Isaac Orr applies for a new job

I’ve applied to fill an upcoming vacancy on the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC). To be clear, there is zero chance I will be appointed by Governor Walz, but here is the cover letter I submitted with my application.

Dear Governor Walz,

My name is Isaac Orr, and I would like to express my enthusiasm and sincere desire to be appointed to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission because our state needs to find the right balance of energy solutions that optimize the quality of life for all Minnesotans as the composition of our changing electricity system.

Our electric grid is at a reliability crossroads. Rolling blackouts have affected California, Texas, and 17 other states in the last few years, and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) recently released a report warning that a large portion of the North American bulk power system, including the region to which Minnesota belongs, is at risk of blackouts during peak winter conditions due to an overreliance upon natural gas and weather-dependent wind and solar resources.[1]

Unfortunately, Minnesota will suffer rolling blackouts if we continue to pursue a grid that does not value the reliability provided by nuclear and coal assets as we move too quickly toward a grid that is overly reliant upon solar, wind, battery storage, and natural gas. As the Governor of Minnesota, it is your responsibility to appoint members to the PUC who take this upcoming reliability challenge seriously. I am that candidate.

Minnesota also faces a crisis of electricity affordability, harming low-income households – like the one I grew up in—and making it harder for Minnesota companies and communities to compete with firms in other states and nations. Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) show Xcel Energy residential customers have risen sharply in the last decade, causing these prices to exceed the national average.

These cost increases have come at a time when Xcel Energy’s corporate profits have soared. We need commissioners who will stand up for Minnesota families, not ones who will rubber-stamp huge increases in profits for one of the largest corporations in the state.

Protecting reliability and affordability is not at odds with improving the environment. In fact, doing so is the only way to accomplish these goals. Current PUC commissioner Joseph Sulivan recently noted that the public will revolt against the energy transition if there is a major reliability event. I agree with his assessment.

Professionally, I have specialized in researching and writing about energy and environmental policy for the last ten years. While working at the Center of the American Experiment, my colleagues and I have performed extensive modeling on the cost and reliability of several Environmental Protection Agency regulations on behalf of the North Dakota Transmission Authority. We have also modeled the cost of policies in Colorado, Michigan, and North Carolina.  

As the Governor, you are responsible for ensuring the lights stay on, that families can afford to pay their energy bills, and to advocate for sensible ways to reduce emissions in the most cost-effective way possible. These are goals all Minnesotans share, and I believe I am the best candidate to champion these priorities on the Minnesota PUC.

Thank you for your consideration,

Isaac M Orr