Climate and Energy Resources for State, Local and Tribal Governments

Engaging Stakeholders in Climate and Clean Energy Policy

Working with Partner Agencies

When multiple state agencies (e.g., environment, energy, utility, transportation) work together to plan and implement climate and clean energy policies they are more likely to achieve their goals. Involving staff from multiple agencies helps identify, access, and leverage existing programs, resources, and tools developed by other organizations (e.g., state agencies, legislatures, universities, the private sector).

When using clean energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, states have found it particularly useful to reach out to the government entities in their states that are typically involved in clean energy decision-making and deployment as well as those that may be affected by changes in climate, energy, and environmental policies within the state. Key players and their attributes typically include, but are not limited to:

  • The governor and his/her staff – can provide leadership and ensure follow-through
  • State legislatures – can provide leadership and oversight on policies requiring legislative action
  • State agencies – maintain government data and can have analytical capacity, policy making authority, and/or implementation jurisdiction in sectors of interest
  • Universities – provide expertise, analytic support, and/or a neutral forum to convene stakeholder meetings
  • Which state agencies can advance the use of energy efficiency and renewable energy to reduce greenhouse gases and criteria air pollutants and what are their roles?

    State departments of environmental protection, public utility commissions and state energy offices have a role in advancing the use of energy efficiency and renewable energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    • Departments of Environmental Protection (DEPs) are responsible for protecting public health and the environment from the effects of air pollution. These officials implement the federal Clean Air Act, and may also have separate regulatory duties under state law. Air regulators:
      • Monitor air quality
      • Develop state strategies for improving air quality and reducing greenhouse gases that can include a variety of measures, potentially including energy efficiency and renewable energy options
      • Issue permits for the construction and operation of air pollution sources (e.g., power plants and industrial facilities)
      • Use inspections and enforcement actions to ensure sources comply with regulations

      Air quality agencies typically exist as a division of state DEPs. The National Association of Clean Air Agencies (NACAA) Exit provides contact information for many state and local air officials across the nation, and includes current information on important air pollution topics.

    • Public Utility Commissions (PUCs) are independent, quasi-judicial bodies that regulate monopoly electricity and natural gas utilities. PUCs ensure that:
      • Reliable electricity and gas service is provided
      • Rates that customers pay are just and reasonable
      • Utilities can earn a fair return on their investment

      This "PUC 101" presentation (PDF) Exit describes opportunities for air offices and others to understand and participate in PUC decisions. The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) Exit is the national association that represents state public utility commissioners, offering state PUC contacts from around the country and information resources on utility regulatory topics.

    • State Energy Offices (SEOs) are responsible for encouraging energy-related economic development and minimizing the environmental impact of that development. The activities of SEOs vary widely, depending upon a state's resources and objectives.

      The National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) Exit is the national association that represents state energy officials, and offers information Exit about the functions and roles of state energy offices.

    The air regulator, PUC, and SEO responsibilities described here are representative. In practice, their activities vary by state, depending on legislative history, and other factors.

  • How can state environment and energy-related agencies coordinate effectively to advance the use of energy efficiency and renewable energy to reduce pollution?

    Many state air, energy, and utility officials typically have not coordinated and integrated their decision making. However, there can be mutual gains to jointly developing policies intended to advance EE/RE and reduce emissions. For energy and PUC officials, considering air pollution impacts when making energy-resource decisions can help reduce future environmental risks and the compliance costs that utilities and generators may face. Similarly, air regulators can benefit from energy regulators' input as they work to identify low-cost and flexible options to reduce greenhouse gases and criteria pollutants.

  • What are specific ways that state utility regulators and energy officials can help their air agency counterparts explore the use of energy efficiency and renewable energy to reduce greenhouse gases and criteria pollutants?
    • If interested in using energy efficiency and renewable energy to help meet criteria pollutant standards, explore EPA's Roadmap for Incorporating Energy Efficiency/Renewable Energy Policies and Programs into State and Tribal Implementation Plans
    • Engage with state and local air regulators to:
      • Understand their priorities and constraints
      • Answer EE/RE questions to help them get started
    • Help air agencies identify EE/RE policies and programs that are currently "on the books," as well as opportunities for implementing additional EE/RE that will lower emissions
    • Provide state air officials with impact data from EE/RE policies and programs
      • Identify any data gaps and requirements
    • Update state or regional estimates of the power system costs that are avoided by investing in EE/RE
    • Consider examples and findings from other jurisdictions
    • Encourage or require utility and EE/RE program administrators to collect data that is useful to air regulators, and share it with air regulators on a regular basis

Identifying other Key Stakeholders

States have found it very important to work with the stakeholders outside of state government that are most likely to be impacted by changes in state policy or regulatory decisions. In addition to offering input and expressing their interests, these stakeholders can be important partners:

  • Utilities – house technical expertise and data
  • Independent system operators (ISOs) and regional transmission organizations (RTOs) – hold technical analyses and information that are key pieces of many clean energy policies
  • Independent power producers, independent transmissions owners, and energy suppliers – maintain information and analysis about electricity markets
  • Environmental and consumer organizations – track data, analysis, and feedback
  • Other private sector interests – keep data and analytic capabilities relevant to energy planning
  • The public – offer new ideas, input, and feedback to the state

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Reaching the Community

Climate and clean energy policies and programs require broad support to be effective. Successful states have implemented climate and energy policies with the support of their governor, legislature, and state agencies; however, successful programs often also require an outreach strategy to engage the public to take actions that will translate into the projected energy savings or greenhouse gas reductions.

Successful public outreach campaigns require a well-designed multi-step strategy, whose components typically include the following (although not always in this order):

  1. Establish a Team – Involve the team in each step of the development process.
  2. Identify Goals – Identify a cohesive set of realistic goals that serve the overall objectives of your outreach campaign and function as achievable milestones.
  3. Identify Your Audience – Spend time considering the perspective and experiences of the audience you intend to reach and shaping your message to address them.
  4. Establish Timeline and Identify Needs and Resources – Develop a realistic timeline and create deadlines and milestones to keep the development of your outreach campaign on schedule. Determine your budget and, if necessary, identify internal and external resources that may be able to provide funding or technical assistance.
  5. Develop Outreach Materials – Demonstrate to your intended audience how the content of the material meets their needs. EPA's Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator can help you communicate your greenhouse gas reduction strategy, reduction targets and other initiatives.
  6. Implement Outreach Strategy – Track results to build lessons learned and make adjustments as needed.

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