This memorandum sets forth the statutory definitions of “public utility” currently in use in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The document is designed to assist legislators and others as they seek to incorporate grid edge projects utilizing renewable sources of energy within their state policy.
Today, the electricity market is undergoing profound changes in how power is generated, transmitted, and sold, the result of efforts both to introduce competition into the electricity wholesale and retail markets, and to decarbonize its physical infrastructure overall. Customers (including residential, commercial and industrial facilities, and municipalities), equipment providers, and private third-party retailers, developers, and investors, are bringing together novel technologies, financing structures, and legal relationships (regulatory and contractual) to build new facilities at the grid edge – located on local utility distribution systems, often behind a customer’s meter. These facilities allow parties to supply more decarbonized electricity in particular locations close to load and allow electricity consumers to be more active participants in the market through behind-the-meter generation and demand reduction — in other words, as both producer and consumer, or ”prosumer.”
While many factors affect the success of these efforts, one of the most important can be how each state defines the term “public utility,” which is often a determinant of which resources at the grid’s edge can, and cannot, sell power to end users. This Report addresses how the term “public utility” (or its equivalent) is currently defined in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia and will hopefully provide a ”first cut” for those seeking to develop grid edge projects. It comprises the first step in a broader effort to draft model legislation and regulations that particular states could adopt to best adjust their existing regulatory structure to further their decarbonization efforts, all while helping them achieve energy rights — including energy justice — for all their citizens and the communities in which they reside.
This memorandum was drafted by Karen Anderson, a Yale Law student. C. Baird Brown, principal at eco(n)law LLC and author of Chapter 6 of the LPDD text, provided oversight in the document’s creation. Additional review was contributed by Charles B. Howland of Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle, LLP, and by Karl Pielmeier.