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Annual symposium at USD Law explores future of distributed energy

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The University of San Diego's fourth annual Climate & Energy Law Symposium, titled “Law in a Distributed Energy Future,” will examine emerging law and policy approaches to encourage and accommodate distributed energy solutions.

Electricity has historically been generated by large power plants located far from consumers and delivered via long transmission lines. While that model remains largely intact, a gradual shift is occurring toward more localized energy production. Technological advances have created opportunities for homeowners and businesses to produce their own electricity and manage their energy needs in new ways.

Distributed generation technologies, such as rooftop photovoltaics, are becoming more cost effective. Energy storage is playing a larger role in the management of the overall power system. Electric vehicles imply a shift away from traditional liquid fuels and could play an important role as distributed storage devices.

The symposium brings together legal and policy experts from across the country to address a variety of key issues, including the latest developments in the rules that govern the electricity grid change to incorporate distributed generation, possibilities for generating energy at the neighborhood and community levels, the legal and policy innovations at the federal, state and local levels that are most needed to usher in a distributed energy future.

Carla Peterman, commissioner of the California Energy Commission (CEC), will be the symposium’s morning keynote speaker. Peterman has been a member of the CEC since January 2011. Prior to joining the CEC, she conducted research and worked on a wide range of California energy and policy issues, including solar photovoltaic markets, policy, and financial incentives; cap-and-trade; efficacy of local environmental regulations; climate change and communities of color; clean energy subsidies; and energy security.

Ken Alex, senior policy advisor to California Governor Jerry Brown and director of the Office of Planning and Research, will be the afternoon keynote speaker. Prior to his current position, he was the senior assistant attorney general heading the environment section of the California Attorney General’s Office, and the co-head of the office’s global warming unit. From 2000 to 2006, Alex led the California Attorney General’s energy task force, investigating price and supply issues related to California’s energy crisis.

The roster of expert panelists includes, among others: Michael Gerrard; Andrew Sabin, Professor of Professional Practice, Columbia Law School; Lesley K. McAllister, Stanley Legro Professor in Environmental Law, University of San Diego; Edward Randolph, Director, Energy Division, California Public Utilities Commission; and Audrey Zibelman, Founder, President and CEO, Viridity Energy and Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of PJM.

The symposium is co-hosted by the law school’s Energy Policy Initiatives Center and the San Diego Journal of Climate & Energy Law. Scholarly articles written for the symposium will be published in the journal's fourth volume.

Event sponsors include San Diego Gas & Electric, NRG West, and Best Best & Krieger. The event is offered in partnership with the San Diego County Bar Association, whose members receive a 25 percent registration discount.

Visit the symposium website at law.sandiego.edu/celsymposium for more information.

-Submitted by Scott J. Anders and Lesley K. McAllister, University of San Diego School of Law.

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