Last August, this column examined the future of electric power generation in the U.S. and cited both emergence of Independent Power Providers (IPPs) in the deregulated environment of the 1990s and a growing trend to distribute electric power generation using smaller (under 10 MW) and more efficient plants. New turbines up to 85% or more efficient in cogeneration are better than 35% heat recovery experienced by old utilities. The facts cited in August still exist and are often mismanaged by state and local political processes trying to depress prices artificially to gain voter favor.
Today, we have a related problem needing attention: that of improving electric transmission systems authorized by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), a more competent regulatory body than lower levels of government, and essential because of the need for reliability and connectivity throughout the power grid. For North American industry and individuals, a fundamental restructuring of how electric power is delivered is underway, so get ready for the RTOs (regional transmission organizations), the long-haul carriers-the equivalent for the electric power sector to bulklinks in telecommunications or natural gas or petroleum product pipelines for fuel. RTOs are an important restructured link in the energy system, created by FERC Order 2000, to increase access to supplies and thereby reduce user's electricity prices.