Powering "progress": Regulation and the development of michigan's electricity landscape

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This article examines state-level regulation as it affected Michigan's electricity infrastructure system. Whereas many studies make central the utility companies who built and operated the system, I argue that Michigan'sutilities laws and the specific actions of the regulatory body, the Michigan Public Service Commission, played a crucial role in shaping the state's electricity landscape. The regulatory process, and in particular rate-of-return accounting, converged with a specific notion of progress that linked the deployment of new infrastructure to statewide socioeconomic advancement, producing a landscape dominated by huge projects and excess generating capacity. In spite of industry restructuring in the 1990s, historical attitudes toward both infrastructure and consumption continue to limit conservation and renewable fuels programs today. Beginning with a brief history of Michigan's electricity landscape, the article shifts to the Commission's role in setting rules whereby utilities could operate, profit, and make investments. I examine impacts of Commission policies as typified by hearings surrounding theMidland Nuclear Facility. Next, I consider the role of progress in utility and regulatory decisions and conclude with a look at the legacies of earlier policies, decisions, and attitudes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)962-970
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of the Association of American Geographers
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2011
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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