Energy law covers all aspects of renewable and non-renewable energy, from sales to regulation. Lawyers often find themselves dealing with extraction, taxation, distribution and siting for forms of energy like oil and coal, as well as for newer varieties such as wind and nuclear power. There is a big transactional element to this area of law you could be helping clients to buy or sell gas, or assisting them in sourcing fuel to sell. Energy lawyers also operate within a national and international framework of legislation many laws have been passed to keep energy safe and, in recent years, to lower carbon emissions. Responsibilities include deciding if it is legal or illegal to pursue a specific energy source within these legal boundaries. Energy lawyers also deal with the regulation and taxation of existing energy sources, such as oil and coal. There’s a lot to be aware of in terms of how the US policy influences the energy sector, and the subsidies and research grants available to renewable energy sources.
Energy law is often a global area of practice you will be dealing with clients with assets all over the world, so those who work in this area must have a strong awareness of international affairs. Energy policies differ from government to government and depend on geographical variables, and many countries rely on imported energy. So if you’re considering this area, make sure you’re aware of international developments! You will encounter a lot of contracts as an energy lawyer, as clients are often looking to buy or sell assets within the sector. Make sure that you are a confident writer with clear expression. You’ll also be working at the forefront of current events; from nuclear power to franking, the likelihood is that you’ve heard of some aspects of energy policy already. You will need to apply your innovative legal perspective to these major issues and that can only come with a strong understanding of how the sector functions.
The Role of the Sector Regulator is specified in the enabling legislation. For example, regulatory oversight of feed-in tariff programs is essential, whether the price is based on a predetermined number (and with some maximum capacity), an auction/bidding process, or avoided cost. In each case, the regulator monitors activities to ensure abuses do not arise. How external (environmental and health) costs are factored into program evaluation is partly dependent on the enabling legislation (or executive order). If the law establishes Renewable Portfolio Standards, the energy regulator will need to oversee the system and evaluate its effectiveness in meeting RE objectives. Generally, some other agency is responsible for certifying the generators and handling the certification system.
The sector regulator has a number of roles and responsibilities for operationalizing and implementing RE. The policy instruments include those oriented towards prices and quantities. The former (such as Feed-in Tariffs) provide the supplier with certainty regarding price, but the volume depends on whether that price is high or relatively low. The latter includes renewable portfolio standards that require distribution companies to purchase specific quantities of electricity generated by renewable technologies.
In addition, the sector regulator is in a position to give advice to the government regarding the full implications of focusing on climate change or energy security. Policymakers, however, may choose to delegate these decisions, or a subset of them, to regulators; on the other hand, they may choose to remain silent on such issues. In the former case, of course, regulators have the power to exercise their discretion. In the latter case, the scope of regulatory discretion depends on what the legal system provides. In either case, the internal practices followed by the regulator need to provide legitimacy for regulatory rulings related to RE. Such practices include transparency and evidence-based decision-making. Essentially, a renewable resource, such as solar energy, wind energy, and geothermal pressure, has an endless supply . Other resources are considered renewable even though some time or effort must go into their renewal (e.g., wood, oxygen, leather, and fish). Most precious metals are renewable also.
Although precious metals are not naturally replaced, they can be recycled because they are not destroyed during their extraction and use. A renewable resource is different from a nonrenewable resource in that a nonrenewable resource is depleted and cannot be recovered once it is used. As the human population continues to grow, the demand for renewable resources increases. Natural resources are a form of equity, and they are known as natural capital.
Biofuel, or energy made from renewable organic products, has gained prevalence in recent years as an alternative energy source to nonrenewable resources such as coal, oil, and natural gas. Although prices are still higher for biofuel, some experts project that increasing scarcity and the forces of supply and demand will result in higher prices for fossil fuels, which will make the price of biofuel more competitive. Types of biofuel include biodiesel, an alternative to oil, and green diesel, which is made from algae and other plants. Other renewable resources include oxygen and solar energy. Wind and water are also used to create renewable energy. For example, windmills harness the wind’s natural power and turn it into energy. Renewable resources have become a focal point of the environmental movement, both politically and economically. Energy obtained from renewable resources puts much less strain on the limited supply of fossil fuels, which are nonrenewable resources. The problem with using renewable resources on a large scale is that they are costly and, in most cases, more research is needed for their use to be cost-effective. Adopting sustainable energy is often referred to as “going green” due to the positive impact on the environment. Energy sources such as fossil fuels damage the environment when burned and contribute to global warming. The first major international accord to curb carbon dioxide emissions and global warming was the Kyoto Protocol, signed in 1997.2 Also, global powers met in Paris in 2015 to pledge emissions reductions and focus on higher reliance on renewable resources for energy.
Energy has wide-ranging impacts on Utah’s prosperity and quality of life. Energy expenses contribute to Utahans’ cost of living and their ability to save money or spend it on other needs. Air quality and environmental health are affected by energy production and consumption. If energy supplies are not reliable, energy disruptions are more likely to occur and have detrimental effects on Utahans’ businesses and lives. In addition, energy development and production can provide Utah with more jobs and tax revenue. When it comes to energy, Utahans want to balance diversity in supply, cleaner sources, higher efficiency, and lower costs. Currently, Utah uses natural gas for home and water heating, while the majority of the electricity generation comes from coal. However, as electricity generation moves away from coal due to environmental regulations, use of natural gas will increase. Utahans would like to draw from a diverse supply of energy sources, including more renewable forms of energy, while still using natural gas to provide the base load. In addition to diversifying Utah’s energy supply, Utahans want to meet future energy needs, improve air quality, and save money through more conservation and energy efficiency in homes and buildings. Utah is an energy-rich state. The state has reserves of natural gas and coal, as well as the potential to generate renewable energy supplies from solar, wind, and geothermal sources. Because Utah produces more energy than it consumes, surplus energy is exported. In 2011, 31% of all energy produced in Utah was exported, including 27% of the state’s generated electricity. The Utah Office of Energy Development estimates that in 2013, the market value of Utah’s energy sources and renewable electricity was $5.3 billion. Most Utah communities are customers of Rocky Mountain Power and receive their electricity from power generation facilities in several states. Currently, the price of residential electricity in Utah is among the lowest in the nation at about 10.72 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). In comparison, the price for electricity is 17.05 cents/kWh in California and 19.46 cents/kWh in New York. Our comparatively low energy costs keep household costs low and make the state attractive to businesses and industries. As Utah’s population doubles, its energy needs will increase. Utah will likely use significantly more natural gas for electricity, for space and water heating in homes and commercial buildings, and for industrial uses. How much we diversify our energy mix and develop alternative resources will affect energy reliability, household costs, economic development, and, of course, the environment. Today, most of Utah’s electricity is generated from coal-fired power plants, but Rocky Mountain Power is increasing the use of other energy sources like natural gas and renewable such as wind and solar. No coal-fired power plant has been built in Utah in the last quarter century. There are no plans to build any new coal plants, and those that exist are planned to be retired or renovated to operate on natural gas. Power plants fired by fossil fuels are currently the largest source of carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions in the U.S., accounting for 38% of the U.S.’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2013.
Natural gas plants produce substantially less CO2 emissions than do coal plants. The natural gas industry in Utah is growing, partly because the electric power sector is transitioning away from coal. Utah ranked tenth in the nation in natural gas production in 2012. Of the natural gas consumed in Utah in 2013, the residential sector used 35%, electric power generation used 25%, the commercial sector used 21%, and the industrial sector used 19%. The price of natural gas in Utah remains low compared to the rest of the nation, with residential natural gas costing an average of $8.55 per thousand cubic feet in 2013. Utah has excellent potential to develop energy from a variety of renewable sources, many of which are concentrated in the southern part of the state. Renewable energy sources currently provide a small percentage of the state’s total net electricity generation less than 4% but Utah has a voluntary Renewable Portfolio Standard, which says that by 2025, 20% of retail electricity sales should come from cost-effective, renewable sources. Utah has great solar resources, particularly in the southern part of the state. Today, solar energy is primarily produced through distributed generation (meaning it is made at the same site it is used) in the form of solar panels on homes and other buildings. Though solar power currently represents a small fraction of Utah’s electricity generation, there is significant potential for larger, utility-scale projects. The Bureau of Land Management has identified three solar energy zones suitable for energy production in Beaver and Iron Counties.
• Utah has several utility-scale wind projects. The best wind resources are concentrated in the southwest, but other locations scattered throughout the state have good, though limited, potential to produce wind energy.
• Utah is one of just six states with developable, utility-scale geothermal resources. Utah currently has about 70 megawatts of geothermal capacity installed. Drilling to confirm that the resources can be developed into energy could be expensive; however, so future development may be modest.
• While hydroelectric facilities currently generate the largest percentage of renewable energy used in Utah, new hydro projects are unlikely to be developed further because of environmental concerns. However, there is some potential for small “micro-hydro” projects to generate power in canals, water lines, or other water sources.
The Utah Office of Energy Development is evaluating the state’s potential to produce nuclear energy, while considering factors such as safety, water needs, waste disposal, size of the plant, rail access, transportation of spent nuclear fuel, and public perception.
Firstly, renewable energy sources are sustainable as can never be depleted. The primary renewable source of energy in the world today is the sun, whose solar energy can be harnessed and stored for multiple industrial and home-based uses. Secondly, renewable energy sources and facilities used to harness the energy are considerably less expensive to maintain as compared to traditional non-renewable energy sources and utilities. Most utilities and resources used to harness renewable energy, once installed, can last for up to 10 years without the need for repairs. Thirdly, renewable sources of energy are largely advantageous for being environmentally friendly. This is beneficial today even as the world is reeling from the effects of climate change mediated by increased usage of non-renewable sources of energy.
What are the disadvantages of renewable sources of energy?
a) Some renewable sources of energy are prone to accidents
Some of the most common renewable sources of energy can be quite safe to utilize. However, renewable energy sources such as nuclear generation plants are highly prone to accidents which, when happen, release toxic radioactive material that can kill or wipe up out an entire population while rendering the environment inhabitable.
b) Low reliability
The reliability of most renewable sources of energy such as the sun and wind is not so high. Weather changes such as cloudiness can significantly impair the amount of energy harnessed from the sun. Calm days, on the other hand, can also significantly reduce energy generation from wind-powered generators.
c) Expensive to install
Energy generated from renewable sources of energy such as the sun and the wind often costs higher than that generated from non-renewable sources. Solar energy is the most preferred renewable source of energy.
d) Limited distribution of energy sources
Another of the disadvantages of renewable energy includes the fact that most sources are not equally distributed across the globe. In places such as Africa where solar radiation is in sufficient quantities, the landscape is so rugged and adverse that companies seeking to harness solar energy are unable to do so. Tidal energy also requires massive investments and is not equally distributed in strategic positions around the globe to encourage large-scale harnessing.
e) Immature technology
Limited technology as far as the harnessing of renewable sources of energy around the globe is also among the key disadvantages of renewable energy. Lack of sufficient knowledge on how to effectively harness these forms of energy makes the cost of installation and maintenance for such facilities quite high. It also implies a limitation regarding the extent to which utilization of such energy sources can be done.
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