The renewable electricity industry has grown rapidly in the past decade. From their humble beginnings, wind and solar energy have more than doubled their combined share of power generation at utility-scale facilities in the United States.

In a perfect world, companies large and small would be able to purchase this growing abundance of clean energy straight from the grid. But the electricity industry’s monopoly model is “a hell of a drug,” and less than half of states have restructured their electricity markets to allow for more competition and consumer choice.

In the 1990s, roughly a dozen states – including Texas, Illinois and Ohio – passed laws that began to open up the electricity sector to competition. But the California electricity crisis of the early 2000s and the 2008 Great Recession left the restructuring movement stillborn.

In the years that followed, regulations in most states remained unchanged. The energy marketplace, on the other hand, did not. The growth of renewables, combined with renewable portfolio standards in 29 states and a more environmentally conscious corporate mindset, have changed the incentives around energy choice.

As a result, there are now many more potential customers with a strong – and growing – demand for clean energy. Major electricity users with clean-energy leanings like Microsoft and Amazon – whose internet cloud operations rely on mammoth server farms – have begun to push for clean-energy procurement. Other major energy consumers like Google, Apple and Johnson & Johnson are looking to join the clean-energy parade.

When these customers compare states that allow consumers to choose their electricity suppliers with states that retain the monopoly model of one large electricity producer – it’s a no-brainer. From 2008 to 2016, the weighted-average price of electricity in monopoly states increased 15 percent, while in restructured states, prices fell by 8 percent.

In monopoly states, artificial barriers undermine competition and state legislatures are beholden to major legacy utility firms for much of their fundraising. Lobbyists for these companies have pseudo-official status in state capitols like Richmond, Raleigh and Atlanta, so the marketplace is currently balkanized. But for how much longer?

R Street will host a panel discussion on the future of clean-energy choice with panelist from Microsoft, Advanced Energy Economy (AEE), the American Coalition of Competitive Energy Suppliers (ACCES) and Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES). The panel will take place at noon Nov. 30, at the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C.

Among the questions to be asked are:

  • What is the value of choice overall and specifically to clean-energy procurement?
  • Microsoft’s story: What do big customers look for and what policies are needed to attract them?
  • Why is retail choice important for cheap, low-carbon technologies?
  • What does the political landscape tell us about the future of clean-energy choice?

Please join us to find out what the clean-energy choice movement has in store.


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