In her time as a Research Associate at the Institute for Energy and the Environment, Katie Johnson (JD ’13) helped research and publish a report detailing state policies related to consumer privacy and the smart grid and co-authored a report on federal energy efficiency incentives for farmers. Today, Katie is General Counsel at One Energy, an Ohio-based innovative clean energy company that connects industrial customers with their own distributed wind projects.
We talked to Katie about her time at Vermont Law School, and how working in the IEE helped prepare her for a job in renewable energy.
IEE: Tell us about One Energy. What does your company do?
Katie Johnson: We provide “Wind for Industry©.” [Editor’s note: Of course, the General Counsel would insist that we transcribe the slogan with the copyright.] Essentially, we work with industrial companies — like Whirlpool, Ball Corporation, and Marathon Oil — to install industrial size wind turbines that offset their energy usage. These are wind farm sized turbines, at least 1.5 megawatts,right on site at the industrial facilities
The wind turbines are connected behind the customer’s meter, and then the customer typically net meters with the local distribution utility (if the utility offers net metering). Most states limit the size of renewable facilities that can be net metered, but in Ohio there’s no limit on the size of the net metered renewable facilities as long as it is constructed to primarily offset the customer’s usage.
And as General Counsel, what do you do?
I do anything from working on contracts, to helping with real estate transactions, to generally keeping the company in compliance with various agencies’ regulations. Constructing wind turbines requires a lot of applications and permits to and from various agencies on a federal, state, and local level. Preparing filings for these agencies and interacting with them keeps me very busy.
And did your experience at the Institute [for Energy and the Environment] and in the classrooms at VLS prepare you for this work?
My experiences with the IEE and VLS both helped me get the job, and helped me in the job. Most law schools do not provide opportunities to learn about electricity regulation and about renewable energy, so being able to study those things in class and work on those issues while in law school gave me a real leg up when I looked for jobs in the energy field.
And, actually, the work I did with the research team [at the IEE] is really similar to the work that I now do in my job. Michael and Kevin [Director and Deputy Director of the IEE] really do a great job of prepping students for the professional energy field by exposing students to work assignments on relevant issues in the energy field..
Job placement aside, anything else you’ve carried with you from your time in the Institute?
When you’re working in one state like Ohio, it’s easy to forget that there are 49 other states out there doing innovative things, each with their own energy policies and issues. So beyond helping me become a better job candidate, and preparing me for my work in this job, the Institute prepared me more broadly for the energy field.
The Institute gave me the opportunity to work on energy matters on the national level and to draw comparisons from state to state. And working with the Energy Justice team we developed case studies of energy generation issues and water scarcity in the developing world. It really gave me the bigger picture of the energy challenges that different parts of the world face. It’s important to keep that bigger picture in perspective when you’re working day to day.
You can learn more about One Energy and the Wind for Industry© that Katie helps develop on their website.