127th Annual NARUC Meeting: Efficient Markets and Effective Regulation Will Lead to Efficiency Gains

Last week regulators and industry convened in Austin, TX for the 127th annual meeting of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), where topical utility regulatory issues for electricity, water, gas and telecommunications were addressed, and where the 127th President of NARUC, Travis Kavulla of Montana, was installed. It was an interesting week all around.

As has been the case in the last several NARUC meetings, the Clean Power Plan (CPP) was a front and center topic in Austin. There were no less than seven general, staff and concurring sessions on: CPP and baseload power, CPP and new technologies, CPP and “leakage” from existing to new resources, CPP and reliability, CPP and renewable energy, and multi-state solutions for CPP. It is clear that regardless of a state’s policy or political positions on the Clean Power Plan, utility regulators are working through their understanding of its impacts on the electricity markets, and how to go about compliance in the most cost-effective and reliable manner. We at the Alliance to Save Energy, during a panel session on multi-state solutions for CPP, proposed that compliance can be done cost effectively with thoughtful planning, and that a key component to that compliance is energy efficiency – it is the cleanest, fastest, most cost-effective compliance mechanism available to states.

Another very interesting topic of discussion, covered in three panel sessions throughout the week and in the context of a resolution, was the issue of rate design and its ability to allow utilities to recover its costs, while also providing price signals that can provide information for consumers on conservation and investment choices. In his installation remarks last week, newly elected NARUC President Travis Kavulla acknowledged the value of responsive and effective markets to benefit consumers, including the use of distributed energy resources and energy efficiency. President Kavulla’s focus on effective regulation this year will dovetail well into the formation of a new NARUC staff subcommittee on rate design (Resolution to Create a NARUC Staff Subcommittee on Rate Design), which aims to identify options for regulators to revise rate design methods. In our view, this has the potential to directly and positively impact public policies on energy and water efficiency.

When it comes to utility and environmental regulation, 2016 is shaping up to be a very interesting and productive year. We are looking forward to sharing our ideas, and those of our Associate Members, to shape the changes that are surely before us. This will ultimately lead to more efficient energy use, higher energy productivity, a stronger economy and a cleaner environment for us all.

Kelly Speakes-Backman was a panelist on the Monday NARUC session entitled, “Hang Together: 111d Multi-State Solutions.” Additional panelists included Joseph Goffman (EPA), Doug Scott (Great Plains Institute) and Robert Wyman, Jr. (Latham & Watkins LLP). The Honorable Joshua Epel moderated the panel.