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Learning the ropes at the CPUC

Jul 10 2019

EJ exploring San Francisco! (photo credit: Danny Lei).  


By EJ Baik, 2nd year PhD student

Hometown: Seoul, South Korea
Intern, Commissioner Rechtshaffen’s office,  California Public Utilities Commission

Out West Student Blog

Student Blog



Why did you want to do this internship?

My research at Stanford focuses on assessing effective technologies and policies for decarbonizing energy systems. Policy is a crucial component of the research as it informs what technologies are available, and how the technologies are implemented in a given market and political environment. Through this internship, at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), I hope to gain a better understanding of how policy is designed and implemented.

How would you describe one of the projects you will be working on this summer?

One project that I will be working on this summer is understanding the role that hydrogen gas can play in decarbonizing California’s economy. The project will involve reviewing academic studies that have assessed the technical potential and economic implementation of hydrogen gas, as well as looking for any other regulatory bodies (states, nations) that may have implemented policy surrounding hydrogen use. Safety is a paramount issue to the Commission, so I will also be researching possible risks and safety issues on the use of hydrogen.


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

As an intern in Commissioner Rechtschaffen’s office this summer, within an advisory position, my role is to help inform the Commissioner on many different proceedings as they progress and keep him up to date on any changes or comments that have been made. Also, as an intern with a research background, part of my responsibility is also to conduct research that will help provide context and background for various policies in consideration.

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

My PhD project will have an overarching theme of assessing and developing pathways of decarbonizing the US economy. Hydrogen is a technology that is becoming more prominent as a possible large-scale solution due to its versatility in many different sectors of the economy. Understanding the potential and possible uses of hydrogen is a critical part of the study, and I think my project at the CPUC will be the perfect way to get me started.

Has anything surprised you about the work, the organization, or the environment?

Advisors to a Commissioner are expected to have an understanding of a wide range of proceedings that are ongoing. Learning all of the different proceedings, balancing different party opinions, and understanding the jargon and reasoning behind policy implementation are only part of the responsibilities of an advisor. The breadth of responsibility and subjects covered by the advisors have been the most surprising part of the work, and is a component that I currently enjoy the most about my time at the CPUC. The work has been challenging but exciting, and I look forward to the rest of my summer at the CPUC!


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