BRASILIA, DF, BRAZIL
June 18, 2018
Ashley C. Brown
Executive Director, Harvard Electricity Policy Group
Harvard Kennedy School
Excerpt from the Executive Summary:
WHEN YOU ARE HEADED IN THE WRONG DIRECTION, GOING FASTER DOES NOT HELP
Institutions Should Fit the Facts
Electricity is a unique industry. It is a complex, real time network that requires cooperation and coordination to deliver a vital service. Demand for electricity is inelastic. Consumers faced with high electric prices cannot simply stop using electricity or switch to something else. Supply of electricity is also inelastic. Substantial new power plants take long lead times to construct. The transmission system cannot be expanded easily. Once produced, electricity cannot be stored very efficiently. As a result, it is deeply “affected with the public interest” and requires a balance of public and private responsibilities and incentives to keep it running smoothly. Restructuring and deregulation have undermined these values in the electricity industry. State policymakers recognized these problems and slowed down or reversed the irresponsible rush toward deregulation. Unfortunately, federal policymakers are charging ahead with deregulation policies such as the Electricity Title of the Energy Bill and the Standard Market Design proposal put forth by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
All Pain, No Gain
States have been convinced to slow down or stop restructuring based on a mountain of evidence that restructuring and deregulation of the electricity industry offers enormous risks for consumers and virtually no rewards. Restructuring and deregulation has unleashed abuse of market power, excessive scarcity overcharges, inefficient transactions costs, and a sharp increase in the cost of capital. These cost increases swamp efficiency gains projected for deregulation.