How We Work
Our Mission and Vision
Electricity Markets & Policy (EMP) informs public and private decision making within the U.S. electricity sector through independent, interdisciplinary analysis of critical electricity policy and market issues.
We envision a clean, efficient, reliable, and affordable electricity system that meets the United States’ diverse and growing energy needs.
The institutions, policies, and economics that define the current “rules of the road” in electricity markets are as vital to shaping electricity industry outcomes as are the technological advances. EMP aims to make an impact through rigorous analysis of the policy, economic, and technical issues that support a successful transition to a clean, efficient, reliable, and affordable electricity sector.
To do this, we employ a range of interdisciplinary methods and tools appropriate to the topic at hand, including primary data, economic, and statistical analyses; modeling; and survey and interview-based research. We provide insight and information to public and private decision makers through direct technical assistance, publications, and presentations, and we make our work publicly available to aid and inform all interested stakeholders.
The EMP Story
The origins of Berkeley Lab’s EMP department date back to the mid-1980s, when researchers began to evaluate the financial impacts of national appliance efficiency standards on electric utilities. These evaluations, which involved the development and application of end-use load forecasting and electricity production cost simulation tools, formed the technical basis for the development of integrated resource planning methods culminating with Berkeley Lab’s preparation of a handbook—Least-Cost Utility Planning, A Handbook for Public Utility Commissioners—for the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.
Throughout the 1990s, EMP researchers focused on technical, economic, and regulatory policy issues surrounding utility ratepayer-funded demand-side management programs. These included:
- assessing the total social costs of energy efficiency delivered through utility programs,
- development of evaluation methods for estimating energy efficiency program impacts,
- reviewing ratemaking innovations to address utility financial impacts from energy efficiency programs, such as decoupling and shared savings, and
- examining the continuing public policy rationale for utility involvement in promoting energy efficiency.
The EMP research team complemented these activities by conducting annual training courses for utility commission staff on integrated resource planning. In addition, the department completed early, pioneering assessments of:
- the state of the nascent energy services industry,
- the use of competitive bidding processes by utilities to acquire both supply and demand-side resources,
- wholesale electricity market design issues, and
- the financial aspects and public policies affecting renewable electricity resources development.
In the 2000s, EMP continued its focus on ratepayer-funded energy efficiency programs, but dramatically increased its focus on economic, grid integration, public acceptance, and public policy issues related to renewable electricity resources.
The department also began to examine program design and performance measurement issues for utility demand response programs, continued working with regulators on utility resource planning issues, and initiated major new efforts on utility business model and regulatory issues in the face of an evolving industry. Additionally, EMP initiated studies of electricity reliability, focusing on the economic costs of (un)reliability to the nation. Finally, EMP began to provide technical support to the U.S. Department of Energy for the preparation of national studies on the transmission grid, the 2003 U.S.-Canada blackout, and transmission congestion.