Electricity Law Initiative

The electricity sector is subject to comprehensive regulation through an interlocked federal-state framework. This legal architecture was written generations ago, and many assumptions embedded in these century-old laws no longer hold true.

The Electricity Law Initiative of the Environmental & Energy Law Program looks for opportunities to align the electricity sector’s legal foundation with modern clean energy technologies and business models. We advance clean energy by informing public policy discussions with rigorous research and innovative legal arguments.

As described below, the bulk of our work in this area falls into three interrelated programs: State Power Project, Unlocking Distributed Energy Resources, and Catalyzing Transmission Development. A portion of our work does not fit into these categories and is included in the Additional ELI Work page. We have also consolidated all of our filings at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Each filing is also listed under the relevant issue area.

State Power Project  At statepowerproject.org, we track recent and ongoing litigation challenging state policies as unconstitutional or preempted by federal law. We have also developed guidance on how states can work within legal limits to achieve energy policy goals. Our State Power Project work includes regulatory filings and papers about the interplay between state clean energy programs and federally regulated power markets. We argue that that federal law is compatible with state clean ambitions and federal regulators can harmonize market rules with state clean energy programs. In addition to the statepowerproject.org website, related work on state authority and FERC-regulated interstate power markets is located on our State Power Project page.

Unlocking Distributed Energy Resources  Advancements in business models and technologies of distributed energy resources (DER) open new possibilities for electricity generation, transmission, and distribution. Many regulatory practices were designed without consideration of such opportunities, and may erect barriers to deployment of these resources. Our Unlocking Distributed Resources work includes a primer on traditional utility ratemaking that frames DER debates and explores state and federal jurisdiction over DER compensation. Read this work on our Unlocking Distributed Energy Resources page.

Catalyzing Transmission Development  Interstate transmission development is fragmented by local utility service territories. Parochial interests are impeding large-scale transmission projects, which in turn is slowing wind and solar deployment. The combination of discriminatory state laws and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission transmission planning rules shields utilities from competition within their local service territories and induces them to focus on developing small-scale local projects. These protectionist policies reinforce an anachronistic approach to transmission planning that is failing to develop the regional transmission necessary to effectively decarbonize the power sector and mitigate the impacts of extreme weather. Our work Catalyzing Transmission Development includes a law review article that details the history of transmission regulation and regulatory filings that urge FERC to address anti-competitive utility conduct. This work is found on our Catalyzing Transmission Development page.

Additional ELI Work  Some of our work does not fit into the categories above and can be read on our Additional ELI Work page.

FERC Filings  The Electricity Law Initiative regularly submits comments in FERC proceedings. These are listed separately in the relevant subject area and are also consolidated on our FERC Filings page.