Greening the grid: building a legal framework for carbon neutrality.

Author:Powers, Melissa

Global climate change is likely the most pressing environmental challenge we face today, and if some of the dire predicted consequences of climate change come to pass, it may become the most important global challenge, period. Combating climate change necessitates an integrated response, in which local, state, national, and international governments must work together to create and implement solutions. The complexity and global nature of climate change also requires action in all sectors of the world economy. Above all, however, the U.S. energy sector must be at the forefront of any climate mitigation strategy. The energy sector contributed more than eighty-six percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2007, and the electricity sector alone accounted for thirty-four percent. Effective climate change mitigation will require a transition away from carbon-emitting energy sources toward renewable and more sustainable sources. Transforming the electricity sector raises a host of issues and problems: It will require improved and perfected renewable energy technology, substantial political capital, and significant public education. Perhaps the most important step in achieving a sustainable energy sector, however, is "greening the grid."

The U.S. electricity grid is a combination of physical elements--a series of wires connecting our nation's energy sources to consumers--and legal and regulatory schemes--regulations controlling distribution, siting, and rates. As it stands now, the grid is not "green." The grid cannot yet readily accommodate renewable energy sources, which are typically isolated, remote, and variable. Nor does it operate as efficiently as it can, as it serves only to sell electricity when it could provide an array of energy efficient services and smarter distribution. Improving the electricity system and infrastructure by greening the grid is crucial to a reduced-carbon future and an ultimate solution to climate change.

It was with the goal of addressing these important issues that Lewis and Clark Law School and Environmental Law in April 2009 hosted Greening the Grid" Building a Legal Framework for Carbon Neutrality. The symposium brought together some of the nation's leading scholars in energy and environmental law, as well as energy industry experts and professionals, to explore U.S. energy policy and greening the grid. The panels and presentations highlighted and discussed some of the legal issues involved in developing a...

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