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E&E News: Meet 9 State Regulators Who Are 'Shaking Things Up'

Posted by E&E News Staff on Jun 6, 2019

 As part of its series on key players in energy and the environment, E&E News takes a look at state regulators with important influence, quoting AEE's Hannah Polikov about Ted Thomas, Chair of the Ark.PSC. Besides Thomas, E&E News staff profiles Brandon Presley, PSC Chair for Miss. and incoming NARUC President, Samuel Randazzo, Chair of Ohio's PUC, Ellen Nowak of Wisc. PSC, Ga. PSC's Jason Shaw, S.C. PSC's Tom Ervin, Ariz. Corp. Commission's Sandra Kennedy, Stephen Fischmann of N.M.'s PRC,  and RI PUC's Abigail Anthony. See excerpts below and the entire story here.

The shuttering of coal plants, an aggressive push for renewables and the proliferation of electric vehicles are creating a new energy landscape in the United States. Meet the state regulators working on the front lines.

Among those in the trenches is Brandon Presley, selected by Southeastern utility regulators to head up the nation's most powerful group of state regulators. He's also a distant cousin of Elvis Presley and is now poised to lead the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) (Greenwire, June 5). Presley, chairman of the Mississippi Public Service Commission, helped quash development on an experimental coal project in the Magnolia State...

Regulators are deciding the fate of projects like the nation's sole nuclear project under construction and policies that affect electric cars, rooftop solar and grid modernization (Energywire, May 16). They're either one vote on a regulatory panel or are chairing a state body and setting regulatory agendas. The uncertainty of climate change and the fate of the EPA's Clean Power Plan replacement, not to mention an accelerating push among utilities toward 100% clean energy goals, loom over their decisions...

Those decisions also are taking on more importance as Congress struggles to pass energy legislation and policymaking stalls in the nation's capital...

...Thomas is "a very thoughtful commissioner and leader in both Arkansas and nationally on how to make the most of technological advancement and innovation especially when it comes to distributed energy resources," said Hannah Polikov, managing director at Advanced Energy Economy.

"Technology is not a red state, blue state issue. What he's doing is completely consistent with his ideology," she added.

A conservative Republican and former prosecutor, Thomas was named PSC chairman by Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) in January 2015.

As are other states, Arkansas is looking at how to prepare its electric customers for the penetration of distributed energy resources such as solar, battery storage, electric vehicles and smart appliances, Thomas said. They were among the technologies that the defunct Obama-era Clean Power Plan was supposed to encourage.

But Thomas knows the CPP is "one presidential election away from coming back," and he thinks Arkansas has to be ready if that happens.

Thomas said he wants consumers to "have options so if there's price shock, they can do something about it," and that means developing policies "for any conceivable technology" that may emerge as "the price winner" in the market.

"You need to knock down all the barriers to new technologies — except for one — and that's price. And then let the economics sort it out," Thomas said.

"We want to have thought about it so we're not regulating and litigating for years" while customers are "twisting in the wind and paying higher" electric bills, he added. "Even though we're a red state, that's the way we can sell [distributed energy resources] and other policies like that here."

Reporters Jeffrey Tomich, Kristi E. Swartz, Edward Klump, Rod Kuckro and Hannah Northey contributed. Read the entire E&E News story here.

Topics: AEE In The News