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Exploring utility regulation

Professional football, baseball and other sports leagues all have rules and regulations that players, referees, coaches and even fans must follow. Sports regulating agencies establish a wide array of rules for gameplay, equipment specifications, playoff structures and tournament formats, to name a few. Utility regulation operates in a similar way. 

State and federal utility regulating bodies help ensure safe, reliable and affordable services like electricity, water and gas are provided to customers. Regulators oversee the companies that provide these services to ensure compliance with the laws and rules in place. 

Utility regulation in the United States started in the early 1900s as states began to create rules for companies providing essential services. Over time, these rules have evolved, striking a balance between government oversight and industry innovation. 

There are several key benefits of utility regulation: 

Safe, reliable and affordable delivery to customers. Regulatory agencies set standards and oversee utilities to ensure they provide essential services consistently. This includes making sure utilities meet certain standards, which can be higher than standards in a deregulated market.  

Innovation with accountability. Regulators act as a check and balance, ensuring innovations like renewable energy resources benefit customers without compromising service quality, cost and safety. 

Provider of last resort. Since energy is a critical service, there must always be a backup in deregulated energy markets in case a competitive provider fails. In the regulated utility market, utilities generally have specific areas they are assigned to serve. This ensures all customers have access to services. 

Load and capability management.
Regulatory agencies play a crucial role in managing the balance between energy demand and the utility's capability to supply it. This is vital to avoid overloads or shortages that could disrupt service. 

In the dynamic world of energy supply, utility regulation ensures essential benefits such as safe, reliable and cost-effective energy are provided to all customers. The careful consideration of these factors is crucial for finding the right balance in the energy industry.  
Michael is a senior regulatory manager at Alliant Energy. He is responsible for the execution of regulatory matters for Alliant Energy’s Wisconsin utility, Wisconsin Power and Light Company. This includes rate reviews, construction dockets, and compliance activities. He also leads Alliant Energy’s wholesale electric business, working with electric cooperatives and municipal- and investor-owned utilities.

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