Sample Projects

A Sampling of Power Consulting Projects

Power Consulting has worked on a wide variety of projects over the last 30 years. Here we highlight eight from the last decade to provide an indication of the breadth and character of our consulting services.

    • Amenity-Supported Local Economic Vitality and the Apostle Islands and Picture Rocks National Lakeshores on Lake Superior
      • Client: National Park Service, 2007-2009

The National Park system was expanded in the 1960s partly to provide an economic stimulus to relatively depressed isolated rural areas that had national-class natural landscapes that might anchor a visitor-economy. This created a tension between the National Park Service’s commitment to preservation while also promoting visitation and use. When, in the early 2000s, two National Park Units on Lake Superior proposed additional protection for parts of the parks by adding them to the National Wilderness Preservation System, some local interests again saw a conflict between the local economic role of the National Parks and efforts at preservation. This project carefully reviewed the history of these two parks, the historical role they have played in the local economy, quantified the current economic impact they were having, and discussed future trends in the local economies and the roles of the National Parks in those economic trends.  [Report is being edited for publication.]

  • Estimating and Sharing the Site Rental Value Associated with Hydroelectric Facilities
    • Clients: Five American Indian Tribes and a state government, 2000-2009

Electric utilities make use of unique geographic locations along rivers to locate dams, generating facilities, and storage reservoirs. Often electric utility facilities are located on land owned by Indian tribes, state governments, or the federal government. That raises the question of the appropriate sharing of the benefits associated with the use of that particular site to generate electricity. The benefits (the site rental values) have to be accurately calculated and then a rational scheme for sharing those benefits among the various land and facilities owners has to be developed. Power Consulting has assisted tribal and state governments in this type of analysis. [Reports proprietary.]

  • The Economic Role of Metal Mining in Minnesota: Past, Present, and Future
    • Client: Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy & The Sierra Club, 2007

Mining offers among the highest paid blue collar jobs available and often also makes substantial payments to state and local governments. At the same time mining is landscape intensive, often leaving behind damaged landscapes that cannot be completely repaired. Mining can also be disruptive to communities because of its “boom and bust” character and the ongoing deployment of labor- displacing technologies. Because it offers both substantial monetary benefits and the risk of substantial environment risk and social disruption, a critical review of both benefits and costs is appropriate as a prelude to public policy decisions about the regulation and siting of mining operations. Power Consulting has provided analysis of this sort to a broad variety of communities across the United States.

  • Economic Realities in the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests [Oregon]: Possibilities for Economic Expansion and Diversification
    • Client:  The Tillamook Rainforest Coalition, 2003

Natural forests have historically provided valuable building and packaging materials and relatively well-paid jobs in the Pacific Northwest. As the economy and residential living patterns have changed, natural forests have also become important as the source of valuable environmental services including wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, watersheds and water supplies, open space, and scenic beauty. Good public forestry policy requires the weighing and balancing of all of the benefits and costs as a rational forest plan is developed. It is likely that at some sites, with appropriate harvest techniques, commercial timber harvest will provide the greatest net benefits while at other sites non-commercial considerations will dominate. Careful analysis is required for this determination.

  • Digging to Development? A Historical Look at Mining and Economic Development (2002)
  • Metals Mining and Sustainable Development in Central America: An Assessment of Benefits and Costs (2008)
    • Client:  Oxfam America

The development of mineral resources for export is often presented as the most reliable way for developing countries to trigger an ongoing process of economic development. The historical experiences of the United States, Canada, and Australia in the early stages of their industrialization are often offered as models for this type of mineral-driven economic development. At the same time, the economic performance of mineral-exporting countries over the last half-century does not appear to offer much support for this strategy. Power consulting was asked to critically explore the historical experiences of these now-developed countries as well as the contemporary experience of economies specialized in mineral development and export for lessons on how to maximize the benefits and minimize the costs associated with mineral development.

  • The Economic Impact of the Proposed Maine Woods National Park & Preserve
    • Client: RESTORE: The North Woods, 2001

Northern Maine has become a relatively depressed area as lumber and pulp mills have shutdown and employment in forest products has tumbled. This contrasts with the ongoing economic vitality of southern and coastal Maine. The ongoing sale and resale of Maine’s extensive private timber lands among various forest real estate companies has left many in Maine nervous about the future of its northern forestlands. Division of those forest, river, and lake lands for resort and summer home development seems inevitable. One proposal that seeks to stimulate economic diversification and renewed economic vitality while also protecting the integrity of those natural landscapes is to create a large Maine Woods National Park & Preserve in north-central Maine.  This proposal has sparked considerable controversy. Power Consulting was asked to critically explore the likely impacts of such a National Park on the economies of northern Maine.

  • The Economic Consequences of River and Wetland Restoration: A Conceptual Manual
    • Client: United States Environmental Protection Agency, 1998

The conceptual basis for local economic impact analysis was laid out in the early 1950s. The implementation of federal and state laws requiring environmental impact statements created a “cottage industry” for economic consulting firms to generate local economic impact studies following that mid-20th century formula. That approach has two fatal flaws. First, it focuses only on commercial benefits and costs, ignoring the role of environmental services within the economy and their contribution to local economic well-being and vitality. Second, it assumes a “dumb,” non-adaptable economy, the opposite of the primary virtues most economists see in a market economy. Conceptually correct local economic analysis requires a much broader approach to local economic analysis than the ubiquitous economic base approach that is regularly deployed. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asked Power Consulting and ECONorthwest to layout the conceptual approach to such local economic analysis that contemporary economics would support.

  • Electric Utility Resource Planning
    • Clients: Montana Power Company, NorthWestern Energy, 1988-2009

Inadequate electric utility planning in the 1970s led to the initiation of the construction of many coal-fired and nuclear generating facilities that ultimately the market for electricity would not support. Many of those facilities were abandoned after partial construction while others were completed but burdened their owners with massive financial losses. That experience led to the development of more analytical planning tools that came to be known as “Integrated Resource Planning.” For over 30 years Power Consulting has assisted utilities, utility regulators, and consumer groups in utility resource planning, cost analysis, and rate design, including a contemporary focus on energy efficiency, integration of renewable resources, and the implications of carbon regulation. Dr. Power helped initiate and then served on the Integrated Resource Planning Committee of the Montana Power Company through the 1990s and the NorthWestern Energy Technical Advisory Committee through the first decade of the 2000s.