Points of View

POV: Advancing Environmental Justice at the California Public Utilities Commission

December 14, 2021 Written by Clifford Rechtschaffen, Commissioner, California Public Utilities Commission In California, as in many other states, policymakers have known for a number of years that environmental harms are disproportionately concentrated in low-income communities and communities of color.  This includes air pollution, unsafe drinking water, exposure to pesticides, proximity to power plants and oil refineries, and vulnerability to extreme heat.[1]  Over the past two decades, the state has set broad objectives requiring that environmental justice be part of the mission of state agencies and adopted specific mandates in various environmental and energy legislation. In 2017, the…

POV: New Jersey and PJM Initiate State Agreement Approach

September 10, 2021 Written by Joseph Fiordaliso, President of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. Direct questions to Ryann Reagan and Joseph DeLosa on the NJBPU staff. The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) took a monumental step on November 18, 2020, becoming the first state to integrate its offshore wind transmission objectives with the regional grid’s planning and development process. To position the state to reach Governor Phil Murphy’s ambitious goal of 7,500 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2035, the NJBPU has formally requested inclusion of its offshore wind public policy into the regional…

POV: Achieving Water Equity: Assessing Water Access Beyond Affordability

August 11, 2021 Written by Robert F. Powelson, President & CEO of National Association of Water Companies With infrastructure taking the spotlight in Washington since January and COVID-19’s ongoing impact, there’s certainly been a renewed focus on the essential role water service plays in protecting public health — and rightfully so. At the same time, the pandemic’s economic impact and increased attention paid to equity has sharpened focus on ensuring customers can afford their water bills. To date, these dual realities– the need for investment and the desire to keep rates low – has created a false choice…

POV: Billions of Reasons to Invest in Broadband Infrastructure

June 16, 2021 Written by Elin Swanson Katz, VP of Utilities at Tilson They say timing is everything, and if a utility broadband project is anywhere on the horizon, now is the time to act.  While the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be winding down, one of the many challenges it has exposed is the number of Americans that do not have access to reliable, affordable high-speed broadband. It has also revealed the profound impact that the lack of access – referred to as the digital divide – has on school children, people working from home, small businesses, medical…

POV: A State Regulator Perspective on the Future of Nuclear Energy

May 17, 2021 Written by Former Commissioner Sadzi Martha Oliva, Legal and Policy Advisors Alejandro Mateos and Kealie Vogel, and Policy Intern Haley Bracken of the Illinois Commerce Commission Disclaimer: All views expressed within this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily represent the views of the Illinois Commerce Commission or the Illinois state government. Introduction Since the Illinois Commerce Commission last held a public policy session on issues surrounding nuclear energy, much has changed in the world including a global pandemic, racial tensions highlighting social inequities, extreme weather challenges in February 2021, and a…

POV: Focus on Water Cybersecurity Now, Before It’s Too Late

April 14, 2021 Written by Robert F. Powelson, President & CEO of National Association of Water Companies Robert F. Powelson, President & CEO, National Association of Water Companies (NAWC) Oldsmar, Florida, made headlines earlier this year.  A hacker gained access to the county utility’s water treatment control systems and dramatically raised the amount of certain chemicals in the drinking water to dangerous levels. Fortunately, the hacker’s attempt was foiled before the water supply was effectively poisoned. This alarming cyber breach speaks to a larger issue that is looming out there around overall cyber protection of our water grid. As…

POV: Emergency Management–Our Future

March 24, 2021 Written by Sarah Ruen Blanchard, FRI Advisory Board member The utility industry has long prioritized safety and reliability, but the frequency and duration of emergency events that we must manage through today are unlike those of the past. We can reasonably expect there will be hurricanes in Florida and blizzards in the Midwest, but Hurricane Sandy (2012) in New York, the Camp Fire in California (2018), the Derecho in Iowa (2020), and Winter Storm Uri in Texas (2021) were unprecedented events that devastated communities and crippled energy infrastructure. Sarah Ruen Blanchard, Alliant Energy & FRI…

POV: A New Point of View

March 3, 2021 Written by: Dr. Michael Sykuta, Executive Director, FRI Many of us spent much of last year wondering,”What will life be like after 2020?” While we still have a ways to go before we’ll see just how much life is changed, I can say that, for me personally, taking on the role of Executive Director of FRI was not on my scorecard at this time last year. However, this is one post-2020 outcome that has me looking forward excitedly to what comes next. FRI Executive Director, Dr. Michael Sykuta I first learned of FRI almost 20 years…