Summer 2021 Fellow: Bella Meyn, ‘23 (Public Policy)

Learn more about Bella’s experience:

This fellowship is part of a partnership between Stanford in Government, the Precourt Institute for Energy, and the Bill Lane Center for the American West. If you are accepted as the fellow for this office, you will be required to complete a one-unit course on energy in California taught by Professor Bruce Cain. 

Program requirement:

Take a one-unit workshop spring course, ‘Energy Policy in California and the West’ taught by Bruce Cain that will provide an in-depth analysis of the role of California state agencies, the Western Interstate Energy Board, and the Western Electricity Coordinating Council in driving energy policy development, technology innovation, and market structures. Course number is CEE 263G / POLISCI 73 / PUBLPOL 73 / ENERGY 73.

Schedule: Wednesdays from 9:45 am – 10:45 am (Shriram Ctr BioChemE 108). (Please note: You can only enroll in the course after getting approved for the fellowship and receiving a permission number.) Please refer to the Shultz Energy Fellowships website for the most up-to-date information about the course.

Office description: 

The Western Interstate Energy Board (WIEB) is an organization of eleven western states and two western Canadian provinces. The governor of each state and the premier of each province appoint a member to the Board. WIEB’s purpose is to “provide the instruments and framework for cooperative state efforts to enhance the economy of the West and contribute to the well-being of the region’s people.” WIEB works to achieve this through cooperative efforts among member states, provinces, and the federal government. For these efforts, WIEB staff conduct research in comprehensive areas around the Western Interconnection, including grid reliability, resource adequacy, transmission expansion, energy imbalance markets, and nuclear waste transportation. WIEB’s office is in downtown Denver, Colorado.

For more information on WIEB, please visit WIEB’s homepage:  http://westernenergyboard.org/wieb/

Mentors: 

Maury Galbraith, Executive Director of WIEB, will act as the principal mentor for this project. Mr. Galbraith provides overall strategic direction to the Western Interstate Energy Board (WIEB), enabling the organization to effectively identify and address important energy issues in the West and to support cooperative western state/provincial efforts in the energy field.

Woori Lee, Wholesale Electricity Market Analyst, will also act as a mentor for this project. Ms. Lee provides staff support and expertise to the Western Energy Imbalance Market Body of State Regulators. She is also responsible for providing technical analysis of economic performance and reliability of wholesale electricity markets in the Western U.S. She has both a background in economics and engineering.

Eric Baran, Program Manager – Electric System Reliability, will also act as a mentor for this project. Mr. Baran manages and provides staff support to the Western Interconnection Regional Advisory Body (WIRAB). WIRAB provides advice to the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC), the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regarding the reliability of the bulk power system in the Western Interconnection. He has a background in engineering and public administration.

2022 Fellowship Project – “Energy Impacts from Temperature and Precipitation Trends in the Western States”

This project aims to identify recent trends in temperature and precipitation in the western states, which play a key role in electricity supply and demand. This project will include analyzing large data sets from 1920 through 2021, about 20 cities from the 11 states in the western U.S. plus two western provinces in Canada. By analyzing the historical data, we aim to find meaningful changes in trends, including the frequency of summer heatwaves, regional drought trends, and possible impacts on the Western Interconnection. The final outcome will improve understanding of temperature and precipitation trends in the western states, helping regulators and policymakers incorporate them into its resource planning analysis. The students selected for this project will lead the WIEB effort to achieve these goals.

In the light of the electricity generation mix and the climate landscape of the western states, temperature and precipitation are the key factors impacting the demand and supply in the Western Interconnection. Historically, peak demand occurs during hot summer days in parts of the western states. In other areas, the system peaks on cold winter days, but those peaks may be shifting. Therefore, the temperature is a dominant factor for load forecasting. Hydroelectric power accounts for nearly 27 percent of its total capacity in the Western Interconnection. Variable wind and solar resources account for 9.7 percent and 7.7 precent, respectively, with expected significant growth over the next 5-10 years. This resource mix tells us that the level of precipitation can affect the supply in the Western Interconnection. The rainfall and snowpack directly affect hydro capacity and indirectly wind and solar output.

There is a sense that climate change is now altering these two critical factors in the western states. The changing weather patterns could bring about potential increasing weather-driven reliability risks.
This implies that rigorous study of the trends is timely and essential for the western states in their future resource planning, especially with aggressive integration of renewables to the grid. Analyzing the comprehensive data related to the temperature and precipitation in the western states can be a foundational step toward verifying the region’s current changes.

The students will be the lead researchers on this project, with guidance from WIEB advisors. They will analyze large amounts of data with statistical/econometrics models utilizing tools they are comfortable with (i.e., Excel, R, SPSS). The students will have a great chance to exert their data analysis skills through descriptive analysis, time-series analysis, i.e., seasonal, cyclical trends, and an opportunity to build statistical and machine learning models for analyzing trends and forecasting impacts. WIEB will provide the students with a database to start the analysis and instruction from the mentors. Still, the students will have the freedom to explore the topic and discover meaningful conclusions from their research. The students will propose and suggest noteworthy findings from the analysis to better understand the weather trends and their application in the Western Interconnection. Finally, the students will present the findings and conclusions of their research to state energy officials and utility regulators in the West.

This project will provide students with substantive data exercises, clear direction, guidance on completing the work, and the autonomy to be creative and conduct independent research. The students may create a final report documenting their approach to the data, description of the distribution/model that they applied, and historical trends across the Western Interconnection. The students will have regular meetings with WIEB mentors and outside subject matter experts to discuss their plans and findings for the project. Finally, the students will have the opportunity to present their work to WIEB Staff as well as state and provincial policymakers and regulators. At the conclusion of a successful project, the students will feel that they are a part of the WIEB team and have made a significant contribution to enhancing regional electricity policy in the West.

WIEB anticipates staff will have a flexible work policy for summer 2022. If this is the case, the fellow will have the option to work fully in-person, partially remote, or fully remote, with in-person work highly encouraged. As the selected fellow will be part of a collaborative, two-person Stanford team, both fellows will need to be working in the same way (in-person, partially remote, or fully remote).

Desired Skills and Knowledge   

The ideal student candidates will have the following skills and knowledge:

SKILLS:

  • Good research and analytic skills.
  • Good written and verbal communication skills.
  • Experience using Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
  • Ability in statistical software (i.e., Python, R, SPSS.) is a plus.
  • Ability to work independently and as a member of a research team.

KNOWLEDGE:

  • Coursework in statistics or mathematics.
  • Coursework related to energy or environmental policy.
  • Interest in data analytics.
  • Interest in working on electricity markets and policy.
  • Interest in working with energy market experts in the West.

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