Issue Area

Utilities and the Grid

Overview

Utility policy to decarbonize the power sector is fundamental to addressing the climate crisis because so much of reducing greenhouse gasses requires electrifying other sectors, like transportation and buildings. Outdated utility regulations are keeping fossil fuels online and energy costs high. State legislators are addressing this issue by changing regulator mandates, improving utility oversight, and adjusting ratemaking processes. 

While states set their own clean energy goals and utility policy, wholesale markets and electricity transmission between states are regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). In many cases, this is organized through Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs) or Independent Service Operators (ISOs). RTOs are responsible for managing the supply of electricity in real-time, as well as long-term planning. The decisions they make play a huge role in not only how state policy is implemented, but also in the cost of electricity. State legislators are increasingly engaging with their RTOs to ensure that state policy goals are protected in regional markets.

NCEL Point of Contact
Clara Summers

Climate and Energy Program Manager

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Key Facts

There are 3 main types of utility ownership models: Investor-Owned Utilities, Publicly-owned or Municipal Utilities, or Rural Electric Coops.

Approximately 192 million people live in regions served by an RTO or ISO.

Improved transmission will allow for more distributed energy resources like solar to be connected to the grid, creating better access to cleaner, cheaper, and more local energy resources.

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Resources

NCEL Resources

Online Resources

Policies for the People Policy Exchange

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People's Utility Justice Playbook

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RTO Backgrounder

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What is Grid Modernization

An overview of grid modernization from the Conservation Law Foundation

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Utilities for Dummies

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