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Public policy spillovers from private energy governance: new opportunities for the political acceleration of renewable transitions

Zdravka Tzankova's picture
Associate Professor NTT Vanderbilt University

Zdravka (Zee) Tzankova is an Associate Professor of Environmental Sociology & Public Policy at Vanderbilt, and an affiliated faculty at the Vanderbilt Institute for Energy and the Environment...

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  • Sep 10, 2020

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Focused on a particular facet of private climate and energy governance – corporate demand for and procurement of carbon-free electricity from renewable sources – this study uncovers a new set of opportunities for the political acceleration of energy transitions. In seeking to understand the grid-greening impacts of corporate renewable procurement and demand, the study reveals that private energy and electricity governance can actually serve to alter the politics of energy transitions. Specifically, the analysis presented in this paper shows that public-private governance interactions can destabilize the politics of carbon lock-in by expanding coalitions for decarbonization and triggering positive private-public regulatory feedbacks. Grounded in the empirical context of the US electricity sector – a dynamic site of coexistence and interaction between public and private energy governance, the research and analysis presented in this paper show that business engagement in private, market-driven greening of the electricity sector can advance renewable transition both directly, through buyer-driven increases in renewable generation capacity; and indirectly, through turning corporate renewable buyers into the beneficiaries and supporters of public policy and regulatory action that advances decarbonization.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 10, 2020

What an interesting topic, Zdravka. The U.S. grid of course has to deal with its market setup across states with national oversight such as from FERC and other patchwork policies. Do you think that becomes a detriment in the end compared with other nations that are more straightforward with energy sector governance? 

Zdravka Tzankova's picture
Zdravka Tzankova on Sep 11, 2020

Yes – and my article does include some discussion on the renewable procurement obstacles associated with the current US electricity market set-up – obstacles that can be particularly salient for corporate renewable buyers seeking to power their operations from renewable capacity specifically added in response to their clean power demand; getting competitively priced renewable electricity with additionality attributes, that is, can be challenging for many companies with facilities and operations in regulated electricity markets that are dominated by renewables-reluctant monopoly utilities.

So we do have electricity market obstacles to corporate renewable procurement, and partial work-arounds like VPPAs (Virtual Power Purchase Agreements) do remain beyond the reach of many companies – my research identifies these factors as important drivers of corporate engagement in several types of pro-renewables policy and regulatory advocacy – including business advocacy for policy and regulatory changes that facilitate corporate renewable procurement, and business advocacy in favor of broader grid-greening and renewable-market-promoting policies, such as higher state RPS and stricter regulatory controls on utility planning. Brief examples on some of the pro-renewables policies supported by corporate renewable buyers can be found in Table 3 of my related paper. Hope this is useful!

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 11, 2020

Thanks for the follow up, Zdravka, and for the detailed answer. That's extremely helpful!


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Thank Zdravka for the Post!
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