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Ari Peskoe

  • As another winter storm strains the electric grid, it’s time to fix transmission, experts say

    January 5, 2023

    The deadly winter storm, christened Elliott by The Weather Channel, that tore through much of the United States over the Christmas weekend placed a huge…

  • Energy cases to watch in 2023

    January 4, 2023

    From pipeline permitting to agency rulemaking, federal courts are poised to decide a suite of legal challenges in 2023 that could set the pace of…

  • As another winter storm strains the electric grid, it’s time to fix transmission, experts say

    January 3, 2023

    The deadly winter storm, christened Elliott by the Weather Channel, that tore through much of the United States over the Christmas weekend placed a huge…

  • Manchin spat with energy regulator could be self-sabotage, experts say

    December 7, 2022

    For years, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) has pushed to overhaul the nation’s permitting process for energy projects, including for the transmission lines needed to…

  • Federal appeals court orders FERC to rework MISO interconnection funding decision

    December 6, 2022

    With a major renewable energy build-out looming, transmission owners are using FERC proceedings to seek the right to fund interconnection upgrades needed across the United…

  • As utilities spend billions on transmission, support builds for independent monitoring

    December 5, 2022

    An aging electric grid, fossil fuel power plant retirements and a massive renewable electricity buildout are all contributing to a boom in transmission and distribution…

  • As utilities spend billions on transmission, support builds for independent monitoring

    November 28, 2022

    An aging electric grid, fossil fuel power plant retirements and a massive renewable electricity buildout are all contributing to a boom in transmission and distribution…

  • As utilities spend billions on transmission, support builds for independent monitoring

    November 21, 2022

    An aging electric grid, fossil fuel power plant retirements and a massive renewable electricity buildout are all contributing to a boom in transmission and distribution…

  • Regulators debate utilities’ role in transmission projects

    November 17, 2022

    The debate over how to build out billions of dollars of new power lines — and whether utilities should monopolize that process — took center…

  • Small transmission projects hindering clean energy, FERC told

    November 16, 2022

    Spending on U.S. power lines is on the rise, but most of the money is going toward small projects located in a single state or…

  • As FERC’s transmission proposal sparks clashes, potential solutions emerge from MISO, elsewhere

    November 8, 2022

    FERC’s proposal to reform transmission planning has provoked a confrontation over federal and state control of transmission expansion, prompting some stakeholders to call for new…

  • Florida’s Hurricane Blackouts Need a Solar Fix

    October 21, 2022

    Florida is the sunshine state. It is also the hurricane state. The latest, Ian, knocked out power to about 2.5 million customers. Given the abundance…

  • What upcoming US elections could mean for the Inflation Reduction Act, FERC and US energy policy

    October 14, 2022

    Democrats are fresh off a big clean energy policy win, leveraging control of Congress to pass the Inflation Reduction Act and its $369 billion in…

  • Southeast market set to shake up renewables in 12 states

    October 13, 2022

    An electricity market in the Southeast aimed at supporting renewables and lowering energy costs is set to launch next month, despite a pending lawsuit challenging…

  • A Supreme Court Case Over Pork Could Imperil U.S. Climate Progress

    October 13, 2022

    The U.S. Supreme Court heard a case this week that could have huge implications for all sorts of state climate regulations, from clean electricity mandates…

  • What a Supreme Court case on pigs means for renewable energy

    October 7, 2022

    When the Supreme Court hears oral arguments next week in a case about California’s requirements for housing pigs, an unusual audience will be paying close…

  • An Animal Cruelty Case Could Create Chaos For Clean Energy

    October 7, 2022

    States that push aggressive clean energy policies could find themselves in legal hot water if the U.S. Supreme Court backs a broad constitutional challenge to…

  • With Manchin bill stalled, will FERC ever site power lines?

    September 29, 2022

    Sen. Joe Manchin this week pulled back a permitting proposal that would have authorized the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to permit certain long-distance power lines…

  • Manchin permitting bill would elevate FERC despite fierce criticism

    September 27, 2022

    Sen. Joe Manchin’s permitting bill significantly expands the powers of an agency whose chair he has regularly butted heads with: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

  • Republican AGs blast FERC transmission planning proposal, citing ‘major questions doctrine’

    September 20, 2022

    The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s proposal to reform regional transmission planning and cost allocation is “fatally flawed,” partly because it lacks clear Congressional authorization needed…

  • 5th Circuit rules Texas transmission law unconstitutional

    September 1, 2022

    A federal appeals court yesterday ruled that a state law giving existing Texas utilities priority in building electric transmission lines violates constitutional protections for interstate…

  • ‘What is true for alcohol and milk’ must be true for transmission, 5th Circuit says in NextEra decision

    August 31, 2022

    Dive Brief: A Texas law giving incumbent utilities the sole right to build transmission lines connecting to their systems likely violates the U.S. Constitution’s dormant…

  • Why the U.S. is struggling to modernize the electric grid

    August 16, 2022

    Blackouts are growing more frequent in the United States. The average American experienced just over eight hours of power outages in 2020, with overall duration…

  • U.S. Supreme Court building, looking up towards the sky from the bottom of the stairs.

    Harvard Law faculty weigh in: The 2021-2022 Supreme Court Term

    June 25, 2022

    Harvard Law School experts weigh in on the Supreme Court’s final decisions.

  • Feds: 2 men bilked Mass. efficiency program in $36M scheme

    May 4, 2022

    A Massachusetts police officer and his brother, an electrical contractor, were indicted last week for exchanging cash bribes and gifts for more than $36 million in contracts from an energy efficiency program in Massachusetts. Energy consumers in the state pay mandatory surcharges to fund Mass Save, a public-private program that is sponsored by gas and electric companies in partnership with the state’s Department of Energy Resources. Those funds help to cover the costs of energy efficiency upgrades to residential and commercial buildings. ... Ari Peskoe, director of the Electricity Law Initiative at the Harvard Law School, said that the alleged fraud scheme did not seem to be the result of an inherent aspect of the Mass Save public-private partnership. “These things happen in the utility world as they do in other sectors,” Peskoe told E&E News. “That’s not a reason to do these programs, it’s just the nature of this criminal activity that folks are looking for opportunities.

  • Could NextEra’s $55M winning bid for SPP’s transmission project be among the last of its kind?

    April 27, 2022

    Since FERC in 2011 issued its Order 1000, partly to open transmission development to competition, SPP has completed solicitations for three regional transmission projects, including the just-selected NextEra project, which is designed to reduce congestion in the Oklahoma City area. Besides being the least expensive proposal, NextEra Energy Transmission Southwest’s project has a range of benefits compared with the other bids, according to SPP’s panel that reviewed the solicitation. ... “It’d be hard for me to imagine that the utilities wouldn’t basically carve this up amongst themselves,” [Ari] Peskoe said. “They’d have some sort of understanding of who partners up with who on certain projects.”

  • Supreme Court blow to Missouri pipeline seen boosting FERC oversight efforts

    April 19, 2022

    The Supreme Court's rejection of a Missouri pipeline's plea to review a decision vacating its permit will buoy efforts to strengthen the federal permitting process for new gas infrastructure, legal experts predicted. Although the commission still has a long way to go in gaining consensus on the more contentious issues facing pipeline permitting — notably whether a pipeline can be rejected based on the impact it has on the climate — the high court's denial represents another blow to the gas industry, which will have to step up efforts to prove the necessity of new pipelines to pass muster with FERC, according to experts. ... Ari Peskoe, director of the Electricity Law Initiative at Harvard Law School, wrote in an email that “FERC clearly has legal authority to enforce a new policy statement like the one Christie outlines in his dissent. I’m sure industry would challenge its implementation, but it’s hard to imagine a court would find that FERC does not have legal authority to analyze whether there is demand for a new pipeline when the only evidence of need is a contract between two corporate affiliates.”

  • The Clean-Power Megaproject Held Hostage by a Ranch and a Bird

    April 12, 2022

    There’s a big piece of land in lonely northwest Colorado where the grassy plains meet the mountains, wide-antlered elk drink from icy rivers and sage-grouse pump their chests in wild mating dances each spring. Ranch hands still ride herd on thousands of cattle and sheep here, just as they started doing 150 years ago when Texas cowboys first drove cows north into the high country. ... Ari Peskoe, director of the Electricity Law Initiative at Harvard Law School, says the U.S. grid sorely needs the TransWest line. He argues that families like the Boeddekers—who don’t live at Cross Mountain full-time—are living an energy-intensive lifestyle by definition and should be willing to accept some inconvenience. “You want to live in a world where that lifestyle has no consequences and any social costs of that should be borne by others and you shouldn’t have to be inconvenienced by seeing that from your second home?” he said. “I have zero interest in their concerns.”

  • Glick’s climate focus at FERC puts a target on his back

    March 23, 2022

    President Joe Biden's struggles to deliver on his ambitious climate agenda are getting a big boost from the leader of one often overlooked agency who is scrutinizing the greenhouse gas emissions of energy infrastructure and the environmental harms facing low-income people and communities of color. Now, that official, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chair Richard Glick, may see his efforts to put climate change at the forefront of federal energy policy cost him his job. Glick's departure could stall FERC's work in updating transmission policies and market rules to support the development and expansion of clean energy, said Ari Peskoe, director of the Electricity Law Initiative at the Harvard Law School Environmental and Energy Law Program. “The worst case scenario would be a split commission,” he said.

  • How Monopoly Energy Utilities Impede Innovation — Episode 146 of Building Local Power

    March 11, 2022

    On this episode of the Building Local Power Podcast, host Jess Del Fiacco is joined by her colleague John Farrell, director of ILSR’s Energy Democracy Initiative, and guest Ari Peskoe, who is the director of the Energy Law Initiative at Harvard Law School. They discuss the attempts Congress has made to increase competition in electric utilities, the four orders the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ruled between 1996 and 2011, and the how the lack of competitive processes negatively impacts consumers.

  • New England takes a detour on electric grid reform; pushback ensues

    February 23, 2022

    It was a shocker. Katie Dykes, Connecticut’s commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, earlier this month got onboard with a two-year delay for a key component of her pet project — reforming the New England electric grid. ... Ari Peskoe, director of the Electricity Law Initiative at the Environmental and Energy Law Program at Harvard Law School, said FERC was unlikely to just say no. “It could find the current approach unjust and unreasonable under federal law and tell ISO-New England what the just and reasonable approach must be and then order ISO-New England to comply,” Peskoe said. “All that would take more time, but there is a path for FERC to reject what is going to be filed and effectively order ISO to file what was narrowly rejected.”

  • New Faces on a Vital National Commission Could Help Speed a Clean Energy Transition

    February 15, 2022

    Only a few years ago, the federal agency that regulates the transmission of electricity, gas and other energy matters was looking into ways to prop up coal, in line with former President Donald Trump’s fossil fuel agenda. ... The long queues of projects awaiting a green light from PJM or other grid operators can be seen as good news, showing a strong interest in renewable energy, said Ari Peskoe, the director of the Electricity Law Initiative at the Harvard Law School.

  • Entergy shareholder payments reach $1.5 billion in last two years as customer bills rise

    February 10, 2022

    Last month, Entergy New Orleans revealed it was pulling funding from a vital city project to shore up the city’s flood defenses. Citing the massive cost of recovering from Hurricane Ida, the company said it could no longer fulfill its commitment to loan $30 million to the Sewerage and Water Board. Four days later, the utility’s parent company, Entergy Corp. announced quarterly shareholder dividend payments at $1.01 per share, totaling $202 million. ... But Entergy is not a typical company. It’s a government-backed monopoly, said Ari Peskoe, director of the Electricity Law Initiative at Harvard Law School. “It’s just a classic case of the company’s owners doing well at the expense of their captive customers,” Peskoe said. “That’s the important thing here that differentiates it from other businesses. Customers are just completely captive to Entergy.”

  • The Pipeline Trap

    January 31, 2022

    Scientists and international governing bodies have been very clear: In order to have a shot at limiting the worst impacts of global warming, investment in new fossil fuel projects must stop. Yet the federal body that regulates America’s pipelines has created a perverse incentive for companies to keep building methane-leaking fossil fuel infrastructure that doesn’t serve anybody except shareholders. ... The ruling was notable, and may signal a shifting view of the federal courts on FERC, explained Ari Peskoe, Director of the Electricity Law Initiative at the Harvard Law School. “The court found that FERC had failed to justify that the pipeline was needed, which is the core determination that FERC has to make — that the pipeline is needed for the ‘public convenience and necessity,’” said Peskoe. “It’s the sort of squishy legal standard that courts are typically very deferential to regulators on. So for the court to say that FERC didn’t properly implement its own policy — that has resulted in FERC approving nearly 500 projects and disapproving of only two since 1999 — was unusual and noteworthy.”

  • FERC should loosen incumbent transmission owners’ grip on planning, R Street panelists say

    January 28, 2022

    Transmission planning needs major reforms, including loosening the grip incumbent transmission owners have on the process, a panel of experts said Thursday during a roundtable hosted by the R Street Institute, a think tank. ... In the short term, transmission operators determine who produces power and how much they produce, and in the long term they guide decisions about where to build new transmission, which opens opportunities for new sources of power, according to Ari Peskoe, director of Harvard Law School’s Electricity Law Initiative. "So really, control over transmission is in a lot of ways control over the industry," Peskoe said.

  • How Stephen Breyer changed FERC and clean energy

    January 28, 2022

    As Justice Stephen Breyer prepares to step down from the Supreme Court later this year, legal experts are highlighting a lesser-known piece of his legacy — an impact on clean energy and electricity markets. Yesterday, President Biden formally announced Breyer’s plans to retire at the end of this court term during an event at the White House. The 83-year-old justice has served for 28 years on the high court, and four decades as a federal judge (Greenwire, Jan. 27). ... “Breyer opened the door to a practical view of FERC’s jurisdiction that is adaptable to new technologies and is not fixed by the industry structure that existed when Congress passed the [Federal Power Act] in 1935,” said Ari Peskoe, director of the Electricity Law Initiative at Harvard Law School, in an email.

  • States unwind FERC plans for grid expansion

    January 19, 2022

    A decade after federal regulators opened the door to competition for development of large transmission projects, states — acting at the request of incumbent utilities — are slamming it shut. ... “That’s particularly true in MISO where regional projects basically disappeared as competition went into effect,” said Ari Peskoe, director of the Electricity Law Initiative at Harvard Law School’s Environmental and Energy Law Program. “One reason that’s happening is because it’s so much easier to spend your money where there’s no competition and basically no oversight than to risk going through a competitive process.”

  • Details emerge about DOE, FERC grid plans for clean energy

    January 18, 2022

    The Biden administration’s plan announced yesterday to pump $20 billion into expansion of the nation’s transmission networks will target “shovel ready” projects that deliver clean energy, at the same time a nationwide grid expansion is planned and advanced, according to an administration official. ... DOE’s initiative could also inform FERC’s potential transmission reforms by providing additional, informed research and analyses on transmission needs, said Ari Peskoe, director of the Electricity Law Initiative at Harvard University. Typically, FERC has relied on industry players to identify transmission solutions, even though the independent agency and others have argued that the industry has “underinvested in large-scale projects,” Peskoe said.

  • What Is ‘Disaster Capitalism’? Giant Oil Company Cashes In on Climate Crisis

    December 17, 2021

    As Republican state officials insist that Canadian oil pipelines are necessary to lower energy costs for American consumers, the fossil fuel giant operating those pipelines is suddenly citing the climate crisis its products are creating as a rationale for raising those prices higher, according to new documents reviewed by The Daily Poster. Last month, Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine—who has raked in nearly $400,000 from fossil fuel industry donors—demanded the Biden administration keep open Enbridge's controversial Line 5 pipeline, which runs under the Great Lakes, as a way to reduce energy prices. But Enbridge just dropped a bombshell undercutting that argument: The firm told government regulators that climate change means its tar sands pipeline network only has 19 years left of economic life. That assertion could allow the company to jack up the tolls that its customers pay to transport oil through its pipelines, because pipeline operators are authorized to recoup their operational costs through rate increases—and a shorter timetable means higher levies. "There is something ironic about pipeline companies like Enbridge conceding that they can see the writing on the wall, they're not going to be competitive or needed less than 20 years from today, and as a result they have to raise prices today to account for that," said Ari Peskoe, director of the Electricity Law Initiative at the Harvard Law School. "There's something incongruous about that."

  • New Energy Regulator Gets Tie-Breaking Vote on Grid’s Future

    November 18, 2021

    Willie Phillips, confirmed Tuesday night to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, is poised to be the tie-breaking vote on two proceedings that will shape the future of the U.S. power grid, electric markets and the clean energy rollout. He could vote on a market pricing rule benefiting nuclear and renewable generators that took effect in PJM Interconnection, the country’s largest regional grid operator managing the flow of power to 65 million people in the eastern states. And he’s expected to weigh in on a proposed new wholesale market created by a group of large electric utilities in the Southeast, including Southern Co. and Duke Energy and Tennessee Valley Authority. Opponents say the new market could crowd out independent renewable generators. ...“It’s a huge set of issues on the plate for FERC,” said Ari Peskoe, director of the Electricity Law Initiative at Harvard Law School.

  • Group discussion around a table

    Reading the law

    November 10, 2021

    Harvard Law School’s upper-level reading groups give students the opportunity to dig into unique subjects connected directly — or not — to the law.

  • Fight over FERC grid order could scramble electricity mix

    November 9, 2021

    Power producers challenging a PJM Interconnection regional market rule are setting up a legal fight that could affect the electricity mix across chunks of the Midwest and eastern U.S. ... But there are questions in energy circles about whether Phillips might have to recuse himself because his position as chairman of the Public Service Commission in Washington, D.C., meant he considered the sticky PJM capacity market issue. Ari Peskoe, director of the Electricity Law Initiative at Harvard Law School, said he doesn’t expect that to be an issue. “I say it’s low risk, because he didn’t work for the entity filing the proposal,” Peskoe said of the possibility of Phillips recusing himself.

  • New York PSC opposes plan to give utilities right of first refusal for transmission upgrades

    November 5, 2021

    The New York Independent System Operator's (NYISO) ROFR proposal comes as FERC is considering revising its rules governing transmission planning. Utilities want FERC to give them the right to build transmission lines in their footprints instead of opening those projects to a bidding process. ... Competition has generally worked well in New York for public policy transmission projects, according to Ari Peskoe, director of the Electricity Law Initiative at Harvard Law School. However, the proposal marks the second recent attempt by New York transmission owners to monopolize transmission that will be built to facilitate the state's clean energy goals, Peskoe said in an email.

  • The Power Grid Is Just Another Casino for Energy Traders

    November 5, 2021

    When GreenHat Energy collapsed after blowing millions speculating on power prices, it became plain: Energy traders are essentially gambling, and ratepayers back every bet. ... GreenHat traded in a market operated by the largest of the grid keepers, the RTO known as PJM Interconnection LLC. PJM (the name originally stood for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland) directs power from 1,400 generators through 85,100 miles of high-voltage cables in 13 Eastern states and the District of Columbia. Its 65 million electricity consumers have been spared the widespread blackouts that have affected tens of millions of people in Texas and California lately, but they’ve paid for that stability. PJM is supposed to balance the interests of power companies, consumers, and communities, but for years it’s allowed major suppliers such as Exelon, Duke Energy, and American Electric Power to bill ratepayers for high-priced upgrades to sections of the grid where they predominate, according to an assortment of studies. Ari Peskoe, director of the Electricity Law Initiative at the Harvard Law School Environmental and Energy Law Program, says PJM’s reliable checkoff on new projects allows suppliers to preserve their market dominance and freeze out competition. It’s effectively “a protection racket” for the biggest providers, Peskoe says.

  • New York PSC opposes plan to give utilities right of first refusal for transmission upgrades

    November 4, 2021

    The New York Public Service Commission (NYPSC) is leading a protest asking federal regulators to reject a proposal that would give incumbent utilities a path to building certain transmission upgrades planned by third-party transmission developers. The state grid operator's right of first refusal (ROFR) proposal, which could give utilities a new income stream, would lead to unfair rate hikes, would fail to balance consumer and shareholder interests, and thwart the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's efforts to inject competition into the transmission process, the NYPSC said in a Tuesday filing at the commission. ... Competition has generally worked well in New York for public policy transmission projects, according to Ari Peskoe, director of the Electricity Law Initiative at Harvard Law School. ... "New York's policies are headed in the same direction, and they all point to a significant influx of clean energy over the next couple of decades," Peskoe said. "[The utilities] are trying to effectively tax clean energy policies by attempting to take a cut of the profits without any competition."

  • Glick fleshes out plans for new FERC grid rules

    October 20, 2021

    New rules affecting the electric power system issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission should apply everywhere, including in parts of the country that lack organized power markets, FERC Chair Richard Glick said yesterday. ... The Midcontinent Independent System Operator has also urged FERC to apply future transmission planning reforms to both RTOs and non-RTOs, since leaving non-RTOs out of certain requirements could give utilities a reason to leave the organizations, said Ari Peskoe, director of the Electricity Law Initiative at the Harvard Law School Environmental and Energy Law Program. "Glick is clearly addressing a broader point, not just about transmission development," Peskoe said. "In general, FERC has to more actively regulate the utilities that are not in RTOs, in part to ensure that utilities not in RTOs will not stay out to avoid FERC rules and those already in RTOs won’t leave in order to avoid FERC rules."

  • N.J. advances grid plan seen as national model for renewables

    October 5, 2021

    New Jersey is weighing a novel approach to developing electric transmission projects that observers say could soon be explored by other states and help drive renewables. New Jersey’s Board of Public Utilities announced Sept. 24 that it had closed a request for proposals from companies seeking to build transmission infrastructure to connect planned new offshore wind farms to the regional power grid. In a unique arrangement with the grid operator for the mid-Atlantic region, the Garden State has agreed to pay for a new transmission network without help from other states and use the power lines to link up a slew of wind projects expected to be built off the Jersey Shore. ... Voluntary transmission agreements could be particularly useful for states with offshore wind procurement plans, said Ari Peskoe, director of the electricity law initiative at the Harvard Law School Environmental and Energy Law Program. Offshore wind is generally going to be developed in predetermined locations, which would make it easier for one or more states to plan for the transmission lines through a voluntary agreement, Peskoe said. ... “There’s a lot on the table right now about transmission at FERC, and I suppose it’s also possible FERC might include this in a rulemaking further down the line,” Peskoe said. “But I think the current policy statement is really an invitation that states and RTOs explore this option if it makes sense.”