Northwest Energy Policy

Energy Resources Policy and Administration

(Also known as: Northwest Energy Policy and Columbia River)

Join a distinguished team of faculty members and guest speakers in PSU’s biennial spring seminar on Northwest Energy Policy and the Columbia River.
In this course you will review the history, politics, and institutions related to current energy policy and administration with particular attention to the Pacific Northwest and development of hydroelectric power.

Graduate Credit

  • PA567: Energy Resources Policy & Administration
  • CRN: 42909
  • Earn 3 graduate credits
  • Tuition: $1,302 and additional university fees

Professional Development (Non-Credit)

  • Earn a Professional Development Certificate
  • Cost: $1,302 and no additional university fees
  • Once registration is open, it will remain open for mid-career professionals until 5 pm on 1/17/20.  Since all sessions will be recorded and placed in the course archives, anyone who misses a session will be able to view the recordings at their convenience on their computers. You are however strongly encouraged to participate in class or stream live.

Having difficulty with registration/payment?


This course was created in 1976 at the request of the Administrator of the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and has been offered regularly ever since. For many years, the Bonneville Power Administration, local utilities, the Energy Trust of Oregon, Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, and other key energy companies and agencies have encouraged and supported employees they have identified as future leaders to enroll in this course. This participant mix leads to lively and informative class discussions. In fact, by participating in this class, employers have identified and recruited excellent future employees, and students have found excellent jobs in this fascinating field.  Many of the Northwest’s most respected energy leaders enrolled in this course earlier in their careers. Many have generously returned as guest speakers to help us prepare the next generation of energy leaders; including BPA Administrator Elliot Mainzer who has generously confirmed to be a speaker at one of the sessions.

Energy drove the industrial revolution and is driving the post-industrial revolution as well. Call centers, mobile phones, and quantum computers all share the need for reliable energy supplies. When combined, the transportation, building, and industrial energy industries create, by far, the largest economic sector in the world. Because of its socio-economic importance, as well as its substantial environmental footprint, the energy industry is heavily regulated.

Against this backdrop, the electricity sector is undergoing especially turbulent times as traditional business models are being altered due to renewable energy targets, climate change legislation, as well as energy efficiency and distributed generation requirements. Utilities are being required to deliver renewable electricity to their customers, but transporting the renewable electricity from rural to urban areas is increasingly difficult due to citizen and environmental opposition to new power lines.

The Northwest electricity sector includes federal hydropower suppliers with large impacts on regional market development.

Course Content

This course explores the history, politics, and institutions related to current energy policy and administration, with particular attention to the distinctive nature of energy policy issues in the Pacific Northwest and the Columbia River Basin. It provides social science theories and analytical tools to help graduate students and energy professional navigate the complexities of the energy sector.  It does so by:

  • Preparing students to perform analyses of energy sector projects and understand the regulatory environment in which the energy sector operates. 
  • Helping the students apply these analytic skills to a set of key energy policy issues that are particularly relevant to the Pacific Northwest and the Western US.  For example, we will examine the significance of hydropower in our region, what is distinctive about the institutional context of Northwest energy policy, energy efficiency, strategies to support grid resiliency and renewables integration, infrastructure siting, analyzing and engaging with energy stakeholders, energy sector modeling and policy analysis, integrated resource planning, addressing carbon impacts, and tips from the BPA Administrator on how he makes decisions and balances competing demands in an environment characterized by significant uncertainty.

The course begins by exploring some fundamental questions about energy policy in the Pacific Northwest: 

  • Why is energy policy an important topic for academic study and professional knowledge?
  • What are some of the most important energy policy decisions in our region over the past century that remain relevant today?
  • What is distinctive about the institutional context for Northwest energy policy?
  • What are some of the most important features we should know about the electricity and natural gas sectors?

Armed with this background information, we will be prepared to explore some of the most important current energy policy issues impacting our region.  We will do so with the help of some of the region’s most knowledge and prominent energy policy experts. These topics will include:

  • The latest developments in integrated resource planning and distribution planning;
  • The role of energy sector economics, modeling and policy analysis;
  • Carbon and renewables regulation;
  • Community-scale renewable energy systems;
  • The latest developments involving energy efficiency, demand response, and other demand side management options;
  • Grid modernization and the greening of the grid;
  • Balancing salmon recovery, hydropower generation, and the other multiple uses of the Columbia and Snake Rivers: Lower Snake River Management and the pros and cons of dam breaching;
  • Where the Rubber meets the Road: How the BPA Administrator Elliot Mainzer balances the energy policy and management opportunities and challenges faced by BPA and the region’s broader energy community;
  • Student presentations on relevant and cutting edge energy policy topics.

Who Should Register?

This course is designed to serve three key audiences:

  • Graduate students from a wide range of disciplines at PSU and other local universities who are interested in understanding how and why our region’s energy policy has reached its current state, what our region’s current energy policy issues are and why they are important. This seminar’s official title for participants taking the course for graduate credit is Energy Resources Policy and Administration.
  • Mid-career professionals already working in the energy field, and others interested in advancing their careers or just learning more about this fascinating subject. A Professional Development Certifcate is awarded upon succesful completion of the course.
  • Students pursuing PSU's Graduate Certificate in Energy Policy and Management, for which PA 567 is one of two core courses.

Course Details

  • Date/Time: Tuesdays, January 7 - March 17, 2020, from 6:40pm to 9:20pm
    • 11 sessions, including final presentation during finals week (Week of March 16)
    • Optional field trips may also be offered depending on student interest and the granting of permission requests.
  • Location: PSU Fariborz Maseeh Hall (FMH), Room B128 (1855 SW Broadway, Portland, OR 97201)
  • Instructor: Led by Dr. Hal Nelson, plus many guest speakers including Mr. Jeff Hammarlund who has taught the course for many years.
  • Continuing Legal Education Credit will be available

Distance Learning Options

Do you live outside the Portland metro area or expect to be out of town for a couple of class sessions? We've got you covered through our Distance Learning options.

Course Withdrawal Policy

Please see the Center for Public Service's course withdrawal policy for details.

Contact Information

Josh Metzler
Program Coordinator