This commentary summarizes where state energy office staff and utility regulators currently reside; specifically, how their offices can be categorized and offers a selection of state case studies.
State Energy Offices
All the Governor-led 55 U.S. states, territories and commonwealths have energy offices in some form. There are different structures of state energy offices across the states. There are 17 states with independent energy offices, 15 states with energy offices connected to their environmental protection or natural resources office (typically under the same agency), nine states with energy offices connected to their commerce or economic development offices under the same agency, five states where the energy office is connected to the utility regulator, and four states with other structures.
A plurality of states have an independent energy office, organized as a department of energy, an office of energy, a state energy authority, or a Governor’s office of energy. Many of these entities typically help develop state energy plans, implement energy policies and sometimes administer energy programs, along with other functions.
Connected to Environmental Protection or Natural Resources
Many states house their energy office as either a subsection or part of the state’s environmental protection or natural resources entity. These include energy offices under an umbrella entity, or a department of energy and environment.
Under Commerce or Economic Development
Some states have their energy office housed under or within their commerce or economic development entity.
Connected to Utility Regulator
A handful of states have organized their energy office either under their utility regulatory authority or, in the case of New Hampshire, the state utility regulatory commission is attached to the Department of Energy. In New Hampshire, the Public Utilities Commission, Site Evaluation Committee, Office of Consumer Advocate and the Energy Efficiency & Sustainable Energy Board are administratively attached.
A few states have unique structures. Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs recently created a new Office of Resiliency, tackling energy and climate issues. The California Energy Commission has commissioners appointed by the Governor. In South Dakota, the Energy Management Office is housed under the bureau of administration. In Texas, the State Energy Conservation Office, as well as a number of other administrative offices, is under the direction of the state’s comptroller.
Utility Regulatory Entities
Unlike the state energy offices, the majority of utility regulatory entities are independent entities, with 44 states having an independent commission or board with the primary duty of utility regulation. There are also five states where the utility regulator is found within a department or agency and one where the utility commission is split into a commission and a division that enforces the directives of the commission. In 38 states, the Governor appoints or approves the appointment of the members of the utility regulator, where in 10 they are directly elected, and in two they are selected by the state legislature.
Most states have an independent utility regulatory commission, or in some cases a utility regulatory board. The names of these entities range from public utility commission, public service commission, or public utility board. Members of these commissions or boards are either appointed by the Governor, elected by the public, or elected by the state legislature. While they chiefly oversee energy and water utilities, many also regulate telecommunications, transportation, and other industries.
Within Department or Agency
In Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York, the public utility commissions are found as a subsection of a state department or agency.
In Rhode Island, the public utilities commission is made up of two entities: the Commission and the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers. The division’s chief duty is to enforce the directives of the commission, while they share other duties and powers including inquiries, investigations, and hearings.
- In 2023, Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs announced that her administration would establish the Governor’s Office of Resiliency, operating as the state’s energy office, in addition to prioritizing resiliency, implementing clean and resilient energy programming, and addressing climate impacts. This office will be focusing on the nexus of energy and environment issues, including clean energy, the state water supply, energy resiliency, optimizing land use, and sustainable transportation.
- In 2021, New Hampshire established the New Hampshire Department of Energy, intended to better coordinate the state’s energy planning and activities. Administratively attached to the Department are the state’s Public Utilities Commission, Site Evaluation Committee, and Office of Consumer Advocate. The Department also oversees several energy programs.
- In 2020, voters in New Mexico approved by referendum a constitutional amendment that changed the state from having five elected commissioners to three appointed commissioners selected by the Governor. By changing from an elected position to an appointed one, advocates hope that the appointment process provides more capable and less partisan appointees.
- National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. List of Regulatory Commissioners. Accessed June 2023 from www.naruc.org/about-naruc/regulatory-commissions/
- National Association of State Energy Officials. NASEO State and Territory Energy Offices. Accessed July 2023 from www.naseo.org/members-states
- National Council on Electricity Policy (2020). Engagement between Public Utility Commissions and State Energy Offices. Accessed July 2023 from www.naruc.org/ncep/resources/mini-guide-series/
- U.S. Department of Energy Federal Energy Management Program. State Energy Offices and Organizations. Accessed June 2023 from www.energy.gov/femp/state-energy-offices-and-organizations
For any questions regarding this brief, please contact Jessica Rackley.