Out West student blog

California Dreaming (of Energy Futures)

Mondee Lu hard at work! (Photo credit: Mondee Lu)

By Mondee Lu JD-MS '20
Hometown: Novato, CA
Major: Environment and Resources
Intern, California Public Utilities Commission

Why did you want to do this internship?

California has been a leader on many climate and energy issues. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), as the main regulatory body of utilities in California, is at the center of the State's environmental efforts, creating the enabling regulatory environment and rules for the energy transition. I was hoping to learn more about energy policy and implementation, and the CPUC seemed like a great place to be exposed to these domains in a very cross-cutting and dynamic way. 

How does your role support the host organization’s mission?

The CPUC has a broad mandate centered on ensuring access to reliable utility services (energy, telecom, water, transportation) for all Californians while protecting consumer rights and the environment. The CPUC's five commissioners oversee the agency and set strategic directives. As an intern in Commissioner Genevieve Shiroma's office, I help the Commissioner and her staff on energy-related matters that are before the CPUC. This includes preparing briefings and doing independent analysis of the issues. 

Describe one project you will be working on this summer.

My primary project this summer is assisting on the CPUC's microgrid proceeding, which is overseen by Commissioner Shiroma. This proceeding is the result of SB 1339, which instructed the Commission to create rules and regulations that would facilitate the commercialization of microgrids, or small-scale grids with local generation and customers that can operate separately from the larger grid, by the end of 2020. In the short term, microgrids can provide important grid services and improve resiliency, especially in communities facing public safety power shutoffs. In the longer term, microgrids can help pave the way to a more decentralized, localized, and decarbonized energy system. Microgrids have an important role to play in the future of the electric grid and it is exciting to be on the ground floor of creating the regulatory environment for them. 

How does this project relate to your studies and/or career goals?

Graduate school has been an opportunity for me to pivot into a career focused on climate, energy, and environmental issues. Beyond this, I'm still not sure what my future path will look like, but I do hope to spend at least part of my career in the public sector. My summer at the CPUC is helping me understand the systems, institutions, and processes underlying complex energy and utility regulation. It's invaluable knowledge that I will carry with me no matter where I end up.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I just moved to the East Bay, so much of my spare time is being taken up with unpacking and getting the apartment in a habitable state. Outside of this, I do enjoy settling in with a good book (currently working my way through Barkskins) or board game (Onitama is a favorite). And, of course, television. There is a surfeit of good shows to watch these days. Now that I live close to water again, I'm also getting the itch to get back into rowing.


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