Energy & Infrastructure Projects team co-leader Rob James spoke at the Environmental Law & Policy Colloquium at Stanford Law School October 14, 2020 on “Candor, Climate, and the Energy Transition.”
Rob first provided a working definition of the “energy transition,” a term often used without unpacking its meaning. The transition is founded on deep decarbonization, the replacement of fossil with renewable generation, but it has many other features and must be accompanied by principles of equity and accessibility.
Rob then examined a variety of decarbonization goals—objectives of the form “100% net zero emission electricity or energy by the year 20xx.” For citizens to understand these goals, we need a context—what is our energy demand and source mix today, and what would they be in the “end zone” year—and we need to understand the project implied by the goal in terms of the rate and scope of new generation, retirement of old generation, and the other elements of the transition definition.
For that understanding, Rob emphasized the importance of candor: information about the context, the implicit project, and the obstacles, risks and costs. Candor is not an excuse to chill the vibe or throw cold water on audacious goals for an unprecedented task. Instead, candor should strengthen the resolve to see the project through the challenges that lie ahead.