Coronavirus Conversations: How The Electric Power Sector is Weathering The Pandemic

01jun12:30 pm1:30 pmCoronavirus Conversations: How The Electric Power Sector is Weathering The Pandemic


Virtual Meeting


(Monday) 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm(GMT-04:00) View in my time

Event Details

Co-Hosted by
The Nicholas Institute For Environmental Policy Solutions
& The Duke University Energy Initiative


Monday June 1, 2020 12:30 PM (EDT), Zoom

The electric power sector is facing major operational challenges as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Traditional fossil-fuel fired electric power plants have taken extraordinary steps to maintain staff availability in the shadow of contagion. Still, in late March, the EPA suspended enforcement of much of its air and water discharge requirements for electric power facilities unable to comply due to COVID-19-related staffing concerns. At the same time, distributed energy saw over 15% of its workforce furloughed, and new installations slowed or stopped, due to stay-at-home orders.

Join our panel of Duke University and industry experts as they discuss how the electric power sector is weathering these challenges—and what the impact might be for the energy transition.

Our Panelists:


Jennifer Chen, J.D., PhD

Senior Counsel, Federal Energy Policy at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University

Jennifer Chen joined Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions in June 2018 as a senior counsel, federal energy policy. Here, she focuses on electricity and infrastructure policy design to account for newer resources and technologies, such as emissions-free resources, electricity storage, advanced transmission technologies, and demand-side resources. Jennifer has testified on infrastructure and grid modernization issues before the U.S. Congress and on electricity markets issues before the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).Prior to joining the Nicholas Institute, Jennifer was an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, where she led a coalition of environmental organizations and collaborated with other stakeholders to guide the evolution toward a low-emissions, efficient, and flexible electricity grid. Jennifer started her energy policy career as an attorney-advisor at FERC.Jennifer graduated with a J.D. from New York University School of Law and earned her Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Chicago. She is a member of the California Bar and the District of Columbia Bar and is admitted to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. She serves on the board of the Americans for a Clean Energy Grid.


Michael D Smith, J.D.

Senior Vice President, Distributed Energy, Constellation

A 22-year veteran of the energy industry, Duke Law alumnus Michael Smith leads Constellation’s distributed energy business, which originates, develops, owns, operates, and maintains innovative customer-sited generation and energy efficiency solutions for Constellation’s customers. Previously, he served as vice president, Exelon Generation Innovation and Strategy Development. In that role, he led the development of key strategic initiatives for Exelon Generation and Constellation, as well as the company’s overall innovation efforts. Prior to that, he led Constellation Technology Ventures (CTV), Exelon’s venture investing organization, where he oversaw CTV’s portfolio of investments in companies representing innovative energy technologies and the commercial deployment of new technologies across the Exelon commercial platform. Smith sits on the board of directors of CTV portfolio companies Proterra Inc. and Stem, Inc. He joined Constellation in 2003 and has held various regulatory and commercial roles in both the United States and Europe. Prior to joining Constellation, Smith was vice president and assistant general counsel for Enron Energy Services and a trial lawyer at Bricker & Eckler, LLP. He received a juris doctor from the Duke University School of Law and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami.


Bryan Walsh

Vice President, Central Services And Organizational Effectiveness for Fossil Hydro Operations, Duke Energy

Bryan Walsh’s unit provides engineering services, analysis & support for Duke Energy’s coal-fired, gas-fired, and regulated renewables fleet; in addition, they provide oversight for the safety, operations and maintenance standards that govern the Fossil-Hydro department. He has worked in various positions for Duke Energy over the last 21 years, including serving as the station manager of Gallagher Station in New Albany, Indiana and Markland Hydro Station in Vevay, Indiana. Walsh holds a bachelor degree in mechanical engineering from The Catholic University of America, a master’s of science in mechanical engineering from The Georgia Institute of Technology, and is a registered professional engineer in North Carolina.




Sarah Rispin, J.D.

Duke Science & Society Instructor, Scipol.org Lead – Energy

Sarah Rispin oversees the development and publication of SciPol.org content related to Energy, and is jointly supported by Duke Science & Society and the Duke Energy Initiative. She has extensive experience in administrative and environmental law, having worked in the environmental non-profit sector and private practice. Rispin received her JD from the University of Chicago Law School, where she was on the board of the University of Chicago Law Review, and was a member of the Chicago Journal of International Law.


Co-Hosted by:



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This virtual event series is open to the public. Press covering the coronavirus outbreak are welcome to attend. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates.

Have an idea for a future Coronavirus Conversation ?


Coronavirus Conversations: A new, virtual event series from Duke Science & Society


As we practice social distancing, engage in online learning, and work remotely we are burdened with questions about how this pandemic is affecting our lives, the lives of those we love, and the society we are a part of. Over the course of this event series faculty and staff from Duke Science and Society will join academics, lawmakers, students, researchers, doctors, and others to shed some light on the events happening around us and what life will start to look like moving forward.

We will have moderated, casual lunch-time discussions with brief Q&A held via Zoom chat.

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