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  • Writer's pictureTade Oyewunmi

Works-in-Progress and Recent Publications

Updated: Feb 13, 2022

Offshore Wind in the US

At the Foundation for Natural Resources and Energy Law's Teachers Institute Virtual Works-In-Progress Virtual Workshop held on June 4, 2021, I presented the paper titled "Energy Law and Policy Considerations for Offshore Wind Projects in the US." The paper examines the regulatory and transactional hurdles in the development and integration of utility-scale offshore wind energy projects with the electricity markets in the US. From the Gulf of Maine to the coast of Virginia in the Northeast and Oregon in the Pacific coast area, there has been growing interest in offshore wind energy. The U.S. Department of Interior’s approval of the Vineyard Wind project in 2021 signals solid federal support, while there is also considerable state-level support in the relevant coastal states. Offshore wind has several advantages, such as having higher capacity factors when compared to similar variable renewable energy systems; thus, it adds considerable value and a relatively higher potential to serve as “variable" baseload technology of the projected cleaner power supply system. Despite the increasingly supportive law and policy environment, some projects have faced delays and opposition from stakeholders and local groups whose economic, social, aesthetics or recreational interests may be impacted. Addressing such concerns is becoming an essential part of offshore wind's permitting and project development phases. The paper points to a public choice explanation that could help address the trade-offs. It also draws on experiences in the UK, which is currently the leading jurisdiction in the deployment of offshore wind energy systems.

Gas Flaring and the Energy Trilemma

InThe Energy Trilemma and Regulatory Complexities of Gas Flaring and Venting in the US (forthcoming in the OGEL Special Issue on Law and Policy for Gas Flaring in a Low-carbon Economy, 2022), I point out that the process of regulating the flaring and venting of natural gas often creates an energy policy trilemma. One way of addressing the complexities created as a result is to consider the application of energy justice principles and industry best practices to resolve issues. The energy trilemma and complexities are manifested in the requirements to curb upstream emissions arising from flaring and venting while at the same time appreciating the role of gas production and supply systems for delivering affordable, low, or carbon-neutral energy. Energy justice principles could be applied in balancing the economics (costs and affordability) with environmental regulation and security of energy supply issues. The paper highlights the emerging bottlenecks to market access which also become relevant in the light of the recently proposed and existing rules that require the capture and sales of gas that would otherwise be flared. It also points to industry best practices and guiding principles that may provide helpful tools for curbing emissions and ensuring more sustainable operations. These include the Methane Guiding Principles (MGP).

In a related development on best practices and operational guidelines, the World Bank's Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership (GGFR), International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA), and The International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (IOGP) launched the Flaring Management Guidance for the Oil and Gas Industry in February 2022.

This paper examines the energy regulation and policy issues that arise from plans to decarbonize gas and electricity networks with an increasing amount of variable renewable energy resources. It highlights the context of New York’s emerging climate and energy policy goals, including the objective of 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040. The paper focuses on the “Power to Gas” and hydrogen compatible networks as one of the several options for decarbonization. Incentivizing the development and utilization of such technologies by amending the definition of a Tier 1 renewable energy credit and broadening requirements surrounding participation in wholesale capacity and ancillary service markets can enhance the integration of clean energy into the gas and electricity grid.

This article was recently selected as one of the 2020-2021 top 20 articles to be highlighted in the fifteenth edition of the Environmental Law and Policy Annual Review (ELPAR). a joint project of the Environmental Law Institute and Vanderbilt University Law School.

The paper discusses the role(s) and responsibilities of regulatory bodies in curbing methane and fugitive emissions from the oil and gas production and supply systems in the US. It considers the various approaches for regulating privately owned resources compared to publicly owned resources. In discussing how the political economy influences regulatory institutions in this context, the paper focused on two major federal agencies – the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). To be considered effective, these institutions have the role of making rules that should properly align with underlying policy objectives, such as developing feasible technology-based standards to control emissions in the case of the EPA or prevention of avoidable waste of energy resources in the case of the BLM. The paper concludes that over-politicization and prolonged uncertainties regarding what rules are applicable or not applicable often make the regulated industry and the regulator less effective.

This article examines the requirements of resilience and reliability for gas to power systems planning in an era of decarbonization. It recognizes that energy transitions and decarbonization plans lead to more competition between traditional and emerging net-zero, carbon-neutral, and low-carbon energy sources and technologies. The paper presents a case for improving our definition of climate resilience in energy policy. In the energy context, building resilience into systems planning involves understanding the possibility for high-impact and low-likelihood events to cause significant operational disruption, system damage, and devastating societal impacts. The reliability of the energy system speaks mainly to its ability to maintain energy delivery under standard ‘normal’ operating conditions, primarily concerning fluctuations in demand and supply. A system could be inherently unreliable (e.g., solar and wind) because it is based on the variableness of when the sun shines or wind blowing at the correct scale and time and yet proves to be resilient in the face of extreme events. In comparison, systems that are inherently more reliable (e.g., gas-to-power) because the source of its energy capacity comprises proven upstream reserves that are deliverable through existing networks and backed up by firm contracts could be less resilient during such peculiar and disruptive events. What makes the difference is not the systems themselves but the planning and decision-making process that enables timely investments in the necessary resilience and reliability solutions.

This paper explores the evolving energy market development and institutional reforms in Senegal, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, particularly Nigeria. It considers the increasing participation of privately-owned Independent Power Producers operating alongside state-owned utilities, some of which are now being corporatized, unbundled, and privatized in other to facilitate competitive wholesale markets. These countries also establish quasi-independent agencies to play critical roles as these markets develop. Overall, countries like Nigeria are implementing a comprehensive energy policy framework that factors in affordable universal energy access, development of mini-grids and off-grid systems, powering industries for economic growth with abundant local energy resources, including natural gas and renewables, setting-up affordable rural electrification systems, etc. For countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, securing universal energy access is critical to their sustainable development and economic growth. The legal framework and regulatory institutions have a pivotal role to play. It is essential to have a coherent, clear, and efficient framework comprising- well-equipped and resourceful independent institution(s) for economic regulation, creating an equitable and rules-based playing field for energy utilities, consumers, and private operators; and cost-reflective tariffs for utilities while still ensuring the obligation to serve and provide reliable and affordable energy.

The charts below show Africa's renewable energy electricity generation and installed capacity trends (source IRENA) as of February 2022.

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