As areas of environmental, climate and energy law continue to heat up, the Energy Policy Initiatives Center at the University of San Diego’s School of Law, has become a cutting-edge academic and research center focused on energy policy issues related to the San Diego area, California and across the country.
The nonprofit center, established in 2005, integrates research and analysis and the study of law and public education, and serves as a source of legal and policy expertise and information in the development of sustainable solutions that meet our future energy needs.
Its mission is to: educate the public and public officials about energy issues and policies; provide law school courses and allow law students to research the subject; and inform public decision makers by conducting research and issuing detailed reports on energy trends, policy options and implications.
The center also connects students with state-level energy agencies. The students conduct research on energy-related topics and then travel to agency headquarters in Sacramento and San Francisco to present their findings.
Currently, the center is managing a study, on behalf of San Diego Gas & Electric and a regional stakeholder group, that will explore the costs and benefits of net energy metering, a billing arrangement that allows customers with solar electric generation equipment on their property to get credit for energy delivered to the electric grid.
Each year, the center also brings noted experts to campus for the annual Climate and Energy Law Symposium. This year, the event brought together a group of leading academics and legal experts and policy practitioners to explore the theme of Law in a Distributed Energy Future.
Historically, electrictrity has been generated by large power plants located far from consumers and delivered via long transmission lines. While that model is largely intact today, we are seeing a gradual shift to more localized energy production. Technological advances and a move toward a more intelligent electrical grid, have created opportunities for homeowners and businesses to produce part or all of their own electricity and to manage their energy needs in a way that has never been possible.
Topics at the symposium included how laws and regulations will change as our electrical energy system becomes more distributed, the environmental implications, the role federal agencies and local governments will play and the implications of distributed energy on traditional rates.