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Home > Feature Articles > Alternative Energy Solutions

Energy Transmission Bottlenecks

Electricity Transmission and Petroleum Refining: Assessing Vulnerability

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In April, 2007, Diana L. Moss, Ph.D. Vice President of the Amerivcan Antitrust Institute presented "Electricity Transmission and Petroleum Refining: Assessing Vulnerability" at the Energy Markets in the 21st Century at the Federal Trade commission. This is a rough summary of her presentation to identify key issues in transmission and refining.

Transmission is a vital link between generation and the consumer of the power or fuel. Many factors impact cost and availability -- and the vulnerability of the infrstructure to deliver steady supplies of electricity or fuels.

Factors contributing to vulnerability include restructuring, environmental and resource factors, bottlenecks and market structure/M&A.

Transmission of electricity is affected by the increase in generation per circuit mile of trnasmission and an increase in Transmission Loading Relief (TLR) events due to congestion. Black-outs carry significant costs.

Refining has seen an increase in operating capacity since the 1990s, but unplanned refinery outages confuse the story.

Solutions include investment in the infrastructure through new capacity and upgrades or expansions to existing capacity. Transmission increases capacity and reduces losses and congestion through line upgrades, distributed generation and refining strives for net higher volumes of ligher refined products through computerization, advanced catalysts and additional processing unites.

Trends saw decreases during much of the 1990s with only recent increases in infrastructure.

Factors contributing to transmission vulnerability include restructuring -- transmission open access and generation dergulation. These processes produce more intensive use of the grid and longer-distance transmission of power. Restructuring also changes incentives to plan for and invest in new transamission capacity.

Worsening bottlenecks are attributed to aging infrastructure with unequal distribution of capacity ownership, as well as a key strategic variable being investment in relieving constraints.

The transmission field experiences significant waves of M&A in electricity and petroleum, along with a high degreeof vertical integration in "generation + transmission" and "refining + marketing". Market structure also exhibits concentrated regional refining and electricity markets.

New technology and more efficient mangement of complex systems is worth study. And merger-related price effcts that result from horizontal and vertical consolidation could have an impact on energy markets.

Links to additional resources:

Investment in transmission infrastructure:

Transmission loading relief events:

Investment in refining infrastructure:

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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