Regulating for Energy Justice

81 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2022 Last revised: 28 Nov 2022

See all articles by Alexandra B. Klass

Alexandra B. Klass

University of Michigan Law School

Gabriel Chan

University of Minnesota - Minneapolis - Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Date Written: February 11, 2022


In this Article, we explore and critique the foundational norms that shape U.S. federal and state energy regulation and suggest pathways for reform that can incorporate principles of “energy justice.” These energy justice principles—developed in academic scholarship and social movements—include the equitable distribution of costs and benefits in the transition to clean energy, equitable participation and representation in energy decision-making, and restorative justice for structurally marginalized groups.

While new legislation, particularly at the state level, is critical to the effort to advance energy justice, our focus here is on regulators’ ability to implement reforms now using their existing authority to advance the public interest and establish just, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory rates, charges, and practices. Throughout the Article, we challenge the longstanding narrative that utility regulators are engaged solely in a technical ratemaking exercise in setting utility rates. We argue that rate setting is and always has been social policy implemented within a legislative framework designed to promote the public interest. As we explain, when regulators and advocates expressly recognize this fact, it creates new opportunities for the regulatory system to achieve energy justice goals.

Through our reexamination of energy system governance, we evaluate new approaches to advance the public interest and set just and reasonable rates for energy consumers. These new approaches consider system benefits as well as costs, enhance universal and affordable access to utility service, alleviate income constraints on residential energy consumption as an economic development tool, increase equitable access to distributed energy resources such as energy efficiency and rooftop solar, and enhance procedural justice in ratemaking proceedings. We argue that over the long run, these pathways to a more just energy system align the interests of all system stakeholders by creating community wealth and collective prosperity.  

Keywords: energy justice, energy poverty, utility regulation, electricity regulation, climate change, severe weather, COVID-19, utility shutoffs

JEL Classification: K23, K32, Q2, Q4, Q5, D1, D4, D6, H3, H4

Suggested Citation

Klass, Alexandra B. and Chan, Gabriel, Regulating for Energy Justice (February 11, 2022). 97 NYU Law Review 1426 (2022), Available at SSRN: or

Alexandra B. Klass (Contact Author)

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States

Gabriel Chan

University of Minnesota - Minneapolis - Humphrey School of Public Affairs ( email )

130 Humphrey School, 301 19th Ave. S
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States
612-626-8910 (Phone)
612-625-3513 (Fax)


Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics