If in doubt, make it difficult. I see it time and again in business. The more complex a problem, the more difficult the solution must be.
The electric industry is complex – getting power safely made and delivered takes care. We make it complicated with the layers we add.
An existing alphabet soup of agencies and state organizations regulate power. FERC, NRC, PUC, PSC, EPA, DOE, NERC, CFTC, PHMSA, BLM, BOEM … Some Carolina policymakers want to add another alphabet soup agency. It’s an RTO (regional transmission organization), a multi-state pricing agency over our energy system.
Complex can be mapped and managed. Complicated adds trouble and cost. We impose complicated on ourselves and pay dearly in the end.
When people face a problem, psychology says it’s human nature to ignore simple solutions. The sense is that if something is difficult to understand or explain, by gosh it must be smart. So, make it complicated.
Here we are approaching an off-year election in 2022 just after significant 2021 energy problems caused by deep freezes, historic floods, intense hurricanes, heatwaves, wildfires, outages, and power shortages.
These headlines create outrage. The outraged then demand action. Government folks scratch that itch. After all, headlines demand something be done. Anything. For instance, some Carolina policymakers want to add an RTO, a bureaucracy. More alphabet soup.
Policymakers, please don’t opt for complicated. Don’t add costs. Don’t add uncertainty. The state utility/regulatory construct created a grid called one of the greatest engineering feats of the last century. It provides affordable everyday power to almost all citizens and in a hugely capital-intense industry.
Our nation seems to be in a frenzy to add layers, assign watchers, and add observers to account for the watchers. Adding layers is an effort to offload responsibility. Or maybe to preen oneself as a “deep thinker.” Be sure, though, that the systems are in place to work if the people do.
The current regulatory process holds utilities’ feet to the fire when all parties do their jobs. Is it perfect? Never has been. (Not much is.) But adding layers blurs accountability, lessens efficiency, and creates more loopholes and room for error.
Ask yourself: When does adding government-led red tape make something better, cheaper, and more efficient? The alphabet soup of watchers doesn’t need to grow. Instead, properly use the tools we have.