Electric Utilities


New York State Electric Utility Resilience: Proceedings Before the Public Service Commission

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, which struck in November 2012, the Sabin Center spearheaded an effort to overhaul New York City’s electricity, gas, and steam distribution grids so that they would be better adapted to a changed and changing climate. That effort yielded a settlement with Consolidated Edison (Con Edison), approved by the New York Public Service Commission in February 2014, and a multi-billion-dollar adaptation plan. The Sabin Center is now engaged in an ongoing effort to ensure that Con Edison fulfills its obligations under that settlement.

Featured Publications

Legal Tools For Climate Adaptation Advocacy: The Electric Grid and Its Regulators – FERC and State Public Utility Commissions, Payal Nanavati & Justin Gundlach (September 2016)

This chapter is written for advocates seeking a more thorough integration of adaptation considerations into regulation of the electric grid. Part 1 describes the grid, its regulators, and their functions. Part 2 highlights impacts of climate change that are expected to impair grid operations: increased temperatures and heat waves, changes in precipitation, storms, and sea-level rise. Part 3 discusses substantive proposals to adapt to climate change impacts. Part 4 summarizes the basic regulatory proceedings and identifies opportunities for an advocate to present evidence and arguments during such proceedings.

Electricity Sector Adaptation to Heat Waves, Sofia Aivalioti (January 2015)

This white paper takes an up-close look at the impacts of extreme heat events on the electricity generation, transmission and distribution system and makes a series of recommendations for adaptive responses that can help states and localities avoid blackouts and brownouts and the risks to public health, public safety and local economies they pose. The recommendations include sweeping technological fixes and grid modernization, behavioral changes by utilities and end users alike, and managing the complexity of a multi-scalar, multi-sectoral problem through transparency and communication. The paper also provides comparative case studies of heat waves and adaptation responses in France, California, New York City and Australia.

Envisioning Resilient Electrical Infrastructure: A Policy Framework for Incorporating Future Climate Change into Electricity Sector Planning, Sam Nierop (December 2013)

Climate change needs to be incorporated in future designs of the electricity sector. This paper argues for a policy framework in which utilities perform electrical climate change impact assessments that evaluate to what extent electrical assets are vulnerable to future climate change. Based on this assessment, electrical climate change adaptation plans should be formulated by the utility in cooperation with utility regulators, municipalities and supralocal governments. A collaborative process is essential, because adaptation measures need to be tailored to regional circumstances, and many types of adaptation measures require governmental approval. An adapted version of this paper appeared in Environmental Science and Policy (May 2014).

Federal Regulatory Barriers to Grid-Deployed Energy Storage, Andrew H. Meyer (May 2013)

New energy storage technologies have the potential to fundamentally alter the operation of our electricity system. The emergence of new technologies is matched by an emergence of federal and state regulations, but federal regulations threaten to undermine the successful deployment of storage on the grid. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regulates the rates, terms, and conditions of interstate transmission and interstate wholesale energy transactions. This article discusses FERC regulations of storage and proposes a way forward for improved regulation.


State Public Utility Commissions’ Powers to Advance Energy Efficiency, Michael Gerrard (September 2013)

This column summarizes the variety of powers and techniques of PUCs to advance energy efficiency. Published in Volume 248 of New York Law Journal.


FERC Order 1000 as a New Tool to Promote Energy Efficiency and Demand Response, Shelley Welton & Michael Gerrard (Environmental Law Reporter, November 2012)

Order 1000 has been widely touted for its potential to help update our national transmission grid to meet the increasing demand for new transmission created by policies promoting renewable energy. Less remarked upon is the role that Order 1000 could play in ensuring more thoughtful consideration during regional transmission planning of how energy efficiency and demand response policies—critical demand reduction strategies—affect the need for new transmission. This article describes some of Order 1000’s key planning reforms, discusses how the order can facilitate consideration of these demand-side policies, and offers suggestions on the ways that regional transmission planners might use Order 1000 as an opportunity to update transmission planning to better match our nation’s evolving priorities for the electricity grid. The paper is accompanied by a spreadsheet collecting potentially relevant energy efficiency, demand response, and renewable energy laws, prepared by SCCCL summer legal intern Kathleen Kline.

Public Utilities Commissions & Energy Efficiency: A Handbook of Legal and Regulatory Tools for Commissioners & Advocates, Shelley Welton, ed. (August 2012)

This report examines the range of legal and regulatory tools that state PUCs have to promote energy efficiency. It draws from a broad and deep body of literature on the topic, an examination of relevant state laws and regulations, and interviews with experts in the private and public sectors. The handbook sets forth a wide range of policies that PUCs around the country are using to successfully promote energy efficiency, including setting energy efficiency targets, aligning utility incentives with energy efficiency goals, financing energy efficiency, resource planning, demand response policies, and incorporating energy efficiency into state environmental policy act and siting procedures. The online Public Utilities Commissions Bibliography gathers together the resources used to produce our handbook into an easy-to-access online format.

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