Friday, March 20, 2009

In Today's News...

For those interested in the matter of environmental justice:
Naomi Schaefer Riley, "How Can Greens Make Themselves Less White?" The Wall Street Journal, March 20, 2009

And for those interested in the concept of "clean coal technology:"
Jeffrey Ball, "Coal Hard Facts: Cleaning it Won't be Dirt Cheap," The Wall Street Journal, March 20, 2009

Also, the greenhouse gas-related challenges ahead for the Obama Administration: "Sins of emission: Barack Obama is keen to curb greenhouse-gas emissions with a cap-and-trade scheme. Can Congress come round to his way of thinking," The Economist, March 14-20, 2009

FERC Publishes Proposed Policy for "Smart Grid"

All of the actors in the delivery of electricity to end consumers know that one key component of improving efficiency is development of a "smart grid," which allows consumers to monitor and manage their electricity costs.

In this regard, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has published a proposed policy statement and action plan that would help set the "rules of the road" for development of the Smart Grid.

The proposed policy statement seeks public comment on standards for four priority issues critical to the smooth functioning and operation of the Smart Grid. After weighing public comments, FERC plans to adopt a final policy statement providing guidance to the electric power industry on standards for:

1. Cyber security;
2. Communications among regional market operators, utilities, service providers and consumers; 3. Ensuring that the bulk power system operators have “wide-area situational awareness” with equipment that allows them to monitor and operate their systems; and
4. Coordinating operation of the bulk power system with new and emerging technologies for renewable resources, demand resources, electricity storage and electric transportation systems.

Utilities may seek to recover the costs of smart grid deployments that demonstrate system security and compliance with FERC-approved Reliability Standards and other criteria.

Comments on the proposed policy statement and action plan are due 45 days after publication in the Federal Register. For more information, clerk here.

Graduate Program Alum & Adjunct Named to Key Positions With Green Technology Company

Cool Energy Inc., a Boulder-based clean energy technology company, has announced the appointment of Leslie Weise, LLM graduate 2005, as vice president of legal and policy affairs and John Herrick, a graduate program adjunct professor, as a member of the firm’s advisory board.

Ms. Weise and Mr. Herrick will help provide strategic counsel for the development, marketing, and sales of the Cool Energy SolarFlow ™ system.

More more information about the announcement, click here.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

New Book About Understanding "Electricity Choices"

Carol Sue Tombari, an expert in energy and environmental policy, has written a relatively short, but extremely insightful book about the electricity-related energy choices facing America.

In Power of the People: America's New Electricity Choices, Ms. Tombari asserts, "We must examine our current energy situation and understand where it's taking us. If we don't like the direction we're headed -- resource depletion, rising fuel costs, massive long-lived environmental and health damage, to name a few -- then we need to change where we're going."

Ms. Tombari, who is the manager of shareholder relations at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO, sets out the history of America's electricity system, where we are now, and the choices that lie ahead. While sympathetic to more aggressive development of renewables and energy efficiency, Ms. Tombari cautions that what she is talking about is more aptly described as an "evolution" as opposed to a "revolution." She calls for an "urgent evolution," marked by excitement and enthusiasm involving renewables and energy efficiency.

What makes the book such a useful resource is largely the result of Ms. Tombari's own record of experience. Before joining NREL she directed the state of Texas energy efficiency and renewable energy program. She has also served in a number of energy-related federal advisory posts.

This is a perfect book for anyone trying to understand the energy alternatives being discussed and debated today.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

In Today's News...

Several interesting articles about the environment and natural resources:

"Insurers must disclose climate-change exposure," The Wall Street Journal, March 18, 2009.

"Reasons to be cheerful in a downturn: The large amount of money that is about to find its way into the green economy," Financial Times, March 16, 2009.

Mining Law Short Course: A Great Way to Quickly Learn About Mining

Those individuals interested in a broader understanding of mining law should strongly consider attending the "Mining Law Short Course: Domestic and International Issues" that is being offered by the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation (RMMLF) May 11-15, 2009, in Boulder, Co.

The course program is being chaired by Paul Schlauch, an attorney with Holland & Hart in Denver and an adjunct professor of "International Mining Law & Policy" in the graduate program. Other mining leaders who will be speaking include James King, an adjunct at DU who teaches "Negotating Natural Resource Agreements," and James M. Otto, an attorney and founding director of the ENRLP.

Students can register for $95 before March 24 and $195 after March 25. This is a wonderful opportunity for those wanting to improve their knowledge in this important area.

New Courses Announced for Graduate Program

In the next few days, the graduate program will be announcing four major new courses. Check the program website to follow the announcements of these timely and important new courses that will further establish DU's graduate program as the premier program of its kind in the western hemisphere.

Improving the U.S. Electric Transmission Grid to Accomodate More Renewable Generation

The key to integrating additional renewable energy into America's electric energy portfolio is heavily linked to improving the electric transmission system. The "problem" or situation as it now stands is that where renewable generation is (or could be) most abundant are in places where the grid does not exist (at least in a strong enough manner to carry all of the generation).

But what are the big issues when looking at improving the transmission system? Two of the biggest are: (1) transmission siting; and (2) construction funding issues according to Ed Comer, general counsel at the Edison Electric Insitute (EEI, which is an industry-supported group).

Historically transmission siting issues have been handled at state level. Several years ago, however, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) was given siting authority in two corridors on the east coast. However, FERC has not been able to successfully (i.e., without a rash of lawsuits) site any new lines. Mr. Comer thinks that in order to really get things moving, transmission siting should be handled almost entirely at federal level. But this will take new legislation.

Exactly how the federal government and the states would divide this role (e.g., perhaps allowing the states to undertake some local siting) represents a major political battle that is just beginning. Another related issue involves the complexities of siting on federal lands and coordinating agency permitting decisions. Finally, there is the matter of how NEPA and the endangered species permitting issues will be handled, he said.

In terms of construction funding, there is private funding available if developers can obtain timely answers to siting requests. However, even with adequate private funding regulators will have to also consider the matter of cost recovery for transmission line developers to be intersted in financing such projects, he said.

What sorts of resources are going to be required to achieve a five percent increase in renewables integration? According to Mr. Comer, 10,000 miles of high voltage transmission lines costing $50 billion will be needed. And for a 20 percent renewables increase? The numbers jump to 15,000 miles of new transmission lines and an investment of $80 billion.

One item that Mr. Comer mentioned that has always puzzled me. Why not put the lines underground? From an engineering perspective this would not work because the lines can sometimes become very hot. Consequently, above ground is the only option and with that comes the potential lots of community opposition.

In conclusion, generating the renewable energy is only the first step in integrating it into the nation's grid. Adequate transmission lines -- and all of the related issues -- will need to be resolved before significant progress will be made. On the other hand, this represents huge opportunities for those who understand the policies, economics, and technology related to renewables.

For more information (from the electric utility industry perspective) about improving the grid system, see Transforming America's Power Industry.

What the Economic Stimulus Bill Means for Renewables

John Jimison, counsel to the The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee and energy advisor to Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Cal), told a renewable energy industry group today that the economic stimulus bill includes over $60 billion for renewables and energy efficiency projects.

Jimison, whose remarks were made as part of an on-going American Bar Association and American Council on Renewable Energy-related program about renewables, said the bill provides funding for $42 billion in energy infrastructure and research and $20 billion in tax credits. He noted that the stimulus legislation also contains other funding -- not included in those numbers -- that will be distributed to the states for spending on energy-related matters.

Looking ahead, Mr. Jimison said that the Energy and Commerce Committee is currently working on legislation involving the establishment of a national renewable portfolio standard (RPS) (which has been approved by the House several times only to die in the Senate) as well as addressing climate change. With respect to a RPS, he said, "This would create a huge incentive for utilities to generate more renewable energy."

He predicted that some type of climate change-related legislation will be passed and signed into law before December when the world's governments will assemble in Copenhagen for the UN Climate Change Conference to discuss the next chapter in the process started at Kyoto.