Collaborative Research: Planning for Renewables: Regional Transmission Organizations Managing Tension and Networking Innovation

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project addresses the process of organizational adaptation among 'Regional Transmission Organizations' (RTOs), which coordinate the movement of electricity to more than two-thirds of households in the United States. RTOs are highly complex socio-technical organizations that are challenged to facilitate fundamental transformations in how electricity is produced and delivered, driven by individual state mandates requiring increased use of renewable fuel sources (primarily from variable sources such as wind and solar energy). RTOs must adapt to these mandates through policy innovation, a difficult organizational problem since decision-making by RTOs happens within a complex negotiation framework involving a large number of voluntary external stakeholders (e.g., electricity generating companies, regulators, consumer and environmental advocates). The focus of this comparative analysis among three RTOs (serving the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and California) is to understand how, why, and when these networks of conflicting stakeholders can lead to innovation. The approach blends direct observation of policy-formation processes with semi-structured interviews in an empirical investigation of the configuration of stakeholder networks within RTOs and the communication strategies employed by RTO stakeholders within the policy process.

RTOs play a critical role in the transition to more sustainable energy systems, making decisions that are pivotal to environmental quality, economic growth and security, and social well-being. The focus of this research, which is designed to understand processes of communication in complex dynamic organizations, will provide direct insights that can contribute to the sustainable transformation of similar organizations and infrastructures critical to social well-being. Our program of engaged scholarship includes the gathering of primary data on stakeholder perceptions of policy-formation processes within RTOs, as well as meetings and workshops held jointly with university researchers, industry practitioners, and regulators.

Effective start/end date7/15/136/30/17


  • National Science Foundation: $144,400.00


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