Grid Modernization and Energy Poverty

44 Pages Posted: 29 Jun 2017

See all articles by Shelley Welton

Shelley Welton

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

Date Written: May 2017


Grid modernization holds the alluring promise of rationalizing electricity pricing, saving consumers money, and improving environmental quality all at the same time. Yet, we have seen only limited and patchwork regulatory initiatives towards significant grid modernization in the United States. Outside of a few leading states, state energy regulators appear loath to embrace full-throated versions of the project. This article argues that the under-discussed problem of energy poverty in the United States is a critical contributing factor in the gap between grid modernization’s possibilities and our regulatory reality. Only by explicitly understanding how the issues of grid modernization and energy poverty intersect, and by coming up with creative ways to address the challenges created, can regulators gain the comfort they need to move forward with grid modernization reforms in the face of rising inequality and substantial energy poverty. To get at these connections, this Article utilizes a case study of New York State’s grid modernization efforts. As part of these efforts, regulators there have pursued an inclusive inquiry into how best to manage the ways in which grid modernization might have disparate impacts on lower-income consumers, producing some important early-stage lessons for emerging modernization efforts in other states.

Keywords: Grid Modernization, Energy Poverty, Electricity, Utilities, Reforming the Energy Vision, Energy Burden, Climate Change, Electrification

Suggested Citation

Welton, Shelley, Grid Modernization and Energy Poverty (May 2017). North Carolina Journal of Law and Technology, Vol. 18, No. 4, May 2017, Available at SSRN:

Shelley Welton (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

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