The Political Economy of Electricity
Progressive Capitalism and the Struggle to Build a Sustainable Power Sector
by Mark Cooper
April 2017, 459pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-5342-5
$95, £74, 83€, A131
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-5343-2
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

The dramatically declining cost of solar and wind technologies will enable decarbonization of the economy with little or no increase in long-term cost.

Providing critical insights that will interest readers ranging from economists to environmentalists, policymakers, and politicians, this book analyzes the economics and technology trends involved in the dilemma of decarbonization and addresses why aggressive policy is required in a capitalist political economy to create a sea change away from fossil fuels.

The environmental damage across the globe is a result of the success of capitalist industrialism—250 years of carbon pollution resulting from consumption of fossil fuels to drive the economy and the worldwide aspiration to ever-increasing levels of economic development. But capitalism has also produced the tools to solve the problems it has created in the form of a technological revolution in low-carbon renewables, distributed resources, and intelligent systems to integrate supply and demand. This book comprehensively examines the political economy of electricity and analyzes the challenge of transforming today’s electricity sector to meet the dual goals of decarbonization and development expressed in the Paris Agreement.

Author Mark Cooper defines the dilemma of development and decarbonization as the great challenge facing the electricity industry and documents how the economic resources costs of a 100 percent-renewable portfolio has declined to the point that decarbonization can pay for itself, making the low-carbon renewable technologies that enable desired environmental and public-health benefits an easy sell. He identifies the substantial benefit of increasing use of information, communications, and advanced control technologies; shows how targeted innovation could speed the transition by a decade or two and lower the overall cost of the transition by as much as half; and explains why the flexible, multi-stakeholder approach of the Paris Agreement is the correct approach.


  • Presents comprehensive and understandable reviews of more than 200 recent empirical studies of market imperfections in the energy efficiency and climate change literature, providing a basis for targeting policies at the most important causes of poor market performance
  • Argues that aggressive action to induce change and overcome resistance, using targeted policies rather than broad-based taxes, is the strategy that will create movement towards a decarbonized economy and world
  • Provides a logical decision-making framework and portfolio analysis that enables policymakers and regulators to choose, explain, and defend their decisions, objectively and transparently
Mark Cooper is Senior Fellow for Economic Analysis at the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School. A former Yale University and Fulbright Fellow and a recipient of the Esther Peterson Award for Consumer Service, he is also an Adjunct Fellow at Silicon Flatirons at the University of Colorado School of Law. He has published six books and hundreds of articles and papers on energy, high technology, telecommunications, and media. Cooper has provided expert testimony more than 400 times for public interest clients, including attorneys general, people's counsels, and citizen interveners before state and federal agencies, courts, and legislators in dozens of jurisdictions in the United States and Canada.


“If a 30-year track record of being right about public interest trends in energy and telecommunications as well as the shortcomings of U.S. utility regulatory policy were a route to riches, Mark Cooper would be taking Bill Gates to lunch. Instead, he has written a comprehensive and sensible review of where we are and where we could go in healing the climate, enhancing a clean economy, putting the customer in charge, and taking energy policymaking out of the stultifying hands of regressive fossil and nuclear power interests. This optimistic book describes a progressive capitalist path to the energy future that the world must soon embrace.”—Peter Bradford, Author and law professor; former chair New York and Maine utility regulatory commissions; former commissioner, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

“In this thought-provoking and exhaustively researched book, Mark Cooper makes a strong case for what he calls ‘progressive capitalism.’ Cooper correctly identifies the electricity sector as key to decarbonization, and explores analytical tools and philosophical concepts needed for society to manage the transition to a sustainable economy. This book is a ‘must-read’ for those thinking deeply about how to enable such a transition.”—Jonathan Koomey, PhD, Lecturer in Earth Systems in the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences at Stanford University, and author of Cold Cash, Cool Climate: Science-Based Advice for Ecological Entrepreneurs
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