Rick Gittleman sees the future of energy. It looks renewable, with a lot of it California-based.
Gittleman, an Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld partner who handles energy infrastructure financing and transactions, just relocated five weeks ago from Akin's D.C. office to San Francisco to head up the firm's renewable energy initiative. Akin Gump expects to add four more partners in San Francisco in a bid to extend its energy practice from traditional oil and gas companies and utilities to solar, wind and other types of power.
What are they thinking? After the jump ...
In coming years, "California will need a huge increase in baseline power," Gittleman said at a breakfast with news reporters Friday. "It won't be coal. It won't be nuclear" that fill the shortfall. Like many energy lawyers, he anticipates a wave of partnering and consolidation between traditional and renewable energy companies.
Gittleman was joined Friday by two Akin Gump senior advisers who once served in Congress -- Vic Fazio and Bill Paxon. All three were buzzing about a speech former Vice President Al Gore had made Thursday calling on the Barack Obama administration to federalize the power grid. All three thought it could make sense for developing a "smart grid" that transmits energy more efficiently -- though they also said it could run into regional resistance.
"It's a little bit analogous to trying to reform the education system without interfering with local control," said Fazio.
Fazio said that while he believes Obama's commitment to renewable energy is genuine, dealing with the financial crisis will probably take precedence. "If you're not profiting, you're not in a position to take advantage of a tax credit," he said, adding that he has heard talk in Washington -- though no specific proposals yet -- of designating some TARP bailout money for renewable energy.
— Scott Graham