Legislators from five states are joining together to introduce legislation to increase the transparency of electric utilities’ involvement in PJM, the Regional Transmission Organization (RTO). PJM manages the power grid over 13 states and the District of Columbia, from the Midwest to the East Coast. The legislators are from Illinois, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.
The decisions made by PJM impact clean energy and the cost of electricity. These decisions can help or hinder state policies. This makes coordination with RTOs and oversight of utility participation by states crucial. States have the authority to regulate utilities to ensure they are acting in the public’s best interest. Right now, utilities are voting in private on rules at PJM that have an impact on rates and the transition to clean energy. Legislators in these five states are calling for these votes to be public so there is greater oversight and accountability on utilities and PJM for the decisions being made.
Illinois Rep. Joyce Mason and Pennsylvania Rep. Chris Rabb are each sponsoring PJM transparency legislation this session in their own states.
“When utilities vote at regional transmission organizations, they have impacts on our clean energy transition and the cost of electricity,” said Rep. Mason. “My bill introduces better transparency for how utilities vote in our electric markets, which is part of a healthy democracy. As a legislator, my votes are public – it should be the same for utilities whose votes impact the affordability and cleanliness of our electricity. ”
“The regional transmission organization that manages our energy grid in Pennsylvania impacts our transition to clean energy and our monthly electric bills,” said Rep. Rabb. “And the utilities across our state and region come to meet and vote in private. This is not acceptable. These corporations’ votes are no less important and influential than mine as a legislator. So, if all my votes are public, theirs should be, too!”
Mason, Rabb and legislators from Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia have sponsored legislation requiring each utility to submit a report to their respective state Public Service Commissions (such as the Illinois Commerce Commission) regarding votes cast in any PJM meeting in the prior calendar year and a brief description for how that vote was in the public interest.
“This is an important transparency bill,” said Delegate Rip Sullivan of Virginia. “The decisions made by PJM have enormous impact on Virginia’s transition to clean energy. It wasn’t long ago that subcommittee votes in the General Assembly were unrecorded and essentially secret. We changed that for obvious reasons. When it comes to our clean energy transition and the cost of electricity, it is vital that regulators, the General Assembly, and most importantly Virginia’s ratepayers have better insight into the decisions PJM and our utilities make.”
Last year, Maryland Delegate Lorig Charkoudian introduced a similar bill that passed the House. The West Virginia Public Service Commission also filed complaints regarding transparency over PJM meetings and decision-making. Delegate Charkoudian is reintroducing her bill (HB0505) again this year.
“My colleagues and I, across the PJM region, know that decisions made at PJM affect our rate-payers, the reliability of our electric grid, and our transition to clean energy,” said Delegate Charkoudian. “These are all issues we are working on at the state level, and PJM’s rules have the ability to either support or hamper our ability to address these issues. This bill will go a long way to establishing transparency to support our ability to engage with PJM on these crucial issues.”
State leaders know that increased communication and coordination between states, RTOs, and utilities is paramount for preventing climate change’s worst impacts and ensuring reliable and affordable electricity. States will continue to lead the charge for better transparency in the coming legislative session.
“(The National Caucus of Environmental Legislators, NCEL) is proud to help organize these state legislators across the PJM region,” said Ava Gallo, NCEL Climate and Energy Manager. “We know that legislators work tirelessly to ensure their constituents have affordable, reliable, and clean electricity. States are stronger together and this legislation can help ensure that utilities across the region are also working towards these same goals.”