State regulators face mandates without consensus.
Lynne Holt is a policy analyst for the Public Utility Research Center (PURC) at the University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business Administration. Mary Galligan is a senior fellow at the PURC. The authors dedicate this article to the memory of Brian Moline, former chairman and general counsel, Kansas Corporation Commission, and acknowledge the contribution of his insights and commitment to serving the public good.
In the aftermath of the Arab oil embargos of the 1970s, state utilities regulators were faced with challenges similar to those faced by their counterparts today: The need to create a regulatory framework that provided incentives to electric utilities to invest in energy sources other than oil, to support new environmental protection requirements, and to vastly improve the efficiencies of energy production, delivery and usage in the United States. Then, the issue was very concrete: a fuel shortage. Today, the cause is more amorphous and controversial: climate change. Despite strikingly different drivers, today’s response echoes the previous ones. That is, encouraging diversification of fuels and greater efficiencies.