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James Fine's Perspective

Jamie FinePerspective

James Fine
Economist,
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)

 

Forward thinking utilities see that societal demands, including codified environmental and social goals, moral and ethical obligations, and sound economic policy, such as energy independence, can conflict with the traditional utility job of delivering cheap reliable power. Anymore in much of the county, not only must the lights go on, but they must be powered with green, affordable electricity generated from variable renewable resources, and regulated utilities must gleefully help to deliver “negawatts”. Utilities are being asked to push hard on demand response and efficiency before new generation investments will be approved by PUCs. Furthermore, utilities are expected to embrace their competition, one rooftop at a time, while paying a market price for greenhouse gas pollution. What may seem to be chaos EDF embraces as the dissonant sounds of an industry in transition and the overture preceding a cacophony of innovation.

With new smart grid and communications technologies, EDF recognizes that PUCs will need to set the stage for new utility businesses. In so doing, several principles ought to be maintained: (a) establish level playing fields for competition amongst incumbents and new industry entrants, (b) transition aggressively but voluntarily to dynamic, time-variant, location-adjusted retail electricity rates and true cost unbundled pricing of services and products on both sides of the meter, and (c) establish performance-based incentives linked to social and environmental goals in ways that inspire utilities to reduce generation inefficiencies, costs, risks, and emissions while supporting self-generation, storage and vehicle charging.

When asking utilities to embrace uncertain futures and to accept new risks, the upside opportunities will need to be salient, significant and within reach. EDF believes new utility opportunities must be structured to flourish while new demand-side clean energy begins to dominate. Eventually, consumers can become prosumers, selectively buying, selling, storing, enhancing and generating electricity in response to dynamic energy prices and weather conditions, and utilities can develop lucrative new services models to meet the needs of prosumers, traditional consumers, and new customers, such as drivers and future generations.

Biography

James "Jamie" Fine works to reduce the impacts of energy systems used to power buildings, transport and service people, and produce and move goods.

His areas of research and advocacy include design and implementation of market-based policy, modeling the economic, air quality, and health consequences of policy decisions, deploying smart grid for environmental and electricity customer benefits, and facilitating the meaningful involvement of community stakeholders in environmental planning.