Sunday, May 10, 2009

Where's the Transit in Electric Grid Discussion?

I'm all about this rethinking of the national energy grid. But why are we not looking further into connecting the grid back into transit. Why not more money for trolley buses and that connection to the grid? It seems to me that it would be a great for two reasons... seeing the wires reminds you that you're being clean and we also forget that transit used to be directly tied to the electric companies. It's possible that this could be the way to fund transit as well. Back again to Scott Bernstein's guest post on how to bring back the streetcars:
As we've discussed on this list, only by switching from liquid fuels to non-motorized and electric transportation can we meet any of our energy independence or climate goals.

And only by reducing dependence on individual vehicles to a greater reliance on mass transportation can we transition to a nation of great cities and regions.

Here are some tools to think about in framing methods of getting there--

1. Local electric distribution utilities never lost the legal right to power electric transportation; all 50 states have a common method of enabling electric distribution utility financing of all or part of the necessary systems, which is a rate filing to help finance these systems. This offers opportunities for cities, transit operators, developers, metropolitan planning organizations and states to build new kinds of financing mechanisms to more systematically support local and regional surface transportation infrastructure. A similar case can be made for local governments and special service districts (which own and operate almost all of the nation's airports outside of NJ, MD, Alaska and HI) to partner with the electric utility industry to support the infrastructure necessary for inter-city high speed rail.

2. Deregulation of the electric utility industry has been a mixed bag, but in over a dozen states a fait accompli. So in a sense this is an opening to partner with contemporary holding companies too. These companies need to re-certify their "market-based" rate making authority every three years with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, another opening for the new administration to address potential urban consequences of energy and climate policies.

3. PUCHA was repealed in the 2005 Energy Policy Act ( one outcome has been at least 100 municipalization efforts, 20 successful, most recently Winter Park Fl, but the repeal also opens up the potential for other kinds of ownership too)

4. A national debate on the future shape and location and purposes of the electrical grid has started and needs an urban voice, no less than does the analogous debate about transportation infrastructure.

5. A push by leaders in the public accounting profession and in the investment community for more transparency in State and municipal accounting led to the creation of the Government Accounting Standards Board in 1984, and their rules on accounting for infrastructure investment, aka Statement 34, implemented from 1999 to present, lay a first-time basis for disclosure of the life-cycle costs associated with different types and patterns of major capital investments. More recently, a push for better state and local disclosure in the waning days of the Bush administration, has been taken up in the Senate and House Banking committees. This is a real opportunity to show well how the hidden assets of cities and urban places perform.

1 comment:

njh said...

People love the idea of cars - it's been sold to them for 100 years, and they believe it. Personal freedom, no one in control etc. The media also love cars, because they are written by mostly car drivers (statistically), and car companies pay for expensive ads. Thus, internet, electric grid cars, ra ra!