Civics: The Role of States, Schools, and Local Government Boot Camps

Civics: The Role of States, Schools, and Local Government

From the federal level down to your neighborhood’s school, government plays a role in regulating our energy system.  Energy policy can be complex and overwhelming, but that’s where Gen180 comes in: we’re here to break it all down into simple and understandable parts—so you’re better equipped to engage with decision-makers as you take part in the transition to clean energy in your community, state, and beyond.

Federal Policy

Federal energy policy has evolved significantly over the last several decades, and it continues to do so today. One potential federal resolution that would impact energy regulation is the Green New Deal. Take a look at the video for a quick overview.

There’re some important policies in addition to the Green New Deal framework that could impact our country’s transition to clean energy. Carbon pricing, for example, is widely agreed to be a key policy solution, and it could be implemented in a couple different ways.

Carbon Tax:

At its most basic form, a carbon tax works a lot like a sales tax. It’s an extra tax that’s added to a fuel per unit of pollution released into the atmosphere when it’s burned. The tax is usually collected at the point of sale by the government implementing the tax.

Fee and Dividend:

Fee and Dividend refers to a particular type of carbon tax, with the aim of returning all the money raised by the carbon price back to the citizens in the form of a payment. The “fee” refers to the price and the “dividend” is the payment. However, the importance of calling it a fee and not a tax is that the aim is to not increase revenue for the government. This is a type of revenue neutral carbon pricing.1 is an excellent resource to learn more about energy policy at the federal level in the United States.

Visit Ballotpedia Now

State Policy

While federal policy has the broadest reach, it’s actually state policy that directly impacts how you as a consumer interact with energy. Electricity producers are regulated by the state’s Public Utility Commission, so it’s important to understand how these groups work and interact with members of the community. This video is a solid explanation of how PUCs and utilities interact, and what issues are often at play in many places around the country (you can ignore the sales pitch at the end of this video).

There are about 200 people who have a huge role in shaping our country’s transition to clean energy. They’re the members of Public Utility Commissions (PUCs), who decide how local utility companies get energy. Energy expert Hal Harvey explains why we need to get them on board.

Another level of state policy that impacts your community’s ability to implement clean energy is a Power Purchase Agreement, or PPA. Check out the videos below to learn more about how this tool can be used to integrate more solar power into our energy mix.

While state policy directly impacts how people interact with energy in their state, it still has its limits if federal regulation isn’t on par. In the podcast below you’ll find two regulatory experts discussing the legal limits to local climate action. It’s dense but highly-relevant stuff.


Local Policy

While the current administration is working to roll back many federal environmental regulations, governors and mayors nationwide and across the globe are making new pledges to cut carbon emissions and honor the targets set by the Paris Accords.


2018 was a headline year that saw incredible progress towards clean energy in communities across the country. Check out The Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s reflection on what they describe as the “Year of 100” — a landmark year for 100% renewable and clean energy commitments in 2018.


Local communities are advocating for clean energy all over the country, and they’re winning. But voting age constituents aren’t the only citizens making an impact – kids have a voice too. Middle schooler Claire Vlases is just one example of a student making a huge impact at her middle school.

There are a handful of 100% clean energy commitments at the local level. Is your city on board? Below are the top movements.

Visit the Ready For 100 campaign.

Visit the We Are Still In coalition.

Knowing who represents you is the first step in making change in your world., created by the federal government, hosts an easy to use website that makes finding who speaks on your behalf a breeze.

Find Your Representatives

Deeper Dive

The transition to clean energy spans beyond the United States, with global action needed on climate change. The Paris Climate Accord was the first global agreement that addressed greenhouse gas emissions and focused on tackling the climate crisis. However, the current White House Administration has announced its intention to withdraw the United States from the Climate Agreement. Watch the video to learn more and consider what it would mean for the United States to leave the pact.

Bonus Round