Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy and Administration


Public Administration

Major Advisor

Jen Schneider, Ph.D.


Elizabeth Wilson, Ph.D.


Natalie Nelson-Marsh, Ph.D.


Gregory Hill, Ph.D.


Monica Hubbard, Ph.D.


In response to energy policies and technological innovation, electricity systems are becoming more integrated and interdependent. In the Western United States, the creation of an energy imbalance market (EIM) is a significant move towards electricity grid integration. The question of how to govern this newly forming market has been deliberated in multiple decision-making venues. Through these deliberations, stakeholders engaged in the process of policy implementation and shaped the structure of the EIM as a policy intervention. To understand how this initiative unfolded and why this effort succeeded where others failed, this research explores policy implementation as the outcome of the social negotiation of authority. To accomplish this, this research combines policy implementation, boundary work, and field theories and develops an empirical investigation of how actors reconciled multiple and often conflicting authorities to enact policy change. This study asks how actors, using social practices and strategies, created and legitimated sources of authority to establish a governing body for this new market service. This case study relied on qualitative methods, including document review, participant interviews, systematic observation of decision-making in context, detailed observation fieldnotes, and the self-reflexive awareness of the role of the researcher. The dissertation demonstrates that: 1) dominant yet deficient narratives provided a rationale for ongoing resistance to regional governance in the West and prevented collaboration; 2) actors overcame and transformed deficient sources of authority by enacting social strategies that allowed alternative interpretations of the EIM construct and enabled organizations to begin collaboration; 3) actors using social negotiation interpreted and adjusted the EIM policy intervention and co-created emergent forms of authority that are flexible and dynamic; and 4) field interdependencies surfaced taken-for-granted assumptions and provided critical resources for innovative forms of collective action. The implications of these findings highlight the importance of the social negotiation of authority in energy policy implementation. Specifically, the research makes several theoretical and practical contributions: 1) multi-organizational policy implementation is a social process of transforming, negotiating, and co-creating authority, and relational authority can be an important rationale for enacted practices; 2) strategic actors engage in communicative and social processes in which authority is emergent and abstraction enables collective action without requiring consensus; 3) routine field interdependencies can bring attention to taken-for-granted assumptions and create a moment of co-authoring; and 4) regional electricity system governance structures evolve as they balance the inherent tensions of organized market participation.


Included in

Energy Policy Commons