Buildings in the Energy Transition: Resilient, Clean and Just (808U)

Clients: Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) as well as legislative and California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) decision makers.

California is a leader in establishing aggressive targets to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and increase zero-carbon energy generation. To meet its ambitious goals, California must implement a just energy transition that is founded in equity and that actively promotes environmental justice. This policy lab will work to address two pressing issues at the forefront of a zero-carbon energy transition: the ability of utilities to equitably, efficiently, and safely transition natural gas infrastructure and scale up electrification, and the ongoing reform of California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS).

Utilities have an obligation to provide essential services to all residents in their service territory, and this currently includes both natural gas and electric service in most areas. The original intention was to ensure equitable access to all consumers, but this obligation can now pose a barrier to electrifying homes, neighborhoods, and the state in an efficient and just manner. Legislators, utilities, and other stakeholders are cautious about widespread decommissioning of natural gas infrastructure until there is a legal architecture in place to ensure that equitable, reliable, and sufficient service is maintained to all customers. We are recognized leaders in the legal and regulatory issues associated with the obligation to serve in California and this policy lab will work to develop solutions in concert with EJ groups and state legislators.

The LCFS is one of the key measures intended by California to drive innovation in reducing GHG emissions. This program was implemented in 2011 with the goal of stimulating a cellulosic biofuel industry and has been significantly amended over the past decade. Over the next year, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) will undertake a major revision of the program with large implications for biofuels, food crops, refineries and CAFOs. We have been asked by multiple environmental justice groups for assistance in developing EJ-centered technical and legal analysis to support their engagement in this process including development of and modeling of an “EJ scenario” to compare with alternatives developed by ARB.

We will conduct our work from the perspective of and informed by the needs of our clients, APEN and CBE, environmental justice organizations that are actively involved in resilience and decarbonization policy. In this course, students will learn the basics of building electrification and low carbon fuel standards as well as engage in work related to these policies that is directly tied to policy outcomes.

Lectures will focus on technical, economic and legal aspects of the challenge. In addition, students will work in groups on legal and technical analysis aimed at supporting better decision making in energy policy proposals in California. Students will work in partnership with postdocs and legal fellows on their group projects and may have the opportunity to present the results of their work to both APEN, CBE, legislators, and CPUC staff.

The course is intended for students interested in multi-disciplinary approaches to public policy problems. No background in either energy law or energy modeling is required. Students will engage in weekly lecture and discussion of energy resilience and decarbonization science and policy, including student presentations and guest lectures by scientists, practitioners and policymakers who are true subject matter experts engaged in the policy processes student teams will be working on. Students will also meet outside of class once per week with the teaching team in working sessions to discuss progress on team projects. Elements used in grading: Attendance, Performance, Class Participation, Written Assignments, Final Paper. Students enrolled in Section 02 (with instructor consent) will be required to write an individual research paper meeting the Law School’s R paper requirements.

CONSENT APPLICATION: To access the consent application for this course, go to link SLS Registrar and then click SUNetID Login in the top right corner of the page. We accept applications up to the add deadline for the quarter. This course is cross-listed with Environment and Resources (ENVRES TBA).

Course Catalogue
Consent of Instructor – Application Portal


Deborah A. Sivas 1

Deborah A. Sivas

  • Luke W. Cole Professor of Environmental Law
  • Director, Environmental and Natural Resources Law and Policy Program
  • Director, Environmental Law Clinic
  • Senior Fellow, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment
  • Affiliated Researcher, Center for Ocean Solutions
  • Faculty Advisor, Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources
  • Professor, Doerr School of Sustainability

Clients & Deliverables

Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) as well as legislative and California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) decision makers.