How the laws of energy power the US

August 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

How the laws of energy power the US

Nature of Business radio, created and hosted by Chrissy Coughlin, is a weekly show on business and environment.

This week on Nature of Business I talked energy with Kim Hayden, a partner at Downs Rachlin Martin, PLLC (DRM). We spoke of the state of energy law and regulation in this country, in the Northeast region in particular, market barriers to alternative energy implementation, renewable portfolio standards and much more.

DRM is a full-service law firm based in St. Johnsbury, Vt., with six offices throughout Vermont, New Hampshire and New York, and is recognized as having one of the premier energy practices in northern New England. Additionally, DRM is a member of Renewable Energy Vermont, the Vermont Energy Partnership, the New England Clean Energy Association, the Northeast Energy and Commerce Association and New England Women in Energy and the Environment.

Kim herself has spent more than two decades successfully representing clients in transactions, regulatory proceedings, commercial litigation and appellate practice involving energy law matters, including facilities siting and construction, power purchase contracts, rate-setting, acquisition and financing and environmental and land-use compliance.

Energy is certainly a complex issue in our country. Not only are different regions dominated by different types of energy, there can be local opposition to incorporating alternative energy into the mix (think wind energy). Many of us like the concept of alternative energy, but precious few understand the intricacies of bringing something like wind or solar to market. Kim helps us understand the realities from a legal perspective.

I didn’t entirely realize this, but as Kim explains, energy transmission and generation is run by seven regional grid operators, a setup put in place after the 2003 blackouts. These grid operators are called independent system operators (ISOs) or regional transmission organizations (RTOs) and they are busy behind the scenes ensuring delivery of electricity across the country and creating a forecast of the next day’s projected energy demand based on information like historical data and weather forecasts. Power plant generators — of which in New England there are 350, place bids to supply that energy. Electricity delivery companies, also known as utilities, do the buying.

It’s really interesting stuff. Particularly when alternative energy comes into play.

Utilities are now required in several states, through Renewable Portfolio Standards, to purchase energy from renewable sources. There is, however, still no federal standard and that, in Kim’s opinion, presents a huge market barrier to increased investment in as well as infrastructure development and distribution of renewables.

Still, there are some great strides being made. Kim has been involved in several successful small scale and commercial scale projects. One in particular is the 2.1-megawatt Williamstown Solar Project, which in addition to receiving virtually no local opposition, involved the children of the local high school who filmed the whole process from start to finish and installed an educational kiosk on site for others to learn more about the project and solar energy in general.

As far as the future of energy in this country, Kim is an optimist and feels the focus is now on creating more efficient technology to drive down costs — particularly battery technology. It’s an exciting time and the potential is huge to level the energy playing field.

So, listen in and enjoy the podcast.

George Papoulias edited this podcast.



Utility tower photo by Lisa S. via

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