Policy Practicum: Incentivizing Renewable Energy Storage and Transmission


Course Code:
LAW 805P
2 - 3
Law Honors/Pass/Restrd Cr/Fail


The two key enablers of renewable energy today are storage and transmission. Storage — using batteries, thermal systems, compressed air, water pumping and beyond — is critical to dealing with the intermittency of solar and wind by shifting the use of electricity from when it is generated to when there is greater customer need and economic value — whether over an hour, day or month. Transmission is critical because resource-rich areas of generation tend to be located far from urban load centers, plus local variations in sun and wind can be smoothed out with significant inter-regional transmission connections. Transmission development in the U.S. is inadequate today largely because of conflicts at the state and federal level over siting and cost allocation. Storage is relatively immature technologically, the costs of a number of promising options are high, and key state and federal policies governing its deployment need further development. Yet, without rapid and cost-effective deployment of storage and transmission, the environmental and economic promise of renewables will not be realized. Dan Reicher and Jeff Brown, who teach energy courses at the Stanford Law and Business schools, will guide the I-REST Policy Practicum research team in exploring policy, finance and technology tools that could accelerate the development and deployment of U.S. storage and transmission projects. Student researchers will work closely with Dan and Jeff to address key issues. Some examples of these issues include: 1. Many storage technologies are not fully cost competitive in the absence of an adequate price for avoided carbon emissions. As a result, gas turbines often have to fill the gap when solar and wind are not available. Without a significant price on carbon, what are the optimum federal policy and finance tools to incentivize storage projects — grants, tax credits, loan guarantees, MLPs/REITs, contract for differences, credits for low-carbon capacity, etc? 2. Storage is part of a larger package of options — demand response, efficiency, grid management, fast-firing gas turbines — to deal with intermittent renewables. What are the state and federal policy options, and associated investment vehicles, that can best ensure smart and cost-effective integration of these approaches. 3. Recent multi-state transmission projects have pitted developers against the states that are in the path of the line but do not benefit from either the generation or sale of the green electricity. In some situations the federal government has had to assert its eminent domain authority, including through the DOE-controlled Power Marketing Administrations. How do we better balance these various interests in siting multi-state transmission projects? 4. Like storage options, major, regionally dispersed transmission networks might be an effective way to move renewable and low-carbon energy to demand centers in response to hourly, daily and seasonal variations in renewable energy production. However, these transmission lines tend to be challenging financially because of relatively low usage levels. What policy and financing tools might advance this different business model? 5. Typically high voltage alternating current (A.C.) transmission lines become economically challenged at distances beyond 600 miles, with load losses and carrying capacity dropping rapidly with distance. More robust and efficient, direct current (D.C.) lines require special converter stations and other major equipment to rejoin local grids. How should federal government policymakers and regulators weigh in on this technological issue and what are potential financing tools? Research results, in the form of memos and an overall white paper or report will help guide the transition team for the new President, the incoming Administration, and the new Congress in formulating policies and supporting investment that can help advance progress on transmission and storage thereby enabling accelerated renewable energy deployment and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Associated briefings in Washington, D.C. may be arranged with students making the trip. As described above, storage and transmission issues present a complex set of legal, regulatory, engineering, economic and financial challenges. Therefore, the research team seeks graduate students from law, business, engineering, economics, and public policy. Through this interdisciplinary research and learning environment, the team will leverage approaches across fields to produce a robust, integrated set of research findings that will also be featured on both the Policy Lab and Steyer-Taylor websites. After the term begins, and with the consent of the instructor, students accepted into the course may transfer from Section 01 (2 units) to Section 2 (3 units), which meets the R requirement. Elements used in grading: Class Participation, Attendance, Written Assignments, Final Paper. — NOTE: Students may not count more than a combined total of eight units of directed research projects and policy lab practica toward graduation unless the additional counted units are approved in advance by the Petitions Committee. Such approval will be granted only for good cause shown. Even in the case of a successful petition for additional units, a student cannot receive a letter grade for more than eight units of independent research (Policy Lab practicum, Directed Research, Directed Writing, Senior Thesis, and/or Research Track). Any units taken in excess of eight will be graded on a mandatory pass basis. For detailed information, see "Directed Research/Policy Labs" in the SLS Student Handbook. CONSENT APPLICATION: To apply for this course, students must complete and submit a Consent Application Form available on the SLS website (Click Courses at the bottom of the homepage and then click Consent of Instructor Forms). See Consent Application Form for instructions and submission deadline.

Past Offerings

2016-2017 Autumn

Policy Practicum: Incentivizing Renewable Energy Storage and Transmission LAW 805P Section 01 Class #30858

  • 2 Units
  • Enrollment Limitations: Consent 8

Notes: Law Unit Limitation.

Policy Practicum: Incentivizing Renewable Energy Storage and Transmission LAW 805P Section 02 Class #31027

  • 3 Units
  • Enrollment Limitations: Consent

Notes: Law Unit Limitation. R -Research Requirement for Law Degree.

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