by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Democrats have said that consumers are demanding clean energy. They then have demanded massive government programs to invest in it — or to co-opt monopolies to do it for them. Why not instead, if consumers are demanding clean energy, adopt policies that would make it easier for them to get it through their own choices?
What the United States needs is not a Green New Deal. It needs a Customer Empowerment Act. Only 13 states allow all customers a choice of electricity supplier. About a dozen more offer limited options, mostly for large customers, to exit a utility’s supply monopoly. There is today no technical reason utilities should not simply act as poles-and-wires companies, their network a marketplace for power generators and retailers to sell to customers who are free to select the product that works best for them.
A Customer Empowerment Act would include an option to select clean energy. Virtually every big tech company, and corporations such as Anheuser-Busch and even ExxonMobil, have directly contracted with renewable generators. But this bypass of the utility monopoly remains closed to smaller and midsized customers in most states.
Progressives will complain that customers’ own choices will not move the dial quickly enough on climate. Yet if all one may realistically expect from a Green New Deal is low-boil, inefficient rent-seeking, then customer choice is a better route even for those to whom decarbonization is paramount.