February 16, 2015

A Letter From GEI Director Melissa Powers


Greetings from the Green Energy Institute, and thank you for reading our inaugural newsletter. The Green Energy Institute is about one-and-a-half years old now, and we are eager to share stories about our work and the remarkable changes we’ve seen in the energy sector.

I started the Green Energy Institute to help support renewable energy development. We have grown quickly during our short tenure, and we now have a staff of two attorneys, two LLM Energy Fellows, and one undergraduate intern, and they do amazing work. Our team develops and advocates for policy reforms that will enable a swift transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy, and we focus on policy changes that will promote the creation of a 100% renewable power grid. Obviously, we have big goals, but I personally believe they are achievable. Indeed, I think 100% renewable energy is inevitable; the real questions are how and when we will get there and whether we will pursue intelligent approaches to reach our inevitable destination. The Green Energy Institute aims to ensure we get there as a quickly and cleverly as possible.

 In the short time that GEI has been operating, we have seen profound changes in the U.S. electricity sector, particularly in terms of renewable energy growth. In fact, CleanTechnica reported that the United States added more wind and solar capacity than natural gas capacity in 2014. (“Capacity” refers to the maximum possible output from a power plant; actual energy generation can be much lower.) Employment in the renewable energy sector has also increased; according to The Solar Foundation, the number of people employed in the solar industry reportedly increased by 86% in four years. For renewable energy advocates, this news is extremely positive. 

At the same time, though, a true transformation of the electricity system will require much more thoughtful policy development and much greater consistency. Much of the recent renewable power growth has been driven by subsidies that have expired or will soon drop, and some states have begun to retreat from their renewable energy mandates due to political pressure and inaccurate beliefs about the costs of renewable energy. Without sustained efforts to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, it is unclear if the recent growth of renewables will continue. To ensure continued expansion of renewable energy employment, policymakers need more information and better guidance. The Green Energy Institute aims to fill some of those needs.

We think the Green Energy Institute is an exciting new component of Lewis & Clark Law School’s environmental program, and we hope you agree. We will keep you updated about our progress and new developments in the renewable energy world. We hope you’ll stay in touch with us, too. We’d love to hear about your work and interests in the renewable energy world.