During the past three years, government and private organizations have issued more than a dozen studies of the benefits and costs of Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs). Most of these studies have focused on benefits that can be readily estimated using traditional production-cost simulation techniques, which compare the cost of centralized dispatch under an RTO to dispatch in the absence of an RTO, and on costs associated with RTO start-up and operation. Taken as a whole, it is difficult to draw definitive conclusions from these studies because they have not examined potentially much larger benefits (and costs) resulting from the impacts of RTOs on reliability management, generation and transmission investment and operation, and wholesale electricity market operation. This report:
- Describes the history of benefit-cost analysis of FERC electricity restructuring policies;
- Reviews current practice by analyzing 11 RTO benefit-cost studies that were published between 2002 and 2004 and makes recommendations to improve the documentation of data and methods and the presentation of findings in future studies that focus primarily on estimating short-run economic impacts; and
- Reviews important impacts of FERC policies that have been overlooked or incompletely treated by recent RTO benefit-cost studies and the challenges to crafting more comprehensive assessments of these impacts based on actual performance, including impacts on reliability management, generation and transmission investment and operation, and wholesale electricity market operation.