Act of 2009.”

See also this post by Joskow at the EU Energy Policy Blog with a summary of the article. HT to Cheryl Morgan at MorganEnergy.