Notes and Case Comments

Shedding Light: The Role of Public Utility Commissions in Encouraging Adoption of Energy Efficient Lighting by Low-income Households

This Note proposes harnessing the abilities of state public utility commissions (“PUCs”) to tailor preexisting efficient lighting programs for low-income households, which are particularly susceptible to the common barriers to efficient lighting adoption. Although the exact mandate differs by state, most PUCs regulate and monitor utility services and ensure reliable delivery of electricity at just and reasonable rates.Within this relatively undefined area, PUCs may extend the scope of their rules to encompass energy efficiency schemes by characterizing such programs as a method of promoting the reliability and decreasing the costs of the entire electricity grid.  This Note identifies three approaches that, if applied together, accommodate for special needs of low-income households and satisfy general policy goals: free and subsidized light bulbs, free audits, and educational projects.  The combination of these approaches is low-cost and self-sustaining: PUCs already regulate utilities, meaning no additional procedure or oversight is necessary, and reduced electricity bills, once initial barriers […]

Blowing Smoke: Why the Current Government Incentive Regime Makes EVs and PHEVs a Distant Prospect—and How to Fix It

An entire generation has greeted the arrival of plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles (“PHEVs”) with eager anticipation.  However, the rise of a trend does not necessarily imply that spending habits will change—much less in a permanent way.  The ambiguous prospects for popular PHEV and electric vehicle (“EV”) adoption demands discussion of what may keep them out of driveways, and how to overcome those barriers. This Note seeks to analyze how, through proper government incentive programs, EVs and PHEVs might become one mechanism for reducing the United States’ carbon emissions from transportation.  Part I will set the backdrop for this analysis by discussing the history of EVs and PHEVs, and the government incentive programs already in place.  Part II will cover the issues impeding popular adoption of EVs and PHEVs by consumers.  Finally, Part III will propose a “model” government incentive program to overcome these issues.  This program can be broken into five parts:  educating consumers […]