Author: Jason Stane and others       Published: 1/21/2021       Utility Dive

The following is a contributed article by Jason Stanek, Chairman, Maryland Public Service Commission; Philip L. Bartlett II, Chairman, Maine Public Utilities Commission; Joseph L. Fiordaliso, President, New Jersey Board of Public Utilities; Marissa Paslick Gillet, Chairman, Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority; Willie L. Phillips, Chairman, Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia; Ted J. Thomas, Chairman, Arkansas Public Service Commission; Rebecca Cameron Valcq, Chair, Public Service Commission of Wisconsin; Hayley Williamson, Chair, Public Utilities Commission of Nevada; Dallas Winslow, Chair, Delaware Public Service Commission; and Carrie K. Zalewski, Chairman, Illinois Commerce Commission.

As chairs of public utility commissions, we begin the new year with optimism as it presents an opportunity to leverage lessons learned last year and move toward strengthening federal-state electricity regulatory relationships and enhancing the cooperation and collaboration between our respective commissions.

Technological advancements, market forces and consumer demands are driving one of the most significant power sector transitions in recent memory. States are adopting aggressive Renewable Portfolio Standards, Clean Energy Standards and greenhouse gas targets, as well as pushing to electrify the transportation sector. Despite new challenges, states are continuing to serve as incubators of innovation, nurturing the development and maturation of energy resources that will satisfy new public policies and meet evolving customer needs.

In recent years, FERC has been helpful in opening doors to advance some new resources, such as energy storage and distributed energy. Likewise, grid operators have taken steps to improve their markets. It is imperative that these doors remain open and that, together, we can effectuate the successful implementation of these policies with regulatory clarity, coordination and cooperation.

The optimal path forward calls for states and FERC to take steps to work in concert to manage their complex and sometimes varied regulatory roles, looking beyond their respective retail and wholesale jurisdictions, and working cooperatively in a coordinated manner, where the actions of one regulator necessarily impact another.

Communication will be key, and it can be facilitated through forums for state and federal regulators to discuss matters of common interest, and to provide clarity and define expectations in advancing policy objectives. The successful FERC-NARUC Collaborative represents one of several possible paths forward that allow state and federal regulators to identify priorities and commit to working toward common goals.

The autonomy and independence of states allows each to be a laboratory of democracy, and to be a vehicle for the expression of the different wills of the people who live in them. However, implementing policies individually on a state-by-state basis is often more costly and less efficient than implementing them on a multi-state basis. Advancing like-minded policies through regional markets has proven to be cost effective in the past, and states should continue to use regional state committees and organizations to develop beneficial policies, and to carry those policy preferences to the ISO/RTO stakeholder process.

Ultimately, success will require leadership. We call on federal and state electricity regulators to explore a forum where pressing policy issues can be discussed in a way that improves coordination and understanding across the jurisdictional lines. Serving and protecting the public interest during this time of transition is paramount and should be a priority for all of us in this new year. We pledge our support for a mutually beneficial process and look forward to the road ahead.