Stephanie Lenhart

September 9: Stephanie Lenhart, Boise State University

"Regional Electricity Market Governance and Market Rules for Energy Storage"

View a recording of this talk.

About the Speaker: Stephanie Lenhart is a Senior Research Associate at the Energy Policy Institute and faculty in the School of Public Service at Boise State University. Her primary research focus is on the governance of energy systems, inter-organizational collaboration, and energy transitions. Her work addresses policy implementation and the negotiation of authority in polycentric systems. Recent research examines the institutional scale of change in electricity systems and organizational resilience and adaptation. Other research examines the relationship between regional transmission organization governance and market outcomes, the western energy imbalance market, microgrid adoption, and the integration of distributed energy resources by municipal and cooperative utilities. Her work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy (Idaho National Laboratory), the Sloan Foundation, the Heising-Simon Foundation, and state agencies. She has a Master's in Public Policy from University of California at Berkeley and a PhD in Environment, Natural Resources and Energy Public Policy from Boise State.

About the Talk: In the late 1990s the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) introduced competition to the U.S. electricity sector. As part of this effort, FERC encouraged the formation of Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs) to operate transmission over large geographic areas and manage multilateral electricity markets. These organizations function at a regional-scale defined by technological system boundaries and spanning more than one political jurisdiction. Today, seven RTOs manage more than two-thirds of the U.S. bulk electricity supply and regional electricity market rules impact the value of investments, the price of electricity, and the pace of decarbonization.

Each RTO develops and implements its own market rules through distinct processes and with differing levels of engagement by state regulators and stakeholders – which might include large energy users, generators, emerging technology companies, residential consumer groups, traders, and environmental groups. The variations across RTOs in processes and resulting market rules raise critical questions about institutional design and how those who are affected by market rules should participate in making them.

RTO governance institutionalizes stakeholder engagement far more than most public participation processes and encompasses structures for stakeholder participation, collective decision-making, and allocation of authority. Literature on institutional design suggests that stakeholder engagement can improve instrumental policy outcomes, increasing institutional robustness, and deepen civil society. However, participation needs to be designed to further specific goals within particular contexts.