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 cracks in the electricity sector’s legal foundation that have been exposed by changes in the industry’s structure and available technologies. We support the development of state and federal policies that reflect the industry’s evolution and enable a cleaner grid.

As described below, the bulk of our work in this area falls into three interrelated programs: State Power Project, Unlocking Distributed Energy Resources, and the Power Shift Network. Other work includes filings at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

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.

In addition to the statepowerproject.org website, related work on state authority and FERC-regulated interstate power markets includes:

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 existing regulatory practices were designed without consideration of such opportunities, and may erect barriers to deployment of these resources. Regulators have numerous potential paths forward to unlock the values that DERs can provide to the system, ranging from modifying retail rate designs to making fundamental reforms to state utility regulation.

Power Shift Network

Power Shift connects expert communities – energy and environmental law scholars, utility regulators, technical analysts, and policymakers – around a legal vision for tomorrow’s grid. We bring these communities together through workshops, webinars, and other forums to exchange ideas, drive cutting-edge scholarship, and translate that scholarship into practical tools and policy solutions.

A sampling of Power Shift projects includes:

  • Summary Report of a Discussion Marking the 80th Anniversary of the Enactment of FPA Title II. Discusses the challenges of governing an evolving industry with an eighty-year old legal framework, identified opportunities for continued adaptation and reform, and suggested topics that warrant further research and discussion.
  • Webinar on Carbon Prices in RTO Markets. Judy Chang (Brattle Group) provides an overview of the market mechanics of carbon pricing in electricity markets, while Steve Weissman (Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy) and Professor Joel Eisen (University of Richmond School of Law) discuss FERC’s legal authority to allow a carbon price in the markets it regulates.
  • Webinar on RTO Governance Professor Elizabeth Wilson (Univ. of Minnesota) joins Jeff Dennis and Suedeen Kelly (Akin Gump) to discuss the history of RTOs and case studies about their governance and decision making processes.

Other Documents