Environmental Law Program

ELP Students Attend the 2nd Annual FD&P Renewable Energy Projects Conference

Thank you to Melissa Uhl for introducing this post:
On January 12, 2012, ELP students Michael Howell, Kylie Wager, Tina Aiu, and Melissa Uhl were luckily selected to attend the Second Annual Financing, Developing & Permitting Renewable Energy Projects in Hawaii Seminar held in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, and sponsored by Schlack Ito LLLC and The Blue Planet Foundation. ELP alumnus and program co-chair Douglas A. Codiga, Of Counsel with Schlack Ito LLLC, arranged for the students to attend (Codiga’s co-chair was Dawn Lippert, Project Manager with the Hawaiʻi Renewable Energy Development Venture). The program centered on the topic of Hawaiʻi’s renewable energy potential and future:

“Commercial development of renewable energy and energy efficiency, or clean energy, is critical to Hawaii’s energy future. Hawaii’s statutory mandate to achieve 70% clean energy by 2030, through increased renewable energy and energy efficiency, presents significant challenges and opportunities. Community relations, site control, and government permits and approvals may present hurdles. Obtaining financing remains a key factor and the financial structures involved are increasingly complex. 

We will examine the economic and environmental drivers behind the push for clean energy in Hawaii with a special focus on the financial, legal and technical issues commercial developers of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects must confront, including project finance, the Public Utilities Commission and the regulatory process, federal and State policy, tax issues, utility perspectives, and permits and environmental review.”

Faculty presenters represented key players from across the renewable energy field such as HECO, the PUC, US Dept. of Energy, renewable energy producers, and tax and energy lawyers. They shared insights on:
• Renewable Energy Development – Status Update
• Financing Renewable Energy Projects – What’s New? What’s Changed?
• Public Utilities Commission View on Renewable Energy Development and Regulatory Structure
• Government Approvals and Regulatory Process for Renewable Energy Projects – What’s New? What’s Changed?
• Electric Utility Viewpoint on Renewable Energy Projects
• U.S. Federal and Hawaii Projects and Incentives
• Distributed Generation at Scale – What’s New, What’s Changed?
• Closing the Deal: Utility Scale Renewable Energy Projects

Tina writes:
“The seminar began with a status update on Hawaiʻi’s carbon footprint. Hawaiʻi’s oil imports are rising, mainly due to transportation. However, in recent years, oil consumption from electricity use has decreased because of implementation of renewable energy projects. The seminar provided an overview of the challenges and benefits of implementing renewable energy projects in Hawaii. A portion of the seminar focused on legal tools, such as incentive programs, that the State of Hawaiʻi has in place to forward renewable energy initiatives. The speakers also stressed the importance of community involvement in developing renewable energy projects. I’m thankful to Doug Codiga for giving me the opportunity to learn about this field.”

Kylie writes:

“The seminar provided a “nuts and bolts” perspective on what it really means to implement Hawaiʻi’s clean energy goals. Although Hawaiʻi residents generally support the broad goal for expanding renewable energy use throughout the state, developing these projects is a highly complex process that requires savviness in many areas — from finance, land use, and permitting, to local culture, indigenous species, and community engagement. It was interesting to see that we, as aspiring attorneys and policy makers, could perhaps apply our coursework to advising this type of project development. It was equally interesting to note that we still have much to learn in this emerging and rapidly evolving field. Thank you to Doug Codiga for giving us the opportunity to gain a real world perspective on renewable energy development in Hawaiʻi.”

Mike writes:

“The takeaway from this seminar is that although Hawaiʻi has started on the right track towards becoming energy independent, there is still A LOT of work to be done. However, it is good to know that not only are there highly capable individuals leading the charge on the home front, but also strong support on the federal government side through grants from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Hawaiʻi is the perfect beta for integrating many types of renewable energy technologies, but those projects all begin with one thing… PERMITTING. This seminar was a great introduction to renewable energy permitting in Hawaiʻi and I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to attend.”