Local governments can participate in state energy regulatory processes by either formally joining the proceedings or publicizing their views through resolutions, letters, or other public forums to influence the process. Local governments most commonly use this approach to provide input on pending customer programs, describe how utility resource plans do or do not support city energy goals, or make suggestions regarding how utility plans are evaluated and regulated.
Engaging with State Energy Regulators
Local governments in all states but primarily used by those served by regulated utilities (i.e., those without retail choice In states where it has been authorized, electric retail choice provides customers the right to procure energy from competitive electricity suppliers other than their traditional utilities. ).
Many regulations and rules that impact utility planning and renewable energy programs are decided upon by a state regulatory body, often called the Public Service Commission (PSC) or Public Utility Commission (PUC). This regulatory body implements state energy legislation, in addition to setting the direction for utility action through rules, guidance, evaluation metrics, opinions, and more. It is also responsible for approving utility actions, such as the creation of Integrated Resource Plans (IRPs), requests to procure new capacity or resources, and the development of new customer programs.
Once the commission opens a docket on a certain issue, local governments can file petitions with the commission to become formal intervenors and submit testimony, usually through an attorney. In addition, local governments may be able to participate informally by directly reaching out to commissioners, providing public comment, or by filing a public letter ahead of formal hearings.
This Renewables Accelerator resource provides local governments with a foundational understanding of integrated resource plan (IRP) processes and key considerations to help local governments evaluate their engagement plans and craft an initial engagement strategy.
Solar Energy in Utility Integrated Resource Plans: Factors That Can Impact Customer Clean Energy Goals
This World Resources Institute report details key ways customers, like cities, can engage with their utilities on the ways solar energy is considered in their integrated resource planning.
The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) maintains a database with key information about all state regulatory commissions and relevant federal organizations.
As part of the National Council on Electricity Policy’s (NCEP) mini-guide series on engagement between state regulatory commissions and decision makers at different levels of government, this NCEP and Institute for Market Transformation guide identifies key areas where local governments may engage with PUCs, the potential impacts of local government engagement at PUCs, and opportunities to make regulatory processes more accessible for city and county staff.
The NAACP created a Just Energy Policies and Practices Action Toolkit to provide support and guidance for groups working to create a clean energy future. Module 3 of this toolkit, “Engaging Your Utility Company & Regulators,” provides guidance on how public utility companies operate, opportunities and timing for engagement with utility companies, and strategies for this engagement.
Examples of Formal Letters and Testimonies Filed by Local Governments:
- The City of St. Petersburg filed comments on the Florida Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act (FEECA). Additional information is available in this American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy blog.
- The City of Indianapolis filed comments on Indianapolis Power & Light’s 2019 IRP.
- The City of Boulder filed comments to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission on the Public Service Company of Colorado’s 2016 resource plan.
- The City of Asheville and Buncombe County filed comments to the North Carolina Utilities Commission on Duke Energy’s IRP.
Driving Climate Action Through Utility Integrated Resource Plans: A North Carolina Case Study of Local Government Leadership
This ACCC Renewables Accelerator case study examines a coordinated effort by local governments in North Carolina to provide insight into how and why local governments are increasingly getting involved in utility Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) processes. It shares details and takeaways from this leading example of local government collaboration to inform other local governments’ efforts to advance a cleaner, more equitable, and sustainable energy future.
To review examples of local governments that have utilized one or more engagement pathways to advance their renewable energy goals, visit the Engagement Tracker in the Local Government Renewables Action Tracker.