I know what you are thinking. We're in an age of deregulation, so the role of the state public utility commission is diminishing. You feel you can cut back on your regulatory affairs staff and concentrate on your business - on your marketing plan. Well, think again.
"Deregulation" doesn't quite describe what's happening today in energy and telecommunications. In reality, we are restructuring, not deregulating. And restructuring will raise a number of difficult issues that, like it or not, must survive review by your friendly state regulator. For these reasons, it's more important than ever to build and maintain good relationships with regulators.
During the decade just past, I was one of the country's longest-serving chairmen at a state PUC. Now, as my term on the commission begins to wind down, I think back on those utility-regulator interfaces that worked and those that didn't. Here I've outlined some key mistakes I've seen that can undo your best efforts in cultivating a relationship with your state regulators in this new restructured environment. By design, I'm sticking to generalities - obviously, each commission is a bit different. However, after spending almost a full decade working with regulators, I feel I've got some good ideas of what turns them on - and off, as the case may be.
Mistake No. 1: Failing to Communicate Your Business Plan. As a chief executive officer, you must be thinking, why would I ever share my business plan with my local regulator? That's proprietary and it's none of his or her business. Well, you may be surprised.