The Making of Energy and Telecommunications Policy

By Georgia A. Persons | Go to book overview
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Chapter 3
Reforming Electric Utility Regulation: Policy Ideas in Conflict

THE ELECTRIC UTILITY INDUSTRY: STRUCTURE AND REGULATION

The electric power industry in the United States is large and diverse. In 1980, the greater portion of the industry -- a little more than 78 percent -- was comprised of privately owned or investor-owned corporations. Most of these were single corporations, although there were a few large holding companies which owned several subsidiary utilities. The Southern Company is one example of an electric utility holding company which owns, among other entities, the Georgia Power and Alabama Power companies. Publicly held utilities include federally, state, and municipally owned utilities and accounted for about 19.4 percent of the U.S. total in 1980. In that year, the breakdown was 10.48 percent, 5.07 percent, and 3.88 percent, respectively, for federally, state, and municipally owned electric generation. The largest of the federal projects include the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the Bonneville Power Authority. The largest state-owned utility is the Power Authority of the State of New York (PASNY). Municipally owned utilities are, as the title implies, owned by cities (including Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Antonio plus some county-owned systems in Washington state). Some utilities are cooperatively owned by groups of counties in rural areas and groups of townships, primarily in the New England area. Cooperatives contributed about 2.42 percent of electric power generated in the United States in 1980 ( Anderson 1981).

Regulation of the sale of electricity is divided between the federal government and the states. Interstate sales (generally wholesale, bulk power) is regulated by the federal government. At the time of the hearings under focus in this book ( 1974-1980), the pertinent federal regulatory body was the Federal Power Commission (FPC), later changed to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) under the Carter administration. Sale of electricity to end users

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