Lesley K. McAllister Symposium on Climate and Energy Law

Latest Symposium

The Future of Energy in a Changing Climate

November 8, 2019

University of San Diego
Mother Rosalie Hill Hall
Warren Auditorium


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symposium keynote speakers

Symposium Details

Recent wildfires and power shut-off events throughout California have highlighted the challenge of operating an electric utility in a changing climate. At this year’s Symposium, regulators, utility executives, scholars, and other experts will discuss:   

  • California’s Public Safety Power Shut-off policy

  • Wildfire cost recovery

  • Utility fire prevention programs

  • Research on future wildfire dangers

  • Utility long-term planning

  • Social equity implications 

Climate Impacts and Electric Regulation

In the aftermath of California’s deadliest and costliest wildfires in state history in 2017 and 2018 and concerns over future sea level rise, policymakers are left with numerous questions about how climate impacts could affect utilities, related infrastructure and investments, and their business and operational models. How should governments, insurance companies, and investor manage risk? Can the existing investor owned utility business model deliver safe and reliable service to customers at reasonable rates in a changing climate? What other business models could ensure safe and reliable service? What statutory, regulatory, and policy actions are necessary to address adequate investment in utility infrastructure that adapts to climate change? How should other technologies, like microgrids and distributed energy resources, be used to lessen risk and ensure reliable electricity?

The Future of Electricity Procurement

At the same time that California regulators are considering how to address the effects of wildfires and other climate impacts, there has been a shift in electricity procurement toward a more fragmented model. The increasing number of Community Choice Aggregation programs and the expansion of direct access have led utilities and policymakers to propose alternative structures, including a statewide procurement entity. How does the industry maintain enough scale for energy procurement for reasonable rates while also servicing local needs or demands? How should policy makers address requests from incumbent utilities to exit energy procurement? If utilities are only pipes and wires companies, what level of oversight is necessary to ensure safe and reliable service?

Energy and Climate Equity

Policies to reduce GHG emissions, the impacts of climate change, and actions to address climate impacts can have disparate effects on different populations. Vulnerable populations typically have experienced air pollution and other impacts of energy production and now may also disproportionately feel the negative impact of a changing climate.  How are disadvantaged communities and other vulnerable populations affected by climate impacts and our policies to address them? What are the equity implications of policies to de-energize portions of the electric grid when the threat of wildfire is high? Are there disparities in effects of disaster relief in the wake of climate-related disasters? How should policy makers, regulators, and the private sector address these issues?


Each year the University of San Diego School of Law hosts the Leslie K. McAllister Symposium on Climate and Energy Law. Legal and policy experts from across the country attend the event, including practicing attorneys, policy makers, and academic experts.

The symposium is co-hosted by the Energy Policy Initiatives Center and the San Diego Journal of Climate & Energy Law.

Our USD Law School community was saddened to learn that our former colleague Professor Lesley McAllister passed away at the end of August 2017. She was part of the USD School of Law faculty from 2005 until 2013, when she moved to UC Davis. During her tenure at USD, among many other things, Professor McAllister helped to create the Annual Climate and Energy Law Symposium and the San Diego Journal of Climate and Energy Law. She also pioneered the Climate and Energy Law Course at USD School of Law and co-authored a book on the subject.

To honor her contributions to the USD School of Law generally, and to the Symposium and Journal specifically, we have formally changed the name to the Lesley K. McAllister Symposium on Climate and Energy Law.

Read more about Professor Lesley McAllister (pdf).

Speakers at LKM Symposium 2018