Working Together, Future is Bright
Jeff Ihnen is the CEO of Michaels Energy and a Director for AESP. He has 22 years’ experience developing and evaluating commercial and industrial efficiency programs. In his spare time, he promotes and advises for pro-efficiency policy.
The utility industry is governed by an interesting triangle. On each side of that triangle are lawmakers, regulators, and utilities. If the sides were repelling magnets, a steel ball in the middle would represent the best balance of all interests. However, the ball moves erratically due to varying forces exerted by any of the sides. This article describes this dynamic system, especially as it relates to energy efficiency policy.
We have industry and businesses sometimes pushing lawmakers to move energy policy in their favor. There are many ways in which lawmakers can favor big business. Popular ones include changing the law to allow these big employers and contributors to opt out and not pay the efficiency or demand response rider. Or making adjustments, so the law favors their energy and financial interests.
Similarly, industry and businesses push on the utility. The big difference between lawmaker and utility lobbying is that consumers join the chorus to push their utility so that they can get more, for less.
Compared to lawmakers and utilities, nobody lobbies regulators. Most regulatory bodies are appointed by the state's administration, while some are elected positions. Therefore, there is a direct (elected) or indirect (appointed) political component to any regulatory commission.