Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions


Regional Transmission Organization Governance (RTOGov) is a research initiative to evaluate how decisions are made in U.S. electricity markets and whether these governance processes impact real-world outcomes such as price, customer choice, air quality, and innovation. Launched from the Power Shift network, the idea grew out of conversations about RTOs and their overlooked importance in the electricity sector. 

More than two-thirds of all electricity consumed in the United States is transmitted by competitive wholesale electricity markets organized by RTOs or their closely related cousins, Independent System Operators (ISOs). These markets are run as nonprofits and regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) as “public utilities” under the Federal Power Act. However, each grid operator has different market, planning, and operational rules, driven by a diverse set of decision-making processes and stakeholders. These rules have significant consequences for the cost, reliability, and sustainability of the electric grid, and yet, few people know what RTOs are or how they operate.

RTOGov will take an interdisciplinary approach to address research gaps in the still-developing study of RTO governance. As the power sector undergoes a transition driven by cheaper natural gas and renewables, increased consumer demand for clean energy, and emerging technologies, understanding how grid operators develop rules is critical because these decisions:

  • Affect consumer costs
  • Create or destroy value for existing and new technologies
  • Determine who is making decisions in power grid planning

The RTOGov network will be anchored by a core group of university researchers spanning the fields of economics, engineering, law, and public policy. Participants will commit to write at least one research paper on RTO governance over a two-year period, participate in workshops, and publish their data where possible.

This project is made possible through the generosity of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Heising-Simons Foundation.

RTOGov Map

Core Partners

Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability
Penn State University
Boise State University Energy Policy Institute
Ohio State University