Though the percentage of customers is small, there are far more Publicly Owned Utilities (POUs) in the 50 states (2,009) than IOUs (192) and co-ops (871). Yet, when it comes to generation, POUs generate only 9.8% of all power, compared to 37.7% by IOUs and 40.6% by independent power producers (privately owned power plants that operate outside of the utility grid), with federal power agencies (6.9%) and co-ops (5.0%) supplying the rest.
Specific to the rural context, rural electric cooperatives provide electricity to 12% of Americans and own 42% of the country’s electric distribution lines.
Tribal owned utilities have their own set of unique circumstances that must be factored in when developing a 100% regenerative policy. “Creating a tribal electric utility can be an important element of tribal sovereignty. Tribal utilities can help reverse the historic trend of marginal participation in energy and infrastructure decisions of First Nations by creating an organization that can participate as a peer among the energy providers that currently own and control energy assets on tribal trust land. Creation of a utility can serve as a powerful mechanism for a Tribe to engage with surrounding utilities, federal and state agencies, and most importantly, its own community.”
100% regenerative policies should include renewable energy goals and mandates that apply to all IOUs, POUs (or municipalities), Community Choice Aggregation (CCAs), rural electric cooperatives, and tribal owned utilities, as well as independent power producers (privately owned power plants that operate outside of the utility grid), in both regulated and deregulated markets. The main difference among these entities is the ownership model. IOUs are owned by shareholders (who can be individuals, pension funds, and even hedge funds), and POUs, co-ops, and CCAs are community- or member-owned. Another difference is whether utilities are regulated and vertically integrated (operating on all levels of the supply chain, from generation to transmission and distribution) or deregulated (purchasing power from independent power producers in a competitive market).
Each entity has its own governing body and accountability model, and thus may already have its own set of renewables targets. Organizations will need to determine the nuances in targets among the IOUs, POUs, CCAs, rural co-ops, and tribal owned utilities, or whether the same targets will be applied across all entities.
Advocates should aspire to shape the federal share of the transition because entities like the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Bonneville Power Administration are federally owned, but have a wide degree of independence in investment and technical decisions. Increasing renewables for these agencies can be done in various ways, including pressuring wholesale power purchasing entities like cities and corporations, and intervening in proceedings where these agencies need local permits for new construction.
- IOUs: “In order to fulfill unmet long-term resource needs, the commission shall establish a renewables portfolio standard requiring all retail sellers to procure a minimum quantity of electricity products from eligible renewable energy resources as a specified percentage of total kilowatt hours sold to their retail end-use customers each compliance period to achieve the targets established under this article. For any retail seller procuring at least 14 percent of retail sales from eligible renewable energy resources in 2010, the deficits associated with any previous renewables portfolio standard shall not be added to any procurement requirement pursuant to this article.”
- POUs: “To fulfill unmet long-term generation resource needs, each local publicly owned electric utility shall adopt and implement a renewable energy resources procurement plan that requires the utility to procure a minimum quantity of electricity products from eligible renewable energy resources, including renewable energy credits, as a specified percentage of total kilowatt-hours sold to the utility’s retail end-use customers, each compliance period, to achieve the targets of subdivision (c).”