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Feb 16, 2021
The Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act was passed in 1978 to protect the U.S. electricity supply under the shadow of fuel insecurity and a looming energy crisis. In 2020, the need to mitigate climate change through reducing greenhouse gas emissions, along with the need to adapt to new extreme weather and climatic realities, pose the greatest challenges and threats to the U.S. electricity grid. The Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act has been only moderately successful in supporting the development of small renewable generators; however, a different implementation framework could make the Act a strong, effective tool for
supporting the transition to the renewable and resilient electricity we need. In this Note, I argue that small, distributed storage and renewable generation are a cost-effective and efficient way to both transition to clean generation and make the grid more resilient against climate-based threats. I then explain why the Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act has not been widely successful as currently implemented and why the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s October 2019 proposal for revising its regulations under the Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act misses the mark. Finally, I propose two different regulatory frameworks for making the Act work in today’s climate change reality.