Get Out in Front of the Mob and Call it a Parade: What Electric Utility Executives and Those Who Regulate Them Can Do To Accelerate Adoption of Clean Energy

SESSION 1: Where Are We Now and Where Are We Headed? – The Regulator’s Perspective
October 19, 4:00-5:30 pm, Belfer 503 (M-RCBG conference room)

SESSION 2: The Utility’s Perspective   
November 16, 4:00-5:30 pm, Taubman Building, 1st floor, WAPPP Cason Conference Room (Rm 102)

SESSION 3: The Politics of Electric Utility Reform   
November 30, 4:00-5:30 pm, Taubman Building 2nd Floor, T-202

SESSION 4: Next Generation Tools for Utility Regulators To Advance a Clean Energy Economy
December 5, 1:30-2:30pm, Belfer 503 (M-RCBG conference room)


SESSION 4 Details: Next Generation Tools for Utility Regulators To Advance a Clean Energy Economy

Guest speaker:  Travis Kavulla, Chairman of the Board of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC); Commissioner at the Montana Public Service Commission

Travis Kavulla represents the Montana Public Service Commission’s geographically largest district. In November 2010, he was elected by a 28-point margin, the largest of anyone facing an election contested by both major parties since the modern commission’s inception in 1974. He was re-elected in 2014 in an uncontested race.

Additionally, Mr. Kavulla is the President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC). He is a member of the Advisory Council of the Electric Power Research Institute

He also serves as co-chairman of the Northern Tier Transmission Group (NTTG) Steering Committee and is a member of the California ISO’s Energy Imbalance Market (EIM) Transitional Committee. Mr. Kavulla previously has led Western state utility regulators’ efforts on the creation of efficient wholesale markets, emissions allowance trading, and the reliability of the bulk electric system.

Previous to his election to the Public Service Commission, Mr. Kavulla worked as a journalist, writing on political economy, culture, and development. His by-line has appeared in publications as diverse as the Wall Street Journal, Catholic World Report, the Dallas Morning News, and the Journal of Eastern African Studies, among many others. Mr. Kavulla has also served as associate editor for National Review, the biweekly magazine founded by William F. Buckley, Jr., and has worked as a professional editor of media ranging from blogs to books. Mr. Kavulla has received a number of honors, including being awarded a year-long, full-time writing fellowship in 2008 from the Phillips Foundation.

Mr. Kavulla received his bachelor’s in History at Harvard University, and holds a graduate degree from the University of Cambridge, England, where he was a Gates Scholar. Mr. Kavulla is a fourth-generation Montanan. 


The following links provide further context for this study group session:

Recent Documents from Mr. Kavulla & from Montana


SESSION 3 Details: The Politics of Electric Utility Reform 

Guest speaker: Edward H. Comer, Vice President, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary at Edison Electric Institute

Edward H. Comer began at EEI as a staff attorney in 1981, was elected Vice President of Law in January, 1995 and Vice President and General Counsel in 1998.  Ed was elected Corporate Secretary in September, 2011. During this period Ed has staffed EEI’s Board of Directors, consisting of the CEOs of EEI member companies, on a large number of important public policy changes. He is responsible for all legal issues affecting EEI and its members.

Ed works directly on the critical policy issues affecting the electric industry. He represents EEI in Congress and in proceedings before federal regulatory agencies, including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency as well as the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and other federal agencies.  He also represents EEI before state legislative and administrative bodies and with state officials on matters of generic industry interest. Ed is now engaged in issues involving clean energy and storage, EPA’s proposed greenhouse standards for fossil fuel units; competitive market reforms, PURPA reform, grid modernization, distributed generation, reliability, resiliency, cybersecurity, customer solutions; and general utility regulation.

Ed manages an active litigation practice at EEI.  EEI regularly appears in matters of general electric utility interest in cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, Federal Courts of Appeals and the highest Courts in individual states.  EEI participated in two cases in the U.S. Supreme Court this Term which addressed the scope of FERC’s jurisdiction over demand response and over sales of electric energy for resale as it relates to state jurisdiction over retail electric matters. Ed also manages EEI’s internal legal services, covering contracts, employment, lobbying and contribution laws and sits on EEI’s internal fiduciary committee to assure our business operates efficiently and in compliance with applicable laws.

Ed holds a Bachelors degree from the University of Chicago (1971), where he specialized in History, and a Law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School (1974). He is a member of the Energy Bar Association; the Montgomery County, Maryland, Energy and Air Quality Advisory Committee; Leadership Montgomery; and the Association General Counsel Forum. He regularly speaks on energy issues and periodically teaches energy law classes. He is an avid bicyclist.


The following links provide further context for this study group session:

Recent Political/Legislative Articles

 Background on Utility Reform

New Regulatory Models, Pages 1-7


Session 2 Details: The Utility’s Perspective

Guest speaker: Edward Young, Director of US Strategy at National Grid

Edward (Ed) Young is an energy industry strategist focused on the power and gas sector. As director of US strategy at National Grid Ed is responsible for long term strategy development for the regulated electric and gas utility in New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Prior to joining National Grid, Edward was responsible for strategy development and execution at InterGen, a global independent power producer with 6,306 MW of gas, coal, and wind generation in operation at 12 power plants in the UK, Netherlands, Australia, and Mexico. He founded the strategy team.

Previously Edward led the China Energy research and consulting group at IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates, providing market analysis and strategy consulting to leading Chinese and Western oil, gas and power companies. Edward is a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Business, London University, and the University of Oxford.

The following links provide further context for this study group session:

Background and Models for Ratemaking

Energy/Utility Regulatory Reform in the Northeast



Session 1 Details:


Ann Berwick, former Chair of the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities and Massachusetts Undersecretary for Energy

Ann Berwick served as Chair of the Department of Public Utilities under Governor Deval Patrick from June, 2010 until January 2015.  She was also the president of the New England States Committee on Electricity from 2012 to 2015.  Prior to being appointed chair of the DPU, Ann was the Commonwealth’s Undersecretary for Energy and also Acting Chair of the Energy Facility Siting Board. Ann served as Chief of the Environmental Protection Division in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office from 1991 to 1996, where she exercised joint oversight of the Massachusetts Environmental Strike Force.  Ann has been a legal services attorney, and a partner in the litigation department at the Boston law firm Goulston & Storrs.  Ann is currently a writer and consultant on energy issues and climate change, and serves on the boards of non-profit organizations.  Ann holds a B.A. from Radcliffe College and a J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School.  She has four grown children and lives in Newton with her husband.

Janet Besser, Executive Vice President, Northeast Clean Energy Council; former Chair of the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities and Vice President of Regulatory Strategy and Policy at National Grid

As Executive Vice President Janet leads NECEC's Policy, Government Affairs and Membership strategy and activities. Janet brings deep expertise and credibility to lead NECEC’s policy and government relations efforts. Most recently she was Vice President of Regulatory Strategy and Policy at National Grid, and previously was Chair of the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities. Janet has been in senior roles in the Massachusetts Energy Office and New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission, and has been an executive and expert consultant on electricity markets, transmission, policy and economics at two leading consulting firms: Analysis Group and Lexecon. She also brings experience as policy director for a DC-based national independent power industry association, and is a nationally recognized expert on a wide range of energy policy issues with deep relationships across the industry.

The following links provide further context for this study group session:

Background & History of Utility Ratemaking

Energy/Utility Regulatory Reform in the Northeast


These study groups inform and support the efforts of a research team at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center which is analyzing specific regulatory and rate-setting measures that can be put in place to accelerate the electric industry’s adoption of climate-conscious, consumer empowering – and, importantly, profitable – approaches for a clean energy economy. Throughout the year we will convene to hear from the players in the game – regulators, utility executives, environmental and clean energy entrepreneurs and NGO leaders, politicians, and scholars – to gain their perspectives on the opportunities for transforming the industry and the challenges we as a society face in getting there.

Through study group discussions, surveys, in-depth interviews, and financial analysis we are researching and evaluating innovative models that have been employed by regulators and utilities throughout the United States and elsewhere.  At the same time we are seeking to better understand and document the fears and aspirations of utility executives and regulators and the constraints and barriers to reform that they face. Our goal for this work is to provide a strong analytical foundation for a range of recommendations for specific actions that regulators can advance to provide utilities greater opportunity to reduce their and their customers’ impact on the climate while still – in fact, better – meeting their fiduciary obligations to shareholders. 

Extensive and powerful regulatory, social, political and economic forces are driving rapid change in the energy sector. These forces pose a substantial threat to a business model that has served electric utilities well for 100 years – build more power plants, sell more kWhs, and earn a guaranteed rate of return on your investment for doing so. However, the tide is turning toward a more efficient, distributed, customer-driven electricity market.  For those utilities and for the regulatory agencies which set their rules it is a time for new thinking and new approaches.  In many states utility executives and policymakers are trying very hard to maintain the status quo. A growing number of others, however, are firmly sighted on the future, struggling to find new, entrepreneurial approaches to meeting the twin objectives of fiduciary responsibility to shareholders and socially responsible governance. This research project – and the study groups which are an important part of it - seeks to deepen and broaden the understanding of what is motivating these players and what Public Utility Commissions and other policymakers can do to accelerate the changes that are necessary to meet the climate challenge.

To follow the research team’s efforts or to participate in them, please contact

Dan Peckham


John DeVillars is a clean energy and environmental professional with substantial leadership experience in both the public and private sectors. He is currently Chairman of BlueWave Capital LLC, a solar energy development and investment firm with $200M in utility-scale assets in North America, the Caribbean, and South Africa and a residential solar loan program offered in selected markets in the United States. Mr. DeVillars has held several executive positions in the public sector including New England Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Massachusetts Secretary of Environmental Affairs, Chief of Operations to the Governor of Massachusetts, and Chairman of the Board of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority. At E.P.A. Mr. DeVillars launched a number of nationally-recognized initiatives including the establishment of the nation’s first regional Center for Environmental Industry and Technology; the Urban Environment Initiative which targeted EPA resources to address inner city health and environmental challenges; and the Clean Charles Initiative, a multi-stakeholder effort which has led to the Charles River reaching swimmable water quality standards. As the Commonwealth’s Environmental Secretary, he directed 3,500 employees and the $400 MM operating and capital budgets of five regulatory and natural resource agencies and pioneered advances in pollution prevention, air quality, wildlife protection, and market-‐based approaches to financing and regulating environmental activities. As Chairman of the MWRA Board of Directors, Mr. DeVillars was deeply involved in the six-‐billion-‐dollar cleanup of Boston Harbor, at the time the largest public works project in New England’s history. Mr. DeVillars has won numerous awards for his public service including the Nature Conservancy’s President’s Award for national environmental leadership. He serves as a member of the Board of Directors of several private companies and non-profit organizations including the E.P.A.’s National Advisory Council on Environmental Policy and Technology. Mr. DeVillars is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (B.A.) and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government (M.P.A.) As a senior fellow at the Center, he will focus on the role of public utilities in meeting the climate change challenge. His faculty sponsor is Professor William Hogan, Raymond Plank Professor of Global Energy Policy and the Harvard Electricity Policy Group (HEPG) Research Director. Email:

M-RCBG Senior Fellow John DeVillars