Seth  Blumsack

Seth Blumsack

Office Address: 
115 Hosler Building
Professor of Energy Policy and Economics
Associate Department Head
John and Willie Leone Family Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering
File Curriculum Vitae (71.43 KB)
  • The electric power and natural gas industries
  • Reliability and resilience in network infrastructure
  • Organizational decision-making for infrastructure management
  • Regulation and deregulation in electric power
Courses Taught: 
  • • EBF 200: Introduction to Energy and Earth Sciences Economics
  • • EBF 304: Environmental Management, Risk and Decision-Making
  • • EMSC 420: Energy and Modern Society
  • • EBF 483: Introduction to the Electric Utility Industry
  • • EGEE 494: Engineering Project Design
  • • EME 580: Integrated Design of Energy Systems
  • • EME 525: Theory and Practice of Science and Technology Policy Analysis
  • • AE 868: Distributed Energy Management
  • • EME 801: Energy Markets, Policy and Regulation
  • • ENNEC 540: Economic Analysis of Energy Markets
  • • Energy, the Environment and Our Future (MOOC with Richard Alley)


Seth Blumsack is Professor of Energy and Environmental Economics and International Affairs and Associate Head for Undergraduate Programs in EME. He is also on the External Faculty of the Santa Fe Institute. Dr. Blumsack’s research centers on the electricity and natural gas industries; environmental management related to energy and infrastructure; resilience of energy infrastructure; regulation and deregulation in network industries; network science; risk analysis; and managing complex infrastructure systems.  He has been studying the electric power industry through academic and consulting affiliations for more than fifteen years. He has authored or co-authored more than fifty scientific papers; book chapters; and articles in industry and popular press, with research funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, and private industry. He has consulted with the American Public Power Association, Bayer Materials, the Congressional Research Service, the Consortium for Risk Assessment and Stakeholder Participation, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Idaho National Laboratory, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and numerous electric utilities and State Public Utility Commissions. 

Research Projects: 

Interdependent Natural Gas and Electricity Systems (sponsored by the National Science Foundation): As the power grid shifts rapidly towards natural gas for electricity generation and away from other fuels, the grid becomes more dependent on the deliverability of fuel from the natural gas transmission system. Extreme winter cold events have raised questions about the capacity of the natural gas pipeline system to deliver sufficient fuel to power plants. This interdisciplinary program of research, which integrates economics, optimization and computer science, develops computational models for the joint planning and operations of coupled natural gas and electric power systems that captures non-convex flow phenomenon as well as processes of price formation for electricity and natural gas. The project has also developed computational test beds with realistic gas and power grid topologies. The models, which are open-source and can be accessed on Github at lanl-ansi/micot-gasgrid, are useful for evaluating infrastructure planning alternatives, electricity and gas pricing systems, and network resilience.

Governance of Regional Transmission Organizations (sponsored by the National Science Foundation): Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs) facilitate the delivery of roughly 70% of all electricity consumed in the United States, and are responsible for keeping the power grid reliable. They must also adapt their planning and market rules to a rapidly changing technological and regulatory reality. This project studies how RTOs as complex and stakeholder-driven organizations make decisions. The research combines qualitative methods on organizational behavior with methods from political economy and social network analysis to uncover the political dynamics of RTO decision-making and to understand why some decisions are harder and others easier.

Smart Grids and Consumer Behavior (sponsored by the Department of Energy and private industry): Dr. Blumsack has worked with multiple electric utilities in Vermont to study how information from advanced metering infrastructure could be used to induce greater energy conservation and other changes in electricity consumption behavior. We ran multiple pilot programs over a period of five years involving different types of electricity consumers and different electricity pricing systems. We found that while electricity consumers do, on average, respond to high price events by shifting electricity to other time periods, we found little evidence of conservation overall. Moreover, individual consumer responses from event to event were highly variable and do not appear correlated with socioeconomic factors. Based on survey data, we also detected some confusion among consumers regarding the way that electricity pricing programs work and the role of the smart grid in making electricity systems more efficient.

Power Grid Reliability (sponsored by the Department of Energy, National Science Foundation and private industry): Dr. Blumsack has worked on multiple projects related to the reliability of the power grid, developing tools in the area of complex network analysis. This body of work concludes that network topology is a poor predictor of the propagation or magnitude of electricity blackouts; and is also a poor mechanism for identifying critical elements in complex networks. Dr. Blumsack has also studied the value of distributed generation in promoting network resilience, and has studied operational tradeoffs in cost and reliability between highly interconnected electric systems that move power over long distances, and smaller-scale local systems.

For additional information on Dr. Blumsack’s research activities, view his overview research poster.


Student co-authors are marked with an asterisk (*)

  • Yoo, Kyungjin* and Seth Blumsack, 2018. “The Political Complexity of Regional Electricity Policy Formation” Complexity 3493942, 18 pp.
  • Blumsack, Seth, 2018. “Impacts of the retirement of the Beaver Valley and Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plants on Capacity and Energy Prices in Pennsylvania, Electricity Journal 31:6, pp. 57-64.
  • Yoo, Kyungjin* and Seth Blumsack, 2018. “Can Capacity Markets be Designed by Democracy?” Journal of Regulatory Economics 53:2, pp. 127-151.
  • Tayari, Farid, Seth Blumsack, Russell T. Johns, Suli Tham, Soumyadeep Ghosh, 2018. “Techno-economic assessment of reservoir heterogeneity and permeability variation on economic value of enhanced oil recovery by gas and foam flooding,” Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering 166, pp. 913-923.
  • Bent, Russell, Seth Blumsack Pascal Van Hentenryck, Conrado Borraz-Sánchez and Mehdi Shahriari*, 2018. "Joint Electricity and Natural Gas Transmission Planning With Endogenous Market Feedbacks," IEEE Transactions on Power Systems, 33:6, pp. 6397-6409.
  • Shahriari, Mehdi* and Seth Blumsack, 2018. “The Capacity Value of Optimal Wind and Solar Portfolios,” Energy 148, pp. 992-1005.
  • Kleit, Andrew, Chiara Lo Prete, Seth Blumsack and Nongchao Guo*, 2018. “Weather or Not: Modeling the Welfare Effects of Natural Gas Pipeline Expansion,” Energy Systems, forthcoming.
  • Cahoy, Dan, Zhen Lei, Yuxi Meng* and Seth Blumsack, 2017. “Global Patent Chokepoints,” Stanford Technology Law Review 20:1, pp. 213-244.
  • Shahriari, Mehdi* and Seth Blumsack, 2017. “Scaling of Wind Energy Variability Over Space and Time,” Applied Energy 195:1, pp. 572-585.
  • Couzo, Evan, James McCann, William Vizuete, J. Jason West and Seth Blumsack, 2016. “Modeled Response of Ozone to Electricity Generation Emissions in the Northeastern United States Using Three Sensitivity Techniques,” Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association 66:5, pp. 456-469.
  • Sahraei-Ardakani, Mostafa and Seth Blumsack, 2016. “Transfer Capability Improvement through Market-Based Operation of Series FACTS Devices,” IEEE Transactions on Power Systems 31:5, pp. 3702-3714.
  • Sabharwall, Piyush, Shannon Bragg-Sitton, Lauren Boldon and Seth Blumsack, 2015. “Nuclear renewable energy integration: An economic case study,” Electricity Journal 28:8, pp. 85-96.
  • Tayari, Farid, Seth Blumsack, Bob Dilmore, Shahab Mohaghegh, 2015. “Techno-Economic Assessment of Industrial CO2 Storage in Depleted Shale Gas Reservoirs,” Journal of Unconventional Oil and Gas Resources 11, pp. 82-94.
  • Kumpf, Katrina*, Seth Blumsack, George Young and Jeffrey Brownson, 2015. “Portfolio analysis of solar photovoltaics: Quantifying the contributions of locational marginal pricing and power on revenue variability,” Solar Energy 119, pp. 277-285.
  • Sahraei-Ardakani, Mostafa*, Seth Blumsack and Andrew Kleit, 2015. “Estimating Zonal Supply Curves in Transmission-Constrained Electricity Markets,” Energy 80:1, pp. 10-19.
  • Govindarajan, Anand* and Seth Blumsack, 2015. “Equilibrium Deployment of Combined Heat and Power,” Journal of Energy Engineering 04015045, doi: 10.1061/(ASCE)EY.1943-7897.0000306
  • Blumsack, Seth, 2014, “Dash for Gas, 21st Century Style,” Elements 10:4, pp. 265-270.
  • Shcherbakova, Anastasia, Andrew Kleit, Seth Blumsack, Joohyun Cho* and Woonam Lee, 2014. “Effect of Increased Wind Penetration on System Prices in Korea’s Electricity Markets,” Wind Energy 17:10, pp. 1469-1482.
  • Fernandez, Alisha*, Seth Blumsack and Patrick Reed, 2013. “Operational Constraints and Hydrologic Variability Can Limit Hydropower in Supporting Wind Integration,” Environmental Research Letters 8 024037; doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/8/2/024037.
  • Shcherbakova, Anastasia, Andrew Kleit, Seth Blumsack, Joohyun Cho* and Woonam Lee, “Effect of Wind Energy on Electricity Market Prices in South Korea,” forthcoming, Wind Energy, accepted May 2013.
  • Cotilla Sanchez, Eduardo, Paul Hines, Clayton Barrows* and Seth Blumsack, 2013. “Multi-Attribute Partitioning of Power Networks Using Electrical Distance,” IEEE Transactions on Power Systems 28:4, pp. 4979-4987.
  • Ayala, Luis and Seth Blumsack, 2013. “The Braess Paradox and its Impacts on Natural Gas Network Performance,” Oil and Gas Facilities 2:3.
  • Dowds, Jonathan*, Paul Hines and Seth Blumsack, 2013. “Estimating the impact of fuel-switching between liquid fuels and electricity under electricity-sector carbon-pricing schemes, Socio-Economic Planning Sciences 47:2, pp. 76-88; DOI: 10.1016/j.seps.2012.09.004.
  • Blumsack, Seth, David Yoxtheimer, and Tom Murphy, 2012. “The Decision to Utilize Acidic Mine Discharge in Hydraulic Fracturing Applications,” Environmental Practice 14:4, pp. 301-307.
  • Kern, Jordan*, Greg Characklis, Martin Doyle, Seth Blumsack and Richard Wishunt,  2012. “The Influence of De-Regulated Electricity Markets on Hydropower Generation and Downstream Flow Regime,” Journal of Water Resources Planning and Mangement 138:4, pp. 342-355.  DOI:  10.1061/(ASCE)WR.1943-5452.0000183
  • Blumsack, Seth and Kelsey Richardson*, 2012. “Cost and Emissions Implications of Coupling Wind and Solar Power,” Smart Grids and Renewable Energy, 3:4, pp. 308-315.
  • Sahraei-Ardakani, Mostafa*, Seth Blumsack and Andrew Kleit, 2012.  “Distributional Impacts of State-Level Energy Efficiency Policies,” Energy Policy 49, pp. 365-372. DOI: 10.1016/j.enpol.2012.06.034
  • Li Li, Evan Frye* and Seth Blumsack, 2012.  “Environmental Controls of Cadmium Desorption During CO2 Leakage,” Environmental Science and Technology 46, pp. 4388-4395.  DOI: 10.1021/es3005199.
  • Barrows, Clayton* and Seth Blumsack, 2012.  “Transmission Switching in the IEEE RTS-96 Test System,” IEEE Transactions on Power Systems 27:2, pp. 1134-1135. DOI: 10.1109/TPWRS.2011.2170771.
  • Hines, Paul, Seth Blumsack, Eduardo Cotilla-Sanchez* and Clayton Barrrows*. “Comparing the Topological and Electrical Structure of the North American Electric Power Infrastructure,” in press, IEEE Systems Journal, accepted February 2012.  DOI: 10.1109/JSYST.2012.2183033.
  • Blumsack, Seth, and Alisha Fernandez,* 2012.  “Ready or Not, Here Comes the Smart Grid,” Energy 37:1, pp. 61-68. DOI: 10.1016/
  • Fernandez, Alisha*, Seth Blumsack and Patrick Reed, 2012.  “Evaluating Wind-Following and Ecosystem Services for Hydroelectric Dams,” Journal of Regulatory Economics 41:1, pp. 139-154. DOI: 10.1007/s11149-011-9177-9.
  • Seth Blumsack, Andrew Kleit and Stephon Smith*, 2012. “Evaluation of State and Federal Subsidies for Ground-Source Heat Pumps,” Energy Efficiency 5:3, pp. 321-334.  DOI: 10.1007/s12053-012-9144-z.
  • Blumsack, Seth and Jianhua Xu, 2011.  “Spatial Variation of Emissions Impacts due to Renewable Energy Siting Decisions in the Western U.S. Under High-Renewable Penetration Scenarios” Energy Policy 39:11, pp. 6962-6971. DOI: 10.1016/j.enpol.2010.11.047.
  • Blumsack, Seth, 2010.  “How Free Markets Rocked the Grid,” IEEE Spectrum 47:12, 5 pages.
  • Iulo, Lisa, Seth Blumsack, Jeffrey Brownson and R. Allen Kimel, 2010.  “Renewable Energy in the Planned World,” Interdisciplinary Themes Journal 2:1, pp. 54-69.
  • Hines, Paul, Eduardo Cotilla-Sanchez* and Seth Blumsack, 2010.  “Comparing Three Models of Attack and Failure Tolerance in Electric Power Networks,” Chaos: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Nonlinear Science 20:3.  DOI: 10.1063/1.3489887.
  • Walawalkar, Rahul*, Seth Blumsack, Jay Apt and Stephen Fernands, 2008.  “Analyzing PJM’s Economic Demand Response Program,” Energy Policy, 36, pp. 3692-3702.  DOI: 10.1016/j.enpol.2008.06.036.
  • Blumsack, Seth, Lester B. Lave and Marija Ilic, 2008.  “The Real Problem with Merchant Transmission,” Electricity Journal 21:2, pp. 9 – 19.
  • Newcomer, Adam*, Seth Blumsack, Jay Apt, Lester B. Lave and M. Granger Morgan, 2008.  “Short Run Effects of a Price on Carbon Dioxide Emissions from U.S. Electric Generators,” Environmental Science and Technology 42:9, pp. 3139 – 3144.  DOI: 10.1021/es071749d.
  • Lave, Lester B., Jay Apt and Seth Blumsack, 2007.  “Deregulation/Restructuring, Part I: Re-regulation Will Not Fix the Problems,” Electricity Journal 20:8, pp. 9 – 22.
  • Lave, Lester B., Jay Apt and Seth Blumsack, 2007.  “Deregulation/Restructuring, Part II: Where Do We Go From Here?” Electricity Journal 20:9, pp. 10 – 23.
  • Blumsack, Seth, Lester B. Lave, and Marija Ilic, 2007.  “A Quantitative Analysis of the Relationship Between Congestion and Reliability in Electric Power Networks,” Energy Journal 28:4, pp. 73 – 100.
  • Blumsack, Seth, 2007.  “Measuring the Benefits and Costs of Regional Electric Grid Integration,” Energy Law Journal 28:1, pp. 147 – 184.
  • Blumsack, Seth, Jay Apt, and Lester Lave, 2006: “Lessons From the Failure of U.S. Electricity Restructuring,” The Electricity Journal, 19:2, pp. 15 – 32.  Also translated into Japanese by the Japan Electric Power Information Center.
  • Blumsack, Seth, Jay Apt, and Lester Lave, 2005: “A Cautionary Tale: U.S. Electric Sector Reform,” Economic and Political Weekly, 40:50, pp. 5279 – 5301.
  • Lave, Lester B., Jay Apt and Seth Blumsack, 2004: “Rethinking Electricity Deregulation”, The Electricity Journal, Vol. 17, No. 8, pp 11 – 26.
  • Blumsack, Seth, Dmitri Perekhodtsev and Lester Lave, 2002:  “Market Power in Deregulated Wholesale Electricity Markets: Issues in Measurement and the Cost of Mitigation”, The Electricity Journal, Vol. 15, No.9, pp 1-24.
  • Best paper award, Hawai’i International Conference on System Sciences, 2011
  • John T. Ryan, Jr. Fellowship in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, 2011-17