By all accounts, the Summit was a major success and further established Denver Law as a national leader in considering the legal and policy implications associated with the quickly accelerating discussion about renewable energy and its role in the energy sector.
The Summit, which was co-sponsored by Denver-based Holland & Hart and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), assembled an impressive array of renewable energy experts from all across the U.S. Two keynote speakers highlighted the program: David Eves, President and CEO of Public Service Company of Colorado, Dan Arvizu, Director of NREL.
Mr. Eves began the Summit with an overview of Xcel Energy's (the parent company of Public Service Company of Colorado) renewable strategy. He noted that Public Service Company has about 1,700 megawatts of installed wind power capacity. In particular, he explained that the company has in the last several years become better at managing the intermittency of the wind. Public Service also has 25 megawatts of utility scale solar power with another 60 megawatts under contract.
The further development of solar is intriguing, he said, because of the ability to locate solar panels closer to load centers and thus reduce the need for building major transmission lines. According to the American Wind Energy Association, Xcel has about 4,000 megawatts of installed wind capacity, the largest amount of any utility in the U.S.
The second keynote speaker, Dr. Arvizu, noted that renewable energy needed to be seen in the context of reducing carbon emissions, providing for energy security, and reducing the volatility of the cost of energy-producing fuels (e.g., oil and gas). He also said the renewable business is an international one, with some estimates that the size of the market is more than $200 billion per year.
Two key issues related to the world's current energy structure need special attention, he said. First, the "asset utilization" of the energy sector is only about 50 percent. Second, "life cycles" in the energy generation sector are very long -- perhaps as much as 50 years -- and thus energy businesses need policy certainty when deciding how to invest for future generating needs.
Summing up his thoughts, Dr. Arvizu said, the future of renewables is "not about whether technology can perform, it's about the political will to implement supporting policies. We need to have a more sophisticated discussion about what we want to do."
The Summit also featured four panels that addressed:
- "Survey of U.S. Laws Affecting the Siting and Development of Renewable Energy Projects," moderated by Denver Law Professor K.K. DuVivier, author of The Renewable Energy Reader
- "Regional and National Transmission Concerns and Progress," moderated by Mark Safty, Partner and Practice Group Leader for Holland & Hart's Energy & Infrastructure Group
- "Renewable Energy Incentives," moderated by Don Smith, Director of Denver Law's Environmental and Natural Rsources Law Program
- "The Future of Renewable Energy Law & Policy," moderated by Mr. Safty