Now that we’ve had a couple weeks to process all that went wrong in Texas, people are paying more attention to the national electricity landscape, how it functions, and who’s in charge. And with Joe Biden and a Democratic Congress in power, there is a real possibility of establishing long-lasting legislative climate and energy policy. But as someone who has spent the last several years researching how climate legislation gets designed in blue states where governors are among its biggest proponents and Democratic legislative majorities are much wider than they are in D.C., I have three words of warning: investor-owned utilities.
Thanks to an early-20th-century deal between private utility executives (most infamously, Samuel Insull) and state legislators, utility companies hold enormous structural power over policymaking — they are allowed to operate as private monopolies providing a public service. That means climate-policy advocates essentially have two options: Win them over, or reduce their power.
Nationwide, 72 percent of us receive electricity from these corporations. We cannot shop around: With electricity, there’s only one game in town. If you live in D... Read more