Prof. Severin Borenstein appointed to board overseeing California’s electric grid

Berkeley Haas Prof. Severin BorensteinProf. Severin Borenstein has been appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to the board of the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), which oversees the state’s massive electric power system, transmission lines, and wholesale electricity market.

Borenstein is the E.T. Grether Professor of Business Administration and Public Policy at the Haas School and faculty director of the Energy Institute at Haas. He said he is honored by the appointment.

“This is an exciting time for the ISO as the industry develops approaches to reliably integrate renewable energy,” Borenstein said. “The board will have an important role facilitating opportunities for beneficial trade with the rest of the western market and continuing to support California’s climate goals.”

The California ISO is charged with ensuring that the state’s power grid—one of the largest and most modern in the world—operates reliably and transparently, and maintains an accessible wholesale energy market. The CAISO is a nonprofit public benefit corporation operating governed by a board of five members who serve staggered three-year terms.

<em>Severin Borenstein</em>
Severin Borenstein

An economics professor at Berkeley Haas since 1996, Borenstein’s recent research has focused on energy markets, including alternative models of retail electricity pricing, the impact of oil prices on gasoline markets, and the economics of renewable energy and climate change. He is also an outspoken, independent voice for climate change policies that are both efficient and are economically sound.

Borenstein has long been involved with California energy policy. He chaired the California Energy Commission’s Petroleum Market Advisory Committee from 2015 until it was dissolved in 2017. From 2012 to 2013, he served on the Emissions Market Assessment Committee, which advised the California Air Resources Board on the operation of California’s Cap and Trade market for greenhouse gases. He was a member of the Governing Board of the California Power Exchange from 1997 to 2003, and served on the California Attorney General’s gasoline price taskforce in 1999-2000.

Highly sought after as a media commentator, op-ed contributor, and blogger, Borenstein most recently discussed the implications of the Pacific Gas & Electric bankruptcy with more than a dozen news outlets, from the Financial Times to Bloomberg to KQED’s Forum. (Read his Berkeley News interview here.)

While the CAISO will not be directly involved in the PG&E bankruptcy, it will be required to ensure that the grid continues to operate seamlessly no matter which public or private utilities are in the mix. That includes preparing for changes wrought by climate change, and reliably integrating renewable power from wind and solar.

Borenstein’s appointment requires confirmation by the Senate.