Friday, November 11, 2011

First Denver Law Renewable Energy Law & Policy Summit Considers Major Policy Drivers and Challenges for Renewables Industry

The inaugural meeting of the Renewable Energy Law & Policy Summit took place this week at Denver Law before a large audience of lawyers, utility company officials, government officials, policy makers, renewable energy business representatives, and students.

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:
Editor's note: Individuals in the first picture are from left to right: Kate Marks, Managing Director of the National Association of State Energy Officials; Veronica Morelli, Denver Law LLM student from Peru; Payal Sathe, Denver Law LLM graduate from India; and Bob Noun, Manager of Communications and External Affairs for NREL and Denver Law renewable energy adjunct professor. Individuals in the second picture are from left to right Fred Cheever, Associate Dean and Professor of Law; Mark Safty, Partner at Holland & Hart; Don Smith, Director of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Progarm; Dr. Dan Arvizu, Director of NREL; Professor K.K. DuVivier; Bob Noun of NREL.

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