UC Berkeley economist Severin Borenstein has a really, really great post at the Energy at Haas blog on utility fixed charges to recoup system fixed costs. If you want a primer on volumetric versus two-part pricing, this is a good one. After a very clear and cogent explanation and illustration of the differences among variable … More Charging for non-customer-specific fixed costs
A few weeks ago I mused over the question of whether there would ever be an Uber or AirBnB for the electricity grid. This question is a platform question — both Uber and AirBnB have business models in which they bring together two parties for mutual benefit, and the platform provider’s revenue stream can come … More Platform economics and “unscaling” the electricity industry
I’ve been playing around with some ownership type and fuel source data on electricity generation, using the EIA’s annual data going back to 1990. I looked at solar’s share of the total MWH of generated electricity in eight states (AZ CA IL NC NJ NY OH TX), 1990-2012, and express it as a percentage of … More Solar generation in key states
For the firms in regulated industries, for the regulators, for their customers, does the theory underlying the applied regulation matter? I think it matters a lot, even down in the real-world trenches of doing regulation, because regulation’s theoretical foundation influences what regulators and firms do and how they do it. Think about a traditional regulated … More Why does a theory of competition matter for electricity regulation?
Since 2008, multiple smart grid pilot projects have been occurring in the US, funded jointly through regulated utility investments and taxpayer-funded Department of Energy cost sharing. In this bureaucratic market environment, market experimentation takes the form of the large-scale, multi-year pilot project. The regulated utility (after approval from the state public utility commission) publishes a … More Technology market experimentation in regulated industries: Are administrative pilot projects bad for retail markets?
In a recent essay, the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Matthew Crosby asks “will there ever be an AirBnB or Uber for the electricity grid?” It’s a good question, a complicated question, and one that I have pondered myself a few times. He correctly identifies the characteristics of such platforms that have made them attractive and successful, … More The sharing economy and the electricity industry
I recently argued that the regulated utility is not likely to enter a “death spiral”, but that the regulated utility business model is indeed under pressure, and the conversation about the future of that business model is a valuable one. One area of pressure on the regulated utility business model is the market for residential … More Should regulated utilities participate in the residential solar market?
For the past three years, I’ve team-taught a class that’s part of our Institute for Energy and Sustainability at Northwestern (ISEN) curriculum. It’s an introductory class, primarily focused on ethics and philosophy. One of my earth science colleagues kicks us off with the carbon cycle, the evidence for anthropogenic global warming, and interpretations of that … More Energy poverty and clean technology
The conversations about the “utility death spiral” to which I alluded in my recent post have included discussion of the potential for “grid defection”. Grid defection is an important phenomenon in any network industry — what if you use scarce resources to build a network that provides value for consumers, and then over time, with … More “Grid defection” and the regulated utility business model
Unless you follow the electricity industry you may not be aware of the past year’s discussion of the impending “utility death spiral”, ably summarized in this Clean Energy Group post: There have been several reports out recently predicting that solar + storage systems will soon reach cost parity with grid-purchased electricity, thus presenting the first … More The “utility death spiral”: The utility as a regulatory creation