Policies for Infrastructure
 
  Create a Public Benefits Fund. A 2 mills surcharge on electricity—sometimes called a "wire charge"—would be used to match state investments in energy efficiency, renewable energy, research and development, and low-income consumer support. This could save 750 tWh in 2020: 416 power plants (800 power plants including state matching funds), and could generate $14 billion annually above current spending.

Intensive consumer education campaign.

Foster distributed energy generation. Among the policies required to maintain a level playing field between the large conventional power suppliers and the small renewable producers are:

  • National Interconnection Standard. FERC should publish a national interconnection standard and encourage state regulatory authorities to use this standard. This would eliminate a major barrier to combined heat and power (CHP) and other distributed energy sources. Some utilities require costly studies and unnecessarily expensive equipment, which discourages alternative sources of electricity.
  • Fair transmission and distribution rules.

Improve transmission lines. 3M has a new transmission line that can carry 1.5 to 3 times as much power as conventional: 750 MW per 500 miles. We lost 6 billion kW from transmission lines in 1999; total residential use was 1.1 billion kilowatts and total commercial use was 1.1 kilowatts.

Implement market-based electricity pricing. Giving consumers the option of using electricity at off-peak hours can reduce peak loads. Puget Sound Energy in Washington has implemented this for a number of its customers, many of whom are now running their dishwashers at 9:00 p.m. instead of 7:00 and saving money. Both real-time pricing and time-of-use pricing are effective ways of leveling demand load, which reduces the number of power plants necessary to avoid brown-outs.

Make long-term commitments. Businesses require a predictable market environment if they are going to risk capital in the marketplace. Consistent funding for renewable energy research, development, and deployment would prompt entrepreneurs to invest in emerging renewable technologies, secure in the knowledge that the incentives would not be withdrawn in next year's funding cycle.