A new initiative to modernize state-level regulation of the energy industry has backing from a wide range of stakeholders. The Smart Electric Power Alliance brought together the players to promote industry innovation.
The energy industry is evolving, and so are its regulatory needs. The problem, according to industry organizations? If regulatory processes in the 50 states don’t keep pace with the changing sector, innovation could suffer.
A new initiative led by the nonprofit Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) says current processes and practices need to be updated as the industry develops new technologies to deliver electricity to communities across the country—particularly from renewable sources.
In the initiative, dubbed Renovate, SEPA has brought together stakeholders from utility companies, state regulatory agencies and legislatures, and consumer advocates in a task force to press for regulatory changes “to foster innovation to build a modern grid and promote a modern society,” according to the initiative’s website. Partnering organizations include the Edison Electric Institute, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the National Governors Association, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, among others.
“Through Renovate, we have a great opportunity to come together as an industry to resolve regulatory challenges in order to better serve our customers and the communities we serve,” said Adam Benshoff, EEI’s executive director of regulatory affairs, in a news release. “The key is finding solutions that keep energy reliable, affordable, secure, and increasingly clean for everyone in a rapidly changing world.”
The task force is charged with identifying solutions, managing risk and uncertainty, and pinpointing learning-curve challenges for stakeholders, with the goal of easing roadblocks to improvements in the electrical grid.
“Our nation’s clean energy transition will go faster and more smoothly if we can change how utilities are regulated, so that rather than relying so heavily on trial-type procedures, final decisions reflect more flexible and collaborative approaches,” said Ralph Cavanagh, codirector of NRDC’s Climate and Clean Energy Program. “Otherwise costs and delays will remain excessive, and public involvement will suffer.”
In an interview with Energy Central, SEPA CEO Julia Hamm noted that there hasn’t been much evolution in energy regulatory structures, especially at the state level, even as industry innovations have started to pick up.
“Our regulatory institutions that were created a century ago for one-way distribution of electrons and centralized power production facilities need to evolve to handle this new pace and the added complexity of today’s market,” she said.