"Supply and Demand: Barriers to a New Energy Future," the 2012 Vanderbilt Law Review Symposium
February 24, 2012
8:45 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Robert H. Socolow, Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Princeton University; Co-director, The Carbon Mitigation Initiative; Director, Siebel Energy Grand Challenge, Princeton Environmental Institute
Sara C. Bronin, Associate Professor of Law & Program Director of the Center for Energy & Environmental Law, University of Connecticut School of Law
"A Renewable Energy Case Study: 360 State Street"
The ability to incorporate renewable energy into real estate development projects is of critical importance, since our buildings consume 40 percent of our energy, use two thirds of our electricity, and emit 40 percent of our greenhouse gases. Despite clear public support of renewable energy generally, developers still face significant obstacles in trying to build incorporate renewable energy into their projects. This paper analyzes the legal barriers faced by the project team for 360 State Street, a mixed-used LEED-ND Platinum-designed infill building in downtown New Haven. Among other unique features, the project: features the first fuel cell in a mixed-use residential building in the world, uses fifty percent less electricity than a standard code-compliant building, must abide by a development agreement with the municipality requiring certain commitments to sustainability, and has become a poster child for the LEED for Neighborhood Development program. The paper describes the various challenges faced by the project team through the course of the development and construction of 360 State Street in light of the literature on the barriers to renewable energy and green construction. Among other things, this paper highlights the state public utility laws that prevent the developer from recouping the costs of operating the fuel cell from tenants based on their use.
Daniel A. Farber, Faculty Director, Center for Law, Energy, and Environment; Sho Sato Professor of Law; Director, Environmental Law Program, University of California at Berkeley School of Law
"Energy Consumption, Sustainability, and Individual Well-Being"
This article explores the opportunities for making forward strides on sustainable energy at the consumption end. Continued growth in consumption of energy and resources is not inevitable, and this form of economic growth is at most loosely connected with improved individual welfare in developed countries. Research by psychologists and economists demonstrates that other factors are equally important, if not more so, in determining personal well-being. Moving to more sustainable lives may not be easy, but it is not a utopian goal. Recent evidence suggests that even before the financial crisis, some developed countries may already have reached “peak stuff” – that is, that per capita use of energy and resources may have stabilized or even begun to decline. Policy levers include conventional energy efficiency measures, changes in individual behavior, modifications in urban planning, better water use, and even improved diet. Notably, many of these measures may actually improve individual welfare at the same time as they reduce energy use.
Alexandra B. Klass, Professor of Law; Associate Dean for Academic Affairs; Solly Robins Distinguished Research Fellow, University of Minnesota Law School
"Renewable Energy and Transmission Challenges" (Co-authored with Elizabeth Wilson, University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs)
This article discusses current challenges to siting new electric transmission infrastructure to facilitate the growth of renewable energy. In doing so, it focuses on recent legal and policy developments at the federal, state, and regional levels with a specific emphasis on states with significant wind-energy potential west of the Mississippi River. In many of these jurisdictions, there has been a strong emphasis on increasing renewable energy resources, particularly wind power, in recent years. Each state and regional jurisdiction, however, has taken a different approach to connecting those new renewable resources to the transmission grid. The overlapping state, regional and federal policies at play in siting new transmission to facilitate the growth of renewable energy raises unique federalism challenges. This article analyzes the extent to which current statutory and regulatory frameworks for transmission are posing barriers to further renewable energy growth, and provides suggestions for policy improvements in this area. It ultimately concludes that some federal preemption of state siting authority for interstate transmission lines is desirable but may not be politically feasible at the present time. In the alternative, however, states and regional transmission organizations can take advantage of existing regional structures and cost allocation opportunities to better plan for and site the transmission build-out necessary to meet renewable energy goals.
Katrina Fischer Kuh, Professor of Law, Hofstra University School of Law
"Personal Environmental Information: The Prospect and Perils of the Emerging Capacity to Identify Individual Environmental Harms"
Advances in technology make it increasingly easier to identify the harms that individuals inflict on the environment with greater particularity. The availability of this individual environmental data presents a great opportunity for environmental law and policy. Just as the need to use law to influence environmentally significant behaviors is becoming clear and strategies for doing so are coming into focus, ranges of technologies are poised to assist in that endeavor by generating information about individual environmental behaviors. Law can directly regulate environmentally significant environmental behaviors or influence those behaviors indirectly by regulating the market, norms or architecture. Each of these modalities of regulation could benefit from the kind of information that technology is increasingly making available about environmentally significant individual behaviors. For example, smart meters provide utilities with more fine-grained information about when customers use electricity thereby allowing them to impose time-of-use pricing (i.e., charge higher fees during peak hours), thereby enhancing a market approach to regulating behavior. The availability and utility of individual environmental information may, however, be constrained by a third development, privacy-based limits on the collection and use of personal data. Many advocate limiting the collection, distribution and/or use of the personal data now made accessible through technological advance. Scholars warn of the threats to privacy created by the technological information explosion and propose limits on the collection and use of personal information; legislatures have already acted to limit the collection and use of such data; and courts similarly impose limits in some contexts. This article undertakes an initial effort to understand both the potential value of personal environmental information to efforts to influence environmentally significant individual behaviors and the obstacle that privacy concepts may pose to the same.
Uma Outka, Associate Professor of Law, University of Kansas School of Law
"Environmental Law and Fossil Fuels: Barriers to Renewable Energy"
Although law has been used to spur renewable energy development, this presentation will consider barriers to renewable energy development is lagging law - that is, barriers to renewable energy advancement stemming from (a) outmoded law fashioned in support of a pre-renewables energy sector, and (b) lagging development of affirmative new law to support renewable energy. These barriers represent very different but complementary and critical projects for law and policymaking for advancing renewable energy - identifying and eliminating outmoded law on the one hand, and crafting (and passing) new law on the other. The presentation applies this rubric to federal environmental law, highlighting exclusions, exemptions, and implementation choices that favor fossil fuels in ways that act as a barrier to renewables by distorting the assessment of renewable energy cost.
Jim Rossi, Harry M. Walborsky Professor & Associate Dean for Research, Florida State University College of Law (co-author)
Michael P. Vandenbergh, Professor of Law; Tarkington Chair in Teaching Excellence; Director, Environmental Law Program; Director, Climate Change Research Network, Vanderbilt Law School (co-author)
"Good for You, Bad for Us: The Financial Disincentive for Net Demand Reduction"
This article examines a principal barrier to achieving carbon emissions reductions from the electricity sector: electricity distributors’ financial incentives to sell more of their product. Research suggests that net electricity demand must decrease substantially from business-as-usual levels for non-fossil fuel sources to be able to supply enough energy to achieve the widely-adopted goal of 50- to 80-percent reductions in U.S. emissions by 2050. Research also suggests that a variety of policy instruments can achieve cost-effective reductions in energy use and carbon emissions from the residential and business sectors, but these opportunities have not been seized in many states. We argue that electricity distributors are critical gatekeepers for achieving widespread net demand reduction (NDR) from the residential and business sectors. In most states, rate structures and public pressure provide incentives for distributors to develop limited, highly-publicized programs but do not provide distributors with financial incentives to achieve NDR. In the absence of NDR, projected base-load increases will outstrip the ability of electricity generators to bring non-carbon emitting sources on-line and to phase out carbon-emitting sources. Although demand issues are a common component of academic and policy debates, demand is often framed as a matter of Demand-Side Management (DSM), which should not be conflated with NDR. DSM typically involves simply shifting the timing of demand, not reducing the total amount of electricity demand, and DSM can increase or decrease carbon emissions, depending on the effects on net electricity use and the mix of base-load and peak generation sources. We examine a range of legal instruments that create incentives for NDR. We conclude that although no perfect remedy exists, the imperative of reducing energy demand argues for greater use of imperfect tools, and the first step in that process is to understand the need for NDR and the critical role of electricity distributor incentives.
Noah Sachs, Professor of Law & Director of the Robert R. Merhige Jr. Center for Environmental Studies, University of Richmond
"Can We Regulate Our Way to Energy Efficiency? Product Standards as a Climate Change Policy"
In the past five years, governments have substantially increased their regulation of the energy efficiency of products. The regulatory tool of choice has been Minimum Energy Performance Standards, which set benchmarks for lighting, refrigeration, heating, cooling, and other energy-using devices. In this article, I examine these product standards regulations as a component of an overall strategy to reduce energy demand. I argue that the standards are justifiable given well-known energy market failures and that standards are superior to non-regulatory tools, such as labeling or a cap-and-trade system, for promoting reductions in energy consumption from these products. I also show how command-and-control regulation, if deployed correctly, can promote the technological innovation and diffusion that we will need to address the climate crisis. The article concludes with some thoughts on the political viability of regulatory standards for products as governments continue to embrace this strategy.
A. Dan Tarlock, Distinguished Professor of Law & Director of the Program in Environmental and Energy Law, Chicago-Kent College of Law
"Should the Aggressive Development of Hydroelectric Energy Be Part of a Renewable Energy Strategy?"
Hydroelectric energy (hydro) is the oldest, major source of non-carbon, renewable energy, but it is treated as the stepchild of United States renewable energy law and policy. Increased hydro generation would seem to be a major element of any United States climate change and energy security policy designed to promote the greater use of renewables. First, hydro is relatively clean because it does not cause air pollution or substantial greenhouse gas emissions. Second, hydro is widely available in the United States as substantial undeveloped capacity exists. Third, hydro can help wean the United States from its dependence on imported and often politically unstable hydrocarbon sources of energy. However, the current expert consensus is that increased hydro generation will not be a major component of any carbon or non-carbon United States energy future. Hydro currently supplies 42 percent of the 7 percent of domestic energy production generated by renewable sources. Most "authoritative" energy scenarios suggest that for the foreseeable future hydro's share will be flat or experience only modest increases. This article asks are there valid reasons to question the conventional wisdom? The article reviews the history of hydro in the United States, situating it in the big, multiple purpose dam era. It sets out the external costs of dams and hydro generation and briefly traces the mounting opposition to dams. Next, the article traces the development of a complex network of laws, which constrain both new development and the operation of existing projects, and offers a crude benefit-cost analysis of modifying them to induce more hydro. It ends by asking the heretical questions: which of these laws would have to be repealed or modified to increase hydro capacity and should we do this?
Michael P. Vandenbergh, Professor of Law; Tarkington Chair in Teaching Excellence; Director, Environmental Law Program; Director, Climate Change Research Network, Vanderbilt Law School
J.B. Ruhl, David Daniels Allen Distinguished Chair in Law, Vanderbilt Law School
|Date: Feb 24, 2012|
Time: 08:45 AM to 04:00 PM