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Greening the L.A. Power Grid: The Role of Utility Regulatory Models in Promoting Grid Modernization

The Challenge

A power grid is a network for delivering electricity to consumers. Because utility structure is widely understudied, a critical component to “greening” the power grid is fully understanding the current system. In the Los Angeles region, two separate entities provide power to residents and are subject to very different regulatory structures:  

  • Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) is the country’s largest municipally owned utility that serves the City of Los Angeles.  
  • Southern California Edison (SCE) is an investor-owned utility that serves all of Los Angeles County outside the City of Los Angeles borders.  

Having dual models of electricity service and regulation provides researchers with a unique opportunity to evaluate and compare the two. Researchers examined whether these two models under different forms of governance and ownership have necessary structures in place in order to achieve sustainability in the energy sector. 

The Solution

Researchers conducted a qualitative study based on intensive case studies of LADWP and SCE to understand the organizational forms of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and Southern California Edison (SCE). By combining structured interviews with in-depth research on corporate documents, findings and regulatory frameworks, researchers assessed for each utility how the enacted policies toward renewable energy are being implemented, whether they are working, and how they could be enhanced. Major challenges and opportunities in greening the power grid in the Los Angeles region were identified. Findings from this research will inform ongoing processes at both LADWP and SCE, in California and across the country to accelerate grid modernization – or development of a green, sustainable electricity network. 

Next Steps

The results of this project could be used to inform efforts to develop and simulate different scenarios for various policy futures regarding Los Angeles County’s electricity distribution systems and widespread deployment of distributed energy sources. 



Award Year


Research Team

Ann Carlson (PI) 
Environmental Law, UCLA School of Law 
Emmett Institute on Climate Change & the Environment 

William Boyd (Collaborator)  
UCLA School of Law 
Institute of the Environment & Sustainability