During 2013, the Initiative focused on the following major research projects.

Cybersecurity and Cloud Computing in the Health Care and Energy Sectors

Cloud computing promises to enable new frontiers of innovation and convenience. As a result of this emerging technology, services that would have required significant capital expenditures just a few years ago are now available in a pay-per-use model, if they cost end users anything at all. Increasingly, cloud services enable everyday technologies, and often the end user is not aware that cloud computing is involved. Innovation, convenience, and speed are the baseline expectations for the growing number of digitally connected people in the world.

The health care and energy sectors are not immune from the pressure to fully integrate into the connected world. However, these sectors are highly regulated by government entities, are mission critical systems (that is, people depend on them), and handle some of their customers’ most private and sensitive information. For these reasons, many health care and energy organizations have resisted the move to cloud computing on a standardized enterprise level. Today, these organizations face the ramifications of their own employees’ and customers’ unregulated use of these technologies, inadvertently creating an enterprise risk they are now forced to confront. The critical questions for organizations in these sectors are: what are the real risks of different types of cloud computing, and in light of these risks, how can organizations in these sectors make better choices with respect to the cloud?

Read the 2013 roundtable report on this topic.

Collaborative Project on PUCs and Clean Energy Innovation

For the United States to play its part in reducing human contributions to global climate change, as well as to further national security goals, we need to foster clean energy innovation and growth while maintaining a reliable and affordable domestic electricity supply. The U.S. electricity sector is characterized by a diverse mix of fuels and generation technologies, varied state laws, several sorts of electricity markets, and intertwined federal energy regulation. At its heart, however, the sector is regulated at the state level by state public utilities commissions that arose in the early 20th century to regulate vertically integrated monopolies serving well-defined local service areas based on a cost-of-service model. Whether these PUCs are up to the task of helping the U.S. transition to a clean energy economy—with uneven supply, wholesale competition, retail competition in some markets and an overlay of federal law—is a centrally important question. Yet PUCs and the diverse body of state law that created them have not been subjected to systematic study and evaluation. The PUC Clean Energy Policy Collaborative Project—a cross-university project of leading United States energy and environmental law and policy professors and researchers—is designed to address this knowledge gap, providing a basis for analysis, evaluation, and development of policy reform options. The Collaborative will engage in empirically grounded, comparative benchmarking research that will assess state public utility commission laws, policies, administrative structures, political dynamics and actions. The goal is to determine why some PUCs are economic, technology and regulatory innovators while others remain committed to a traditional regulatory structure with little innovation. The results of our research will provide invaluable information for policymakers and future researchers about what role public utility commissions can play in transitioning the country toward clean energy development and reduced reliance on carbon-based energy.

During 2012, the Initiative focused on three major research projects:

Unconventional natural gas development and the electric power sector

William Boyd and Senior Research Fellow Elizabeth Parahnos are conducting research on legal and regulatory issues regarding shale gas development in multiple basins and jurisdictions, with particular attention to the cost/supply implications of different regulatory scenarios and the adoption of best management practices. This research project is being conducted as part of a larger JISEA study on the impacts unconventional gas development on the electric power sector.

Legal and policy frameworks to promote grid modernization

Phil Weiser, in partnership with NREL and various private sector entities (Tendril, Simple Energy, etc.), is developing an effort on grid modernization that builds on the smart grid effort he led while working in the White House. This effort will launch with a conference on Smart Grid on March 13, 2012, with a possible technology policy challenge to take place later in the spring.

Innovative models for financing energy innovation

The Energy Innovation Initiative, in partnership with CU Cleantech and others, will convene a conference on financing energy innovation in the Fall of 2012 as the basis for developing a broader research effort in this area. William Boyd is developing this effort.


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