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The electricity powering your computer or smartphone that makes it possible for you to read this article could come from one of several sources. It’s probably generated by burning natural gas or coal or from operating a nuclear reactor, unless it’s derived from hydropower or wind or solar energy. Who gets to choose?
In many states, it’s up to the utilities, the companies that bill you for electricity. Costs often weigh heavily in their decisions. But deciding which costs to consider is a very subjective process.
If your utility accounts for the toll taken by climate change, like Xcel Energy in Coloradodoes, your state electricity regulator probably makes the company do that. This approach is one behind-the-scenes way that a growing number of states are addressing global warming.
As scholars who study the intersection between policies that deal with climate change and energy, we have studied the rules that govern electric utilities across the nation. Our new report sheds light on where state regulators have the ability to make rules that mandate action on climate change.