Lauren Perkins, of DWGP, moderated a panel consisting of Brian D’Agostino of San Diego Gas & Electric Company (“SDG&E”); Gary Fitts of Nobleprofit and Greenware Technologies; Steven Weissman of University of California Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy and Senior Policy Advisor to the Center for Sustainable Energy; and Samir Hafez, a student of the University of San Diego School of Law.
The 11th Annual Lesley K. McAllister Symposium on Climate and Energy Law took place at the University of San Diego on November 8, 2019, focusing on challenges facing California, namely meeting decarbonization and Renewables Portfolio Standard goals while maintaining reliability, and mitigating catastrophic wildfire risk. At the center of discussion were recent Public Safety Power Shutoff events throughout the State in response to high fire threat conditions. A major theme throughout the event was addressing social equity issues, such as uncertainty as to power availability and resulting increased reliance on distributed generation and other backup power sources that not all customers may have access to, deploying new technologies and funding community-scale projects, and rising residential electricity rates with no signs of slowing down given the State’s electrification transition.
While panelists discussed recent legislative action to better socialize the costs of wildfires (Assembly Bill 1054) and highlighted new mitigation strategies and partnerships underway by utilities, a further need for solutions such as zoning restrictions in the wildland-urban interface and wider adoption of vegetation management and home hardening requirements were also discussed. Some panelists called for a solution beyond internalizing the costs of wildfires and associated risk management in utility rates. Other issues of import raised during the event included a need for better collaboration over the use of data collected by utilities and state agencies, how to better engage customers in regulatory stakeholder proceedings, and how to manage the natural gas system while the State turns away from fossil fuels but still relies on certain facilities to meet reliability. More information on this year’s event is available here: https://www.sandiego.edu/events/law/detail.php?_focus=73128.