IRLE 2020 intro blog postOct 30, 2020
Today the Institute for Regulatory Law & Economics (IRLE) embarks on a new initiative to provide digital content on regulating in a period of technological change. Founded in 2004 as an initiative of the Silicon Flatirons Program at the University of Colorado Law School, the IRLE provides a means of supporting and developing thoughtful regulatory decision-making, and strives to bring a clear theoretical framework in law, economics, and technology to actual regulatory practice through research and education. The program’s annual workshop brings state regulators and staff together to study and discuss the economics of closely-regulated network industries in a context of technological dynamism.
The focus on law, economics, and technology distinguishes IRLE from other regulation-focused research and education initiatives. This interdisciplinary analysis of regulatory issues is organized around five prisms:
Another distinctive feature of IRLE’s approach is experimental economics. The experiments put the attendees in the roles of market actors, making output, pricing and quality decisions within varying regulatory and market institutions, using the experimental economics paradigm pioneered by Vernon Smith and carried out in the IRLE by Lynne Kiesling, Bart Wilson, and Rim Baltaduonis. Our experimental economics teaching focuses on the unique nature of electricity markets and how changes in the institutional structure of those markets can change incentives and outcomes.
Increasingly, the focus of the IRLE has turned to the law and economics of energy regulation. In 2004 telecommunications regulation prevailed at state regulatory commissions, but as technology has evolved electricity issues have come to dominate state regulatory agendas. As a practical matter, electricity and energy issues have assumed paramount importance for regulators and policymakers at both the state and federal levels. The IRLE curriculum has reflected this evolution, and over the past decade has incorporated research on digital smart grid technology, wholesale electric competition and market design, retail competition in electricity markets, and the opportunities and challenges of integrating low-carbon distributed energy resources into the distribution grid and into energy markets. From assuring adequate generation and transmission investment, to meeting imperatives for renewable and carbon-limited resources, to making competitive wholesale and retail markets ‘work’, the IRLE focuses on discussing and studying issues of import to regulators for improving the economic foundations of regulatory policy.
2020 certainly isn’t turning out the way we anticipated a year ago, when we had just completed the 2019 IRLE annual workshop. In lieu of in-person meetings and camaraderie in sharing and learning, we are adjusting to a (hopefully short) reality of virtual meetings and adaptation to unexpected economic and public health shocks. IRLE hopes to fill that void now with an array of digital content -- short foundational videos, video conversations, blog posts, and podcasts -- that we hope you find useful and informative. We also encourage you to subscribe to our mailing list to stay in touch with us for occasional updates (and we promise only to use your information for that purpose). Let’s keep developing, discussing, and sharing ideas to enable thoughtful decision-making.