States are increasingly recognizing equity as a goal of utility regulation, going beyond traditionally stated objectives to ensure that electricity systems are reliable, safe, and fairly priced. But they are just beginning to grapple with how to achieve this goal.
A new report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), Advancing Equity in Utility Regulation, provides four cutting-edge perspectives on advancing equity in electric utility regulation. The report is the subject of a panel on November 9, 2021, at the annual meeting of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. A free Berkeley Lab public webinar on the report is forthcoming.
State actions are critical both to address historical inequities and to ensure equitable benefits and burdens, especially in the area of energy. In a general sense, equity is just and fair inclusion. In terms of how we power our homes and our economy, equity is the fair distribution of the benefits and burdens of energy production and consumption. Energy justice is about social and economic participation in the energy system, as well as remediating burdens on marginalized communities.
The authors propose a variety of approaches to address inequities in the electricity sector. Berkeley Lab’s Lisa Schwartz (pictured), strategic advisor and former deputy leader of the Electricity Markets and Policy Department, is the project manager and technical editor of the report, which features essays by:
- Chandra Farley, Partnership for Southern Equity
- John Howat and Jenifer Bosco, National Consumer Law Center
- Nidhi Thakar and Jake Wise, Portland General Electric
- Jean Su, Center for Biological Diversity
Their recommendations address stakeholder engagement, defining "public interest," intervenor funding, electricity infrastructure siting, access to distributed energy technologies, consumer protections, bill affordability programs, rate design, program design, and metrics to track and evaluate results of policies, regulations, and programs intended to deliver equitable outcomes.
Advancing Equity in Utility Regulation is part of a series called Future Electric Utility Regulation, which taps leading thinkers to grapple with complex regulatory issues for electricity. The report was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy–Solar Energy Technologies Office and Office of Electricity–Energy Resilience Division as part of DOE’s Grid Modernization Initiative. An advisory group including state utility regulators, utilities, consumer advocates, environmental justice organizations, and other experts provides guidance for the report series.