“I believe that this case is the most important case regarding the energy system in this country that the Supreme Court has ever yet to consider.” Strong words from Former Federal Regulatory Energy Commission (FERC) Chairman Jon Wellinghoff (even though the last two landmark cases involving the nation’s electric grid were from 1923 and 1944).

The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether FERC may regulate “demand response” payments offered to electric utility customers to reduce their electricity use during periods of high demand. State and local governments may save money through participating in demand response programs. But the Electric Power Supply Association argued, and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, that FERC’s Order 745 encroaches on states’ regulatory authority.

CSG South

On June 2, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule under the authority of Section 111(d) of the federal Clean Air Act. This Proposed Rule would establish state-specific goals to limit greenhouse gas emissions by setting firm carbon reduction standards that each state would have to meet beginning in 2020 and accelerating through 2030. While it is unclear whether the EPA will revise its Final Rule, which is expected by July 2015, many states in the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) of The Council of State Governments already have enacted legislation addressing the Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule and its regulations.

This SLC Issue Alert provides an overview of some measures taken by state legislatures in the SLC region to address the Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule through the 2014 legislative session. This Issue Alert is not a legal analysis of Section 111(d), nor does it take a position on compliance pathways or the EPA’s proposed state-specific carbon dioxide (CO2) goals.

Last week the President unveiled his $4 trillion budget for Fiscal Year 2016.  The budget highlights the President’s continued support on several energy and environmental topics with emphasis on clean energy.  He reiterated his support for the Climate Action Plan he released in 2013 and called for an increase in funding support for the plan. 

Several agencies made the request for larger...

Transactive energy, a technique for managing the generation, consumption or flow of electric power within an electric power system, relies on a market-based approach to promote grid reliability.  These systems increasingly are being used to promote renewable energy sources, recognizing that technologies permit customers to work together to shift generation load and demand. This eCademy session provides an opportunity for policymakers to learn about the evolving technique and its potential implications for states. 

The Environmental Protection Agency in June released the Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule under the authority of 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. This proposed rule allows states to meet state-specific goals to limit greenhouse gas emissions. As states consider options for meeting these goals, concerns have emerged that the proposed rule could result in higher energy costs for utility customers, or ratepayers. This webinar examines energy efficiency opportunities that can help states achieve their emissions targets with minimum impact to their energy portfolio.

The general consensus is that federal and state regulators should not be designing national energy policies absent direction from Congress and state legislatures. Public opinion generally supports lower emission levels for generation units, increased support for energy conservation/efficiency, and no increase in electric rates. The apparent renaissance of natural gas production and nuclear generation--and the absence of a cost-effective clean coal technology--presage at least a short-term continuation of transitioning away from coal-fired generation.

State and federal policymakers in the past could be confident that America’s energy demands would increase every year. Now the future isn’t as clear.  Barbara Tyran, director of Washington, D.C., and state relations with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), said the Great Recession, a greater use of locally produced power, a growing interest in energy efficiency and the unprecedented increase in the natural gas supply have turned once staid assumptions about the future of energy on their head. Tyran was one of the featured speakers at a CSG policy academy about natural gas development last week and noted that all three branches of the federal government are currently engaged in shaping energy and environmental outcomes that will impact the future electricity and natural gas sectors. 

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that The Council of State Governments encourages states to continue to evaluate the energy efficiency and demand reduction opportunities that can be achieved with electric utility grid modernization efforts, subject to the unique and specific circumstances that exist in their respective state.

States and local governments provide more than1,000 incentive programs to encourage energy efficiency. Some economists suggest the benefits of these programs are questionable and some efficiency mandates or programs wind up encouraging more, rather than less, energy consumption - which is referred to as a rebound effect. The concept has stirred strong debate in research groups and think tanks that provide lessons for states as they develop new or monitor existing efficiency programs.

The crystal ball is murky when it comes to predictions about energy consumption, markets and future trends.

Consider hydraulic fracturing, for example. Ten years ago, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated resource potential in the Marcellus Shale region was off by 70 times, according to current federal surveys.

“I think it’s essentially impossible to anticipate what energy markets are going to look like in 20 or 30 years, because the rate of change in technology and potential for climate change are so great and so disruptive that the world is going to be fundamentally different than it is now,” said John Petersen, the founder of the Arlington Institute, a nonprofit research organization that focuses on future global trends.

Pages