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.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

International Students in Environmental and Natural Resources Law Graduate Program Enjoy an (Early) American Thanksgiving

Nine different countries were represented at a pre-Thanksgiving dinner at my house last Sunday.

The wide diversity of Denver Law's Environmental and Natural Resources Law Graduate Program is one of the many attributes that makes our program unique, and last Sunday we had a chance to recognize and celebrate that diversity.

Students from Brazil, China, Ghana, Japan, Peru, Russia, and Saudi Arabia were able to join Lucy Daberkow, associate administrative director for the program, and me, as we introduced the students to what a typical American Thanksgiving is like, complete with turkey and Denver Broncos football!

As it turned out, we also enjoyed great food and drinks from many of these countries in a setting more conducive to chatting than a typical busy day at the law school.

International students add an enormous richness to our program and to Denver Law more generally. They are both curious and resourceful. For many of the students, this is their first time in the U.S.

It is wonderful to watch them grow, develop, and gain confidence in themselves as their expertise deepens in environmental and natural resources law. Similarly, it is also a pleasure to learn from them and to hear about their countries and traditions.

Needless to say, these experiences continue to remind me how much we have in common together despite the fact that each of us comes from a different corner of the world and has a different life experience. The reality is that those who share an interest in learning oftentimes share a related interest in knowing about those they are less familiar with.

These students represent the next generation of leaders, both regionally and globally. It was a delight to host them at my home on Sunday.

Don Smith
Environmental and Natural Resources Law Graduate Program

Monday, November 7, 2011

Profile on MRLS Alumnus Britta Strother, Interim Executive Director of South Metro Water Supply Authority

Britta Strother, who holds a Masters of Resources Law Studies degree from the Denver Law Environmental and Natural Resources Law Graduate Program, has been named Interim Executive Director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority (SMWSA). In this role, Ms. Stroher is responsible for the management of all activity that is taken by the SMWSA. She oversees the budget as well as all of the engineering, accounting and public relations work that are done.

Formed in 2004, the SMWSA is a regional water authority that includes most of Douglas and some of Arapahoe counties in Colorado. SMWSA provides its members with the necessary planning, negotiation and implementation tools to secure renewable water resources for their constituents. Some of the municipalities and special water districts that are part of SMWSA include: the town of Castle Rock, Parker Water and Sanitation District, Centennial Water and Sanitation District (Highlands Ranch), and East Cherry Creek Water and Sanitation District. A full list of members can be found by clicking here.

Ms. Strother joined SMWSA in September 2007 as the Water Resource Specialist. In this position, Ms. Strother was immediately involved in negotiations between members, evaluation of potential water rights purchases and regional studies for water infrastructure integration.

Holding a Masters in Resource Law Studies with specializations in water law and policy as well as environmental law and policy from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law provided Ms. Stroher with "unique and powerful tools for these responsibilities," according to Lucy Daberkow, Associate Administrative Director of the Denver Law program.

In February 2011, Ms. Strother was promoted to Water Resources Project Manager. Her role with the SMWSA expanded with this new position to include the coordination and development of infrastructure including pipelines, reservoirs and interconnects and also a greater management of the daily SMWSA needs (including budget development and project oversight).

As the SMWSA continues in the negotiations that her predecessor, Rod Kuharich, began, Ms. Strother hopes to bring a number of important supply projects to fruition in the coming months. One exciting project that the SMWSA is negotiating is the Water Infrastructure Supply Efficiency (WISE) Partnership, a regional delivery project between Denver Water, Aurora and SMWSA. The WISE Partnership contemplates sharing existing water rights and infrastructure from all three parties to serve the SMWSA with on average 10,000 acre-feet per year either directly into member’s respective distribution systems or into surface and aquifer storage. The three parties are currently in negotiations for the WISE delivery agreement, anticipated to be signed in early 2012. This project is one component to the SMWSA master plan to remove some of the strain on the non-renewable Denver basin ground water by delivering renewable surface water. It represents the forward thinking that is currently taking place to meet the current and anticipated future water demands of the Denver metropolitan area.

Ms. Daberkow said, "It is wonderful to see the important contributions that Ms. Strother is making to the critical issues of water supply in the arid Rocky Mountain West. By studying at Denver Law, Ms. Strother put in place an understanding of the important issues that will serve her well throughout her entire career.