Economics students hear from energy industry leader

One of the benefits of learning in Atlanta, the capital of the South, is direct access to industry experts.

Narin Smith, PhD

During the final weeks of the semester, students in Dr. Cassandra Copeland‘s class “The Economics of Antitrust Law” (ECO 423) and members of the Economics Club met with Narin Smith, PhD, director of market planning at Georgia Power. Dr. Smith has had an impressive 20-year career with The Southern Company, working in various divisions including System Planning, Forecasting and Market Research, Corporate Analysis and Business Development, and Finance and Enterprise Risk Management.

“Economics of Antitrust Law” focuses on the structure of business and the law that governs it, and exposes students to how industries organize and markets work. Generally defined, industrial organization is the study of the structure of firms within any given industry; their corresponding strategic decisions and conduct; and the resulting performance of the industry. In the class, students analyze firm behavior, competitive and imperfectly competitive markets, barriers to entry, pricing, strategic behavior, horizontal and vertical integration, advertising and information, antitrust law, regulation and deregulation, and international trade and the implications of antitrust law.

“The goal of inviting Dr. Smith to speak to my class and the Economics Club students was to allow Oglethorpe students to hear firsthand about the utility industry and the regulatory agencies that govern it,” said Dr. Copeland.

To prepare for Dr. Smith’s visit, students were given a writing assignment based on the article “Federal Regulators Rule Against Trump Administration on Power Plants” (Wall Street Journal, 1/10/18). Students addressed the environment of the power utility as a natural monopoly and the FERC decision against the Trump administration’s proposal to support struggling coal and nuclear power plants.

During her presentation, Dr. Smith discussed the nature of power generation and the successive stages of production in transmission and distribution of power, as well as the goals and impact of rate of return regulation on power utilities, like Georgia Power, and the impact of regulatory policies on the industry. She shared generation and transmission maps across the U.S. to show how costs are affected by the location of power plants and the transmission network. Dr. Smith also addressed the role of the Public Service Commission as well as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and presented on the relative costs of generating power via the multiple sources of energy: nuclear, natural gas, coal, wind, solar, and hydro.

“The students were able to ask questions regarding federal policy and the anticipated impact on Georgia Power’s markets directly,” said Dr. Copeland. “(And they) commented on how clearly they saw the connections between what we do in the classroom through theory and research analysis and how these topics are applied in practice.”

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