[Marxism] privatizing the grid--a local perspective

ehrbar at greenhouse.economics.utah.edu ehrbar at greenhouse.economics.utah.edu
Sat Feb 4 11:07:10 MST 2012

I agree that municipally owned utilities should not be
privatized, but this is only a small part of the changes
necessary in the electricity infrastructure.  Right now,
this infrastructure is geared towards large centralized
generators (coal or nuclear).  It must be replaced by an
infrastructure able to accommodate small distributed
producers and storers of energy. What does this entail?

(1) Even though transmission is an essential facility,
historically in the U.S.A. it has not had common carrier
status.  This must change.  The use of transmission lines
must be opened up, and a smart grid must be built.
Regulators must allow the owners of this transmission,
usually regulated utilities, to recover the costs associated
with this more sophisticated technology and more open access.

(2) Utilities must become full service energy providers,
intermediaries between

o distributed producers of intermittent solar and wind
who need access to the grid to sell their electricity
and need the grid for backup,

o energy storage providers, etc.

o consumers who are willing and able to shift electricity
consumption to those times when electricity is available,
i.e., when the sun shines or the wind blows.

o industrial facilities whose waste heat can be recycled

Utilities should not be limited to one energy carrier
(electricity or gas or district heat) but should be selling
a variety of energy products and services, including the
services presently provided by Energy Service Companies

Much of the above comes from Joseph P Tomain, see his books
"Ending Dirty Energy Policy", CUP 2011, or "Energy Law in a
Nutshell" (together with Richard D Cudahy), West Publishing
2011, or the 2008 article "Building the iUtility"

In my judgment this is the best thinking within the
capitalist system.  The big issue avoided by Tomain and most
others making similar proposals is the impossibility to
maintain economic growth which is the impossibility to
maintain a capitalist system.  But even after capitalism,
the regulatory and planning principles developed by these
authors will be useful.

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