How to soak ratepayers: play favorites on electricity sources and shield big utilities from risk

My latest newsletter talks about three states where energy cronyism has gotten so bad that ratepayers are having to pay higher rates for power plants that either will never come online or lasted only six days. In each case, politicians sought to protect the utility — Duke Energy — and its shareholders from bearing the risks of the new plants, sloughing it off instead on the backs of ratepayers who are stuck having to do business with the monopoly provider.

If that seems familiar, it is: “Thanks to Gov. Pat McCrory and the General Assembly’s (bipartisan) proud opposition to energy reform in North Carolina, ratepayers here are in danger of joining them.”

In conclusion, I write:

It’s no wonder these flops are occurring in an environment where utility executives and shareholders are completely insulated from the real risks of their projects. It might as well be a video game to them: a risk-free fantasy land where major decisions can go wrong without the decision maker suffering any negative repercussion other than having to start over. They still need money to pay the designers — the legislators — but they’ve got ratepayers to give them that. Where are they going to go? They’re trapped in the game.

Jon Sanders / Director of Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...

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