Institute for Policy Integrity logo

Twitter @policyintegrity

Recent Projects

  • Academic Articles/Working Papers

    The Future of Distributed Generation

    August 8, 2018

    As distributed energy generation is becoming increasingly common, the debate on how a utility’s customers should be compensated for the excess energy they sell back to the grid is intensifying. And net metering, the practice of compensating for such energy at the retail rate for electricity, is becoming the subject of intense political disagreement. Utilities argue that net metering fails to compensate them for grid construction and distribution costs and that it gives rise to regressive cost shifting among its customers. Conversely, solar energy proponents argue that the compensation should be higher than the retail rate to account for other benefits that distributed generation systems provide, such as the resulting climate change and other environmental benefits, as well as the savings resulting from not needing to build new installations to provide additional capacity. This ongoing debate is leading to significant changes to net metering policies in many states.

    This article provides an overview of the benefits and the costs of distributed generation and highlights the analytical flaws and missing elements in the competing positions and in most existing policies. We propose an alternative approach that recognizes the contributions to the electric grid of both utilities and distributed generators. The article is excerpted and revised from a longer academic article, “Managing the Future of the Electricity Grid: Distributed Generation and Net Metering,” which was selected by Environmental Law Reporter as one of the five best environmental law articles published in the 2017-2018 academic year.

    Read more

  • Reports

    No Turning Back

    August 1, 2018

    For 50 years, California has enjoyed unique authority to regulate air pollution from newly manufactured motor vehicles. While the Clean Air Act preempts all other states from setting their own vehicle emission standards, California can request a waiver to do so if it determines that its standards are at least as protective of public health and welfare as federal standards issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”). Once a waiver is granted, other states can adopt California’s more stringent vehicle emissions standards as their own.

    Since the waiver provision was enacted in 1967, EPA has granted more than fifty waivers for California, fully denied only one (a decision it subsequently reversed), and revoked zero. EPA has now proposed to withdraw the waiver California received in 2013 to set its own greenhouse gas emission standards, in conjunction with a weakening of federal greenhouse gas emission standards for vehicles in model years 2021 through 2026.

    Because a waiver withdrawal would be entirely unprecedented, neither courts nor legal scholars have previously had cause to discuss the circumstances, if any, under which a waiver might permissibly be withdrawn. This Interim Report analyzes whether EPA possesses revocation authority and, assuming it exists at all, when and how such authority may be exercised.

    The Interim Report analyzes information that was publicly available as of August 1, 2018. The report will soon be updated and expanded to address the specific justifications in EPA’s proposed withdrawal.

    Read more

  • Reports

    Toward Resilience

    August 1, 2018

    Grid resilience—generally, the electric grid’s ability to resist/absorb, manage, quickly respond, and recover from/adapt to high-impact, low-probability external shocks—has been a concern for electric utilities and energy planners for decades. While recent extreme weather and cyber security concerns have prompted the federal government to pursue policies that support coal and nuclear power plants, a more systematic focus on resilience will lead to very different solutions than what has been proposed by the Department of Energy.

    Our report aims to assist policymakers in understanding grid resilience and evaluating potential interventions aimed at improving grid resilience. It develops a definition of resilience grounded in academic literature; describes a methodology for calculating the costs and benefits of potential grid resilience improvements; identifies legal authorities that states and federal agencies can use to implement resilience-enhancing policies and investments; and analyzes the Trump Administration’s proposals to support coal and nuclear plants in light of the insights developed in the report.

    Read more

  • Public Comments

    Comments to HHS on Restricting Public Funding for Family Planning Services

    July 31, 2018

    The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently issued a proposed rule that would revise implementing regulations for Title X of the Public Health Service Act (Title X), the country’s only publicly funded family planning, serving millions of women annually. Though the grant program is already bound by the legal limits on directly using federal grants to fund abortion services, the proposed rule now seeks to encumber entities that provide both Title X-eligible programs and abortion-related services with additional restrictions. Our comments focus on serious errors and oversights in the Department’s analysis of the Proposed Rule’s costs and benefits. First, HHS misstates and misapplies the standard for conducting a regulatory impact analysis under Executive Order 12,866. Second, HHS ignores the Proposed Rule’s potentially substantial indirect costs—most notably, the health consequences stemming from patients’ reduced access to healthcare services. Third, HHS fails to assess the distributional impacts of the Proposed Rule.

    Read more

  • Public Comments

    Comments to the Nevada PUC on the Proposed Regulation to Implement SB 65

    July 25, 2018

    The Nevada Public Utilities Commission recently released a proposed regulation to implement Senate Bill 65, which directs the PUC to give preference to those measures and sources of supply that provide the greatest economic and environmental benefit to the State. In our joint comments with Western Resource Advocates and Environmental Defense Fund, we express our support for these revisions to Nevada’s resource planning regulations. Specifically, we support the Commission’s application of the Interagency Working Group (IWG) Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) estimates to calculate the Present Worth of Societal Costs in Nevada, as reflected in the proposed regulation. In addition, we update the PUC on the use of the IWG SCC estimates in other states, including California, Colorado, Minnesota, New York and Washington State.

    Read more

  • Public Comments

    Comments on FERC’s NOI on the Certification of Interstate Natural Gas Pipeline Facilities

    July 25, 2018

    In April 2018, the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) issued a notice of inquiry on how to revise its policy on certifying the construction and operation of interstate natural gas transportation facilities. In the nineteen years since FERC’s existing policy statement was released, there have been significant advances in the understanding and measurement of climate change and other environmental effects of natural gas production, transportation, and consumption. Our comments suggest clarifications and improvements to FERC’s NEPA and Natural Gas Act analyses that will better inform policymakers and the public about the environmental effects of proposed projects. We also submitted joint comments on the appropriate use of the social cost of carbon in the interstate natural gas facilities certification processes, including why and how greenhouse gas emissions should be monetized in FERC’s NEPA and Natural Gas Act analyses.

    Read more

  • Issue Briefs

    How States Can Value Pollution Reductions from Distributed Energy Resources

    July 20, 2018

    DERs are a growing part of the U.S. electric system and many state electric utility regulators are looking to more accurately compensate them by paying for a variety of the benefits that these resources provide. Most states are currently focusing on energy and distribution-level benefits, but this approach overlooks the environmental and public health impacts of DERs. Even though some states like California and New York have been working on analyses that include environmental attributes of DERs, few regulators have attempted a thorough evaluation of the environmental and public health benefits. Our report, Valuing Pollution Reduction, lays out a practical methodology for calculating the E value, the highlights of which are captured here. Specifically, this issue brief describes how to appropriately value environmental and public health benefits by monetizing the economic, health, and climate damages avoided emissions would have caused. State utility regulators can use the steps described here, weighing tradeoffs between accuracy and administrability, to implement their own program to holistically compensate DERs.

    Read more

  • Public Comments

    Comments to FDA on Limiting Nicotine Content of Cigarettes

    July 16, 2018

    As part of a larger plan to revise regulations on tobacco and nicotine, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering limiting the nicotine content of combusted cigarettes in an effort to make them less addictive. In response to FDA’s advance notice of proposed rulemaking on this potential policy, our comments offered advice, drawing from recent economic scholarship, on how the agency could assess a nicotine limit’s costs and benefits.

    Read more

  • Public Comments

    Comments to FERC on Seasonal Capacity Markets and Electricity Demand

    July 12, 2018

    PJM Interconnection (PJM), the electric grid and wholesale market operator in 13 states and Washington D.C., currently has a market design that leads to over-procurement of electric generating capacity, particularly from generation resources that are able to provide capacity throughout the year. This inefficient market design raises capacity costs and suppresses the participation of resources, such as wind, solar, and natural gas, whose generating capacity varies by season. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently held a technical conference to seek feedback on how PJM can redesign its capacity market to better facilitate participation of these seasonal resources. Our comments to FERC argue that replacing or supplementing the current annual-only capacity product with seasonal capacity products would improve the efficiency of the PJM capacity market. In addition, we suggest changes in the capacity market participation rules for wind, solar, and other intermittent resources.

    Read more

  • Public Comments

    Environmental Value of Distributed Energy Resources for New York State - Subgroup Report

    July 9, 2018

    New York State is seeking to refine its method for compensating distributed energy resources (DERs) based on the value that they provide, including their potential to reduce local air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Together with a group of government agencies, non-governmental community and environmental organizations, academic centers, and clean energy businesses, we submitted a report that describes the work of an informal, stakeholder-led Environmental / Environmental Justice Value Subgroup, which was formed to identify methods for calculating the environmental and public health value of avoided air pollution caused by DER injections in New York State. As part of that filing, we also submitted our report, Valuing Pollution Reductions, which serves as a general guide for state regulators interested in calculating the environmental and public health value of avoided air pollution caused by DER injections.We also presented the results of this report to NYS DPS Staff.

    Read more