Washington, D.C., May 21, 2014 – The Pace University’s School of Law has made a great choice in Karl Rábago to head its groundbreaking Energy and Climate Center. He is among the most measured and thoughtful advocates for renewable energy and sensible energy policies that I have ever had the privilege of covering as a journalist. I don’t want to gush, but Rábago is unique in my experience.
I first encountered Rábago in the 1990s when he was a political appointee in the Clinton administration’s Department of Energy, where he came to the administration’s attention after service on the Public Utility Commission of Texas, appointed by Gov. Ann Richards. At DOE, he was a deputy assistant secretary working on utility technologies. We had frequent conversations and I often pressed him as hard as I could on the practicality of the DOE projects. He was unfailing in his willingness to respond to my often leading questions.
No matter how hard I tried to annoy him into saying something he would later regret, he never took the bait. Best of all, he had a sense of humor.
Over the years following the Clinton administration – as his hair became increasingly white – Rábago held jobs with environmental and energy advocacy organizations (Environmental Defense Fund, Rocky Mountain Institute), non-utility businesses (Planergy, CH2M Hill), and electricity businesses (AES Corp., Austin Energy), and, most recently, a private consultancy where he formulated and advanced concepts around “the value of solar” that have been influential in recent regulatory proceedings.
That’s where I most recently connected with Rábago, last fall as the whole issue of net metering and what the impacts of rooftop solar are on conventional utility distribution networks emerged on the regulatory and political landscape. I tracked him down for an interview and he provided a reasoned approach that recognized that both sides of this complex issue have valid points, which he said he transcend the narrow issue of net metering.
Long Island’s Pace University provides a great place for Rábago to make a major contribution as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo advances his plan for a major reworking of how electric and gas utilities to business in the state, include a replacement of the state’s renewable portfolio standard with an as-yet undefined new structure. He will surely be an honest and perceptive broker as the various forces affected by the proposed changes posture and lobby.