About Lauren Azar
Since 1994, Lauren has participated in the electric industry from all perspectives:
- Federal: Senior Advisor to the Secretary of the DOE focusing on institutional barriers in the electric industry;
- State: Commissioner at the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin regulating public and municipal utilities; and
- Private Sector: Lawyer representing utilities (electric) and utility customers (water).
Lauren’s broad and multi-faceted experience provides clients with unparalleled insight and relationships. Lauren is respected by state and federal regulators, CEOs of utilities, industry financiers, and tech companies that are bringing new products to market.
At the federal level, Lauren led the efforts on overhauling the federal role in transmission permitting and siting. Specifically, Lauren:
- Co-led the nine-agency Rapid Response Team for Transmission (RRTT). The RRTT was the first of the Obama Administration’s efforts to corral multiple federal agencies in the streamlining of federal permitting. The RRTT created seven pilot projects intended not only to assist those specific projects but, more importantly, to identify areas needing systemic changes within the agencies;
- Served on the President’s Steering Committee for Federal Infrastructure Permitting and Review Process Improvement;
- Met regularly with the “Transmission Cabinet,” which includes the Secretaries of DOE, USDA, and Interior, and the Chairs of FERC and CEQ;
- Initiated and oversaw a revamp of the Western Area Power Administration’s Transmission Infrastructure Program (TIP). Western received $3.25 billion in revolving funds to finance transmission lines that facilitate delivery of renewable energy. The TIP also enables applicants to use Western’s federal eminent domain authorities. After four years, over $3 billion remained unencumbered at which point Lauren was asked to revamp the program. The recommendations from her revamp efforts were published in the Federal Register.
- Initiated and oversaw a refinement of the DOE’s Section 1222 program where DOE collaborates with third parties in developing transmission facilities. Applicants are primarily interested in this program to utilize federal eminent domain powers.
While a state commissioner, Lauren also led regional efforts:
- In 2009, Lauren served as President of the Organization of MISO states (OMS), a non-profit organization of representatives from each state that included in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO). As President of the OMS, Lauren initiated and chaired a regional planning and cost allocation effort for developing electric transmission over the MISO region, which at that time included 13 states and one Canadian province. Concurrent with those efforts, Lauren chaired the MISO’s taskforce on re-evaluating the cost-sharing methodology for new transmission lines within the MISO region, which resulted in a FERC-approved cost-allocation tariff.
- In 2010 and 2011, Lauren co-founded and served as the first President of the Eastern Interconnection States’ Planning Council (EISPC). Lauren organized the states and Canadian provinces east of the Rockies and obtained a $14 million grant for EISPC to jointly spearhead the planning efforts over the entire Eastern Transmission Interconnection.
- As a Commissioner, Lauren regulated the public utilities in Wisconsin and was a decision-maker in all matters that came before the Commission including ratecases, affiliated interest agreements, construction dockets and more.
In the private sector:
- Lauren is currently representing transmission developers, both utilities and merchants, throughout the United States. She has helped utilities obtain permits for hundreds of miles of extra-high voltage lines over multiple states;
- Lauren is counseling emerging technology companies in overcoming institutional barriers in the electric sector;
- Lauren also provides advice and counsel to utilities on preparing for the “utility of the future”;
- Lauren advises financiers to the electric industry;
- Lauren has provided advice to consultants preparing environmental impact statements for the federal government;and
- Over the years, Lauren has provided extensive advice to utilities, from helping to create the nation’s first multi-state stand-alone transmission company to representing a merchant company in purchasing a nuclear power plant.