UO’s Environment Initiative to host its first virtual event

Wind power generators

As part of the ramp-up toward its formal launch, the University of Oregon’s Environment Initiative is putting on its first live event, a virtual forum on Jan. 6. Registration is free.

Titled “Advancing Clean Energy In Oregon,” the one-day event will probe Oregon’s future in clean energy by examining policy in other states, hearing research updates from UO faculty members and bringing together key Oregon stakeholders in the energy sector.

Provost and Senior Vice President Patrick Phillips will host the event along with Environment Initiative director Adell Amos, Clayton R. Hess Professor of Law and an affiliate of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program. Both say initiative such events will be an example of the university’s role as leader of a preeminent forum on the environment.

“We as an institution should really be thinking about these broad questions, inviting the conversation and inviting many sides to the conversation,” Phillips said. “That's what we are for; that's what we do.”

Amos spoke to the caliber of environmental teaching and research the UO offers to the community.

“Those working on research at UO represent scholars who turn their research agendas toward the problems that we face as a state, a region and the world with regard to decarbonizing our energy future,” Amos said.

Amos will introduce, and participate in, a group of faculty panelists who illustrate the UO’s interdisciplinary work around issues of energy, including those from architecture, law, biochemistry, business, and public planning and policy.

But the event won’t focus only on research. It will open with a welcome message from Democratic Oregon Sen. Jeff Golden of Ashland and follow with other panels moderated by state Rep. Karin Power of Milwaukie and Sen. Michael Dembrow of Portland, also both Democrats.

Golden and Power chair legislative committees focused on energy, the environment and resource policy issues at the state level. They’ll get to bump virtual elbows with administrative counterparts from New York, New Mexico and Washington state, all of whom will also speak during a segment focused on how clean energy outlooks are progressing elsewhere.

“We know the University of Oregon doesn’t have all the solutions, so by creating the network and creating connections between people and inspiring new ideas, that’s where we can make an impact,” Phillips said.

The event seeks broad participation from industry and policy stakeholders from around the state. Electric utilities, environmental groups, labor leaders and environmental justice representatives all are invited to take part in a panel moderated by Golden.

Assistant professor of law Greg Dotson, the event’s lead faculty member who helped draw all of the constituencies together, will discuss trends in clean energy. He said the event will focus on the future rather than past challenges to passing clean energy legislation in Oregon.

In particular, attendees will hear about the policy mechanics of clean energy standards in place in other states that will require electricity providers to move to nonemitting sources by midcentury.

“Leaders on clean energy in both chambers of the state Legislature are interested in better understanding this policy — how it works, who has adopted it, what questions it raises,” said Dotson, who teaches environmental law and policy. “I think this event will demonstrate that the university has a lot of expertise to contribute to this discussion.”

Ultimately, Amos said the Environment Initiative will continue to sponsor and support events that bring together the research and teaching capacity at the UO with the needs of the community.

“We’re obviously a University of Oregon, but we’re also a university in Oregon and a university for Oregon,” Phillips said. “And so the environment is organic to who we are, simply from our sense of place and our history. Understanding how to address the ongoing environmental crisis and what role we can play in interpreting policy and action, that's a big part of the shift to who we can be. Not just studying what's going on, but really doubling down on how we can help the state.”

For more information, visit the Environment Initiative website.

—By Anna Glavash Miller, University Communications