Conversations with members of the Harvard and Radcliffe Class of 1992.
Hosted by Will Bachman.

Episode: 68

Seth Hilton, Energy Regulatory Attorney

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Show notes

Seth Hilton graduated from Harvard and later went on to law school at UC Davis, started working as a litigation associate at a law firm before joining a large firm in the Bay Area. During the California energy crisis, he was tasked with monitoring regulatory developments and participating at regulatory agencies when needed. He eventually shifted his practice from energy litigation and energy-regulated regulatory work to almost exclusively regulatory work, although occasionally doing a little bit of litigation.

Seth’s interest in law stemmed from his father’s law practice and his father’s enjoyment of the law practice. He took a constitutional law course at Harvard, which inspired him to explore the field further. 

Seth is currently a partner in the law firm of Stole Rives, focusing on California energy regulatory work. He works with companies in the energy sector in California, many of which are regulated by various state agencies or entities. He advises them on current regulations and assists them in adapting or changing those regulations to better suit their clients or their customers. Seth’s clients range from electric to natural gas, oil and gas, and more recently, hydrogen.

Seth talks about how the California Public Utilities Commission regulates utilities and other entities providing electric and natural gas service to retail customers. They dictate what resources and types of energy are procured to serve retail customers. The commission is concerned about the near term, the next five years, and the transition to more electrification. They have directed utilities and other load-serving entities to procure renewable resources, such as solar or wind, and sometimes specify energy storage that might assist with bringing in more renewable sources of energy. 


Blending Hydrogen and Natural Gas

Seth talks about exploring the potential of blending hydrogen with natural gas to reduce carbon intensity. This could involve blending hydrogen with natural gas or using hydrogen instead of natural gas. The California Public Utilities Commission is currently evaluating the role of hydrogen in its overall GHG reduction strategy. They are considering whether to use pure hydrogen or blend it with natural gas for retail customers, or if to use pure hydrogen and convert retail appliances to use blended hydrogen.  Seth explains what the two flavors of hydrogen are and the challenges in determining the appropriate regulations for hydrogen use, such as whether to require it to be solely produced by renewable energy or if to relax regulations to make hydrogen more cost-effective. He also mentions the debates around the methodology for calculating greenhouse gas emissions, including accounting for the entire lifecycle of energy sources. Seth talks about how he originally wanted to study engineering but decided it wasn’t for him. He explains why enjoys working in the energy sector, particularly in response to climate change, which has had significant impacts on California, such as heat, wildfires, drought, and increased rainfall. He believes that a specific regulation or detail would be beneficial in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing the existing challenges faced by California.


Nuclear Power in California

Seth discusses the problems with the California grid, which is outdated and requires upgrading. The grid’s old distribution system has caused wildfires and caused significant damage. The state is also trying to connect new generation resources, such as solar and offshore wind, to the grid, which requires planning and upgrading the transmission system. However, concerns about timing, cost, and retail customer satisfaction arise. Seth explains that the future of nuclear power in California is uncertain, despite the significant advantages to nuclear power, such as GHG emission-free generation and the ability to provide consistent power. However, there are also concerns about waste management and waste disposal. Currently, there is little hope for nuclear power in California, but there are potential technical developments that could change the situation, such as smaller generators. However, it would require significant technical breakthroughs to see nuclear power again in California.


Stability of the Grid and Energy Storage Facilities

Seth talks about the stability of a grid, and how, in California, a grid with a high percentage of solar and wind power can be unstable due to technical challenges. He explains that regulatory agencies are aware of these challenges and are creating regulations to address them, such as requiring procurement of additional energy storage. California has procured a vast amount of energy storage, primarily lithium ion batteries, which are large utility-scale batteries that store energy and discharge it when needed. Most of the storage resources in California consist of battery storage facilities, which can be either out in the field or in a large warehouse. Seth talks about storage facilities and how many homes can be served by one megawatt.


The Development of Charging Stations for EVs

Seth discusses the development of charging stations for electric and hydrogen vehicles, as well as the need for them in the transportation sector. The California Energy Commission is working towards creating additional hydrogen fueling stations across the state, which will provide the fueling stations for fuel cell hydrogen fuel cell cars. Hydrogen is also a good solution for larger vehicles like truck transport, as it provides the energy infrastructure to provide the energy for those vehicles.

His contact information is available on his website, and he would be happy to hear from people interested in his work.


Influential Courses at Harvard

Seth took a Constitutional Law course which interested him as a potential profession and led him to law school. 



05:50 How you create a market for renewable energy

11:22 The difference between clean good hydrogen and dirty hydrogen

14:16 Why Seth likes working in the energy sector

18:17 Information about the grid in California

22:26 Nuclear Power in California

24:22 How energy storage works at utility scale

29:51 How many homes could be served by a megawatt battery

33:59 How Seth ended up in the world of energy regulatory policy






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Seth Hilton, Will Bachman


Will Bachman  00:01

Hello, and welcome to the 92 report conversations with members of the Harvard and Radcliffe class of 1992. I’m your host, will Bachman. And I’m excited to be here today with Seth Hilton, Seth, welcome to the show.


Seth Hilton  00:16

Thank you very much. I really appreciate you having me.


Will Bachman  00:19

So, Seth, tell me about your journey since graduating from Harvard.


Seth Hilton  00:24

Sure, well, maybe I’ll kind of start off with where I ended up. I am currently a partner in the law firm of stole Reeves. And I have a practice that focuses on California, energy regulatory work. But the the way I got there, since my graduation from Harvard was probably fairly typical of a lot of lawyers. But there were a few twists and turns over the years to actually end up where I am today with my with my current practice.


Will Bachman  01:00

Amazing. Okay. I would love to hear more about what it means to be doing California energy regulatory work. What is that with? You know, are you? What does that even mean? Expand that, for me, someone who is not an expert, I can guess. But let’s not have any guests. Why don’t you tell me?


Seth Hilton  01:19

Sure. So I work with a lot of companies in the energy sector in California, and many of them are either regulated by various state agencies or entities in California, or they have customers that are regulated by state agencies. And so they’re concerned about the development of energy regulation at those agencies, or how those, those regulations actually apply either to their customers, or to themselves. So I advise them on current regulations, I assist them and working with the regulatory agencies to adapt or change those regulations. So they might better better work for me, for my clients or for their customers. And my clients run the gamut a bit in terms of the energy sector, but I work with in the electric sector, a lot with clients that are developing generation resources. So a lot of renewable generation resources that at this point in time, and California, solar, and wind, including offshore, some offshore wind development, I also work in the oil and gas sector with clients that are involved in in natural gas, and also with oil production. And then recently been working in areas that involve the potential use of hydrogen potentially moving towards a more hydrogen based energy sources to address climate change. So roughly, that’s kind of the the area that I get to play around in.


Will Bachman  03:08

Okay, so I am so excited because one of my side interests that I want to learn more about is regulatory stuff. It’s you don’t see in the news, typically, you know much about regulation, other than sort of at the very high level, you know, politician complaining, though, there’s too much red tape, there’s too much regulation, but you really don’t in the mainstream media, you don’t see like the real detail, like the granular stuff of like, what would be annoying to some business owner or some company? Maybe, can you give us some examples of some, like some specific regulations that a company has to follow that the ordinary consumer would just have be totally clueless have no idea, and maybe some things that are somewhat burdensome or a bit of a hassle to accompany to comply with?


Seth Hilton  04:00

Sure. Yeah. And maybe maybe where I’ll I’ll start and where a lot of my practices involved is in California. The utilities and other entities that provide electric and natural gas service to retail customers in California are regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission. And the Public Utilities Commission will dictate what those where those entities procure their energy to sell to retail customers, and what types of energy they might procure to serve retail customers. So my clients often are actually providing that energy to the regulated utilities who in turn provide it to the retail customers so they are very concerned and about what the utilities and other entities are directed to procure. And especially in light of the existential crisis of climate change, there’s a lot of changes going on in terms of what might be procured and planning for the future. And so we work with those regulatory agencies with regard to how they, and how much they direct utilities and other entities to procure, which kind of dictates what what my clients are developing to actually sell to those utilities. And sometimes those regulations can be rather specific about when those resources have to be developed, what types of resources they are, what types and quantity of energy they need to produce. So it’s working within those parameters, so that you create a market for, for what your client is developing in a lot of cases.


Will Bachman  05:57

Okay, give us some specifics like, do they have to have, you know, I don’t know 30% wind? Or is it just renewable in general, their biomass energy from waste, like is it sort of just you have to have a certain amount that’s renewable, or they get down into the nitty gritty of what percent of what when solar,


Seth Hilton  06:19

they can get down to the, to the nitty gritty, and a lot of circumstances. And I’ll try and think of trying to think of an example here. But the California Public Utilities Commission is concerned about kind of the the near term, the next, you know, five or so years in terms of having enough electric generation to meet electric load in California, especially as we kind of transition to more electrification, right, more electric cars, conversion of natural gas to electrification. So it’s increasing load. And so they have directed utilities and other load serving entities to procure a certain amount of resources, but they do specify that they need to be renewable. So things like solar or wind. And sometimes they get even more specific, like they’re looking for energy storage, or long duration energy storage that might assist with bringing in additional wind and solar, which is, you know, the solar generation only generates electricity when the sun is shining. So having storage available to allow you to store that energy, and then provide it back to the grid when it’s needed, when the sun goes down, for example, so so they can get fairly specific about what resources need to be procured.


Will Bachman  07:49

Give us you mentioned that you work with your help your clients, in some cases, get regulations that were, I’m sure, with all good intentions created, but create reasonable problems to comply with, and you work with your clients to get those adapted. Can you give us an example of one of those, like, you know, the more specific the better, like the more detailed I’d love to hear something that was just hard or really expensive to comply with? Or maybe, like just even nonsensical or conflicted with some other regulation? And and what’s the process you went through to get it changed?


Seth Hilton  08:27

Well, maybe I’ll I’ll focus on something that’s, that is an example that’s kind of developing right now. So I mentioned that I work with some clients in in the hydrogen space. And so California is looking at the potential to convert to move from using natural gas to potentially using hydrogen as an energy source as a way of reducing carbon intensity of that energy source. And one way to do that is potentially blending hydrogen with natural gas, which will reduce the GHG emission intensity carbon intensity of that, that source or potentially just using hydrogen instead of natural gas


Will Bachman  09:16

and we’re talking this would be for your, your gas stove, or for your water heater or for electricity generation. It kind


Seth Hilton  09:24

of all of the above. So you could you could use that for kind of retail customer needs your formerly gas stove or, or other gas appliances could potentially be use hydrogen or hydrogen blends. You could use that for generation so we have natural gas fired generation in California, that could convert to hydrogen. You can use hydrogen for transportation as well. So you have hydrogen fuel cell cars, for example, that could be used. So that’s another option of reducing GHG and emissions. And so what the California Public Utilities Commission is currently struggling with or evaluating is what role is hydrogen going to play in our overall GHG reduction strategy? Does it make sense for hydrogen to be used, blended with natural gas? Does it make sense instead for the, for us to use pure hydrogen and convert our retail appliances, for example, to use pure hydrogen or blended, make sure they can use blended hydrogen. And that, in turn will create opportunities for for entities that either produce the produce hydrogen, for example, or provide hydrogen fueling services and things of that nature. So one of the things I assist clients with is working with the California Public Utilities Commission to really come up with an option for hydrogen that that makes sense and will really work. Something that will allow us to, to lean on hydrogen as a way of reducing our GHG admissions, but not doing it in a way that that may be costly or may create further additional problems.


Will Bachman  11:21

Now, I am not a technical expert, obviously, on this, but I have heard that hydrogen, there’s sort of two flavors, there’s one flavor that is effectively just made by you know, with petroleum. So like, and then there’s this other kind, you could actually make hydrogen by using maybe clean, renewable energy to take water and you know, strip off the oxygen and, you know, be more clean. So tell us about that a little bit. Are there sort of regulations that would regulate? Oh, you have to use the clean, good hydrogen versus just the dirty hydrogen? Maybe there’s better terms for those?


Seth Hilton  11:56

Yeah. And I’m not sure I would use the term dirty hydrogen. But I understand exactly kind of the distinction that you’re making.


Will Bachman  12:05

What is the term I forget? What is the term? Well, they


Seth Hilton  12:09

have various flavors or colors of hydrogen, and sometimes how they how they use to distinguish it, for example, they might use the term green hydrogen. But there, there there are, there are real challenges around that. And it’s an interesting question, maybe, maybe just me and a few people who kind of deal with this, maybe not the broader public but, but there can be a whole slew of varying definitions of how hydrogen is produced, right, all the way from my colleague green hydrogen, if you’re using renewable energy resources, and an electrolyzer to produce hydrogen. Or you could use, you know, maybe you’re using some renewables or you’re pulling some energy from the grid that’s not purely coming from renewables and you’re creating hydrogen with an electrolyzer. So there’s real challenges in terms of what do you want to require, in terms of hydrogen use? Do you want to use kind of the clean, very green hydrogen, where you’re requiring it to be solely produced by renewable energy? That’s an option. But it can be expensive, or difficult to procure renewable energy around the clock to make it to produce hydrogen through an electrolyzer. So do you want to relax those regulations? So hydrogen is more cost effective, and might be a might be a good option in terms of reducing GHG emissions. But, you know, parties of people have concerns about using something other than renewable energy to to produce that hydrogen. So it’s a real balancing act of kind of how strict Do you want to make the requirements? How Green Do you want it to be? What are the costs implications of that? And are you going to create regulations that are so strict in terms of how you produce this, that hydrogen really isn’t an option that it’s too expensive to produce solely from renewable energy from electrolyzers, for example. And so it’s not it’s less of an option in terms of reducing the carbon intensity of various sectors like transportation. So


Will Bachman  14:17

I don’t know the math on it. Maybe you do. But like, if the whole idea is to reduce greenhouse gas, and you say, well, we’re going to replace natural gas with hydrogen, but then you’re going to burn like, you know, oil to make the hydrogen. Maybe in the end, you’re not actually saving any maybe it actually took more carbon to use that hydrogen. So it’s sort of a net loss instead of an improvement.


Seth Hilton  14:43

Yeah, that that that certainly can be an issue and I will say, I kind of harkens back to my my time at Harvard a little bit. I am not great at the math piece of this. I had actually, back when I first started as a freshman at Harvard, I had to decided I was going to be an engineer. And then I took a few math classes. And that convinced me that engineering was not the path. For me anything that involved a lot of math was not going to work well for me. But but there are some serious debates around kind of the methodology by which you calculate, you know, kind of greenhouse gas emissions, and are we doing the math right? Are we accounting for all emissions from various energy sources? Right? So not only do you need to kind of create that balance, there’s there’s disputes around kind of how you calculate the GHG emissions for various energy sources are you’re fully accounting for the life, you know, the full lifecycle of that energy source, for example, biomass, there can be issues with kind of calculating the greenhouse gas emissions associated with biomass that’s used for electric generation, for example, because people want to include the entire lifecycle of that biomass. So while that biomass is growing, it’s sequestering carbon. And then when it when it burns, it releases carbon. So there, there can be some disputes around around methodologies like that.


Will Bachman  16:10

Okay. What what is one of your, like, big wins, if one of the things that you’re proud of stuff, you know, a regulation you helped create, or change, or, you know, something that that that you were, it was a highlight for you?


Seth Hilton  16:28

I would say, you know, I don’t know whether I would pick a particular regulation, or some specific detail is kind of why I enjoy working in this space, and especially over the past few years, have really taken a lot of kind of satisfaction from the work that I’m doing. I would, I think, why I like working in this sector is in large part because, you know, climate change, dealing is such an existential crisis we’ve had, you know, over the past few years, some really good impacts to California as a result of climate change, the heat, the wildfires, other challenges, drought, although we’ve finally got some additional rain over the last season. So this is a real challenge for for California. And the idea that I can be involved in the regulatory agents, agencies and working with the clients that are really looking to solve this problem. Is, is exciting, and working kind of more creatively, with, you know, utilities, with other clients, with retail customers, and all working together to try and craft a solution that that works for everybody is, you know, it’s challenging, but, but it’s exciting. There’s a little bit of a feeling that like, hey, we, we could really make if we come up with the right solution here, we will really make a difference for California and for for the world. So that’s, that’s where I get the kind of the excitement that comes from from my work.


Will Bachman  18:17

You hear a bit in the news about how our grid is antiquated, and parts of the grid are 70 years old, and they need to be upgraded. And it seems to be somewhat sclerotic, have very difficult actually to take action and improve that infrastructure and that grid, tell us a bit about the grid in California and what things are happening with it, or should that be happening or not? Yeah,


Seth Hilton  18:46

the grid. You’re right, the grid is a bit antiquated in places in California and Pacific Gas and Electric, one of our large electric utilities here has really had some challenges around its distribution system. It’s that portion of its grid being old in sparking a lot of wildfires that have killed people and caused a significant amount of damage in California. So there is a real need to upgrade that grid infrastructure in California. And then the other challenge we really have in California with the grid is we’re trying to connect a lot of new generation resources to that grid, solar wind, offshore wind, a whole variety of other renewable energy resources, energy storage to store energy for wind and solar and that type of thing. And that takes a lot of planning and upgrading the transmission system and potentially a lot of cost involved there to do that. So it’s it’s there’s concerns around the timing of course of how you get that all done. The time you need to get it done. And the cost associated with that, how much is the retail customer actually going to have to pay as a result of all this additional infrastructure. And in California, you always have challenges. I think it’s true of other states too. But California is kind of known for this of, you know, actually permitting a new transmission line, right, you have a lot of people that are all in favor of additional renewable energy, but if you’re going to build a large transmission line through their backyard, they are not happy about that. And they will do everything they can, right not in my backyard, to put in somebody else’s backyard because it’s important, but don’t destroy my view, that type of attitude. So it can be can be challenging, but But it needs to be done.


Will Bachman  20:49

What do you see as the future of nuclear power in California, and I’ll reveal my bias here, which, which is okay to, you know, but my, my dad was a nuclear trained nuclear engineer, he helped design reload fuel for nuclear reactors, and entered the industry at a not great time. 1970 when it looked like you know, gonna be the future, and then Three Mile Island and stuff. So his whole career, they didn’t build a whole lot of nuclear power plants. And then I was a nuclear trained submarine officer, so kind of a fanboy of nuclear power. And we haven’t built a whole lot of new plants in the US, but you see news about oh, you know, there’s these new smaller microtechnologies or whatever, smaller plants safe or whatever. what’s your what’s what’s going on with nuclear in California?


Seth Hilton  21:40

Not much. Maybe, unfortunately, from your perspective. You know, in in nucular, there’s a lot, there’s some significant advantages to nuclear power, right, because it’s GHG emission free generation, that is what we kind of refer to as baseload generation, it can be on all the time and provide a significant amount of power, consistently hour after hour after hour. So there’s, there’s a lot of benefits to that. And there’s a lot of benefits, you know, as we try to move to reduce our GHG greenhouse gas emissions. Of course, there’s the challenge with what you do with the waste and a lot of concerns around that. So, you know, historically, in California, we’ve had a lot of battles around that we have one remaining nuclear power plant that’s operating in California for Pacific Gas and Electric, that’s the Diablo Canyon nucular power plant. And I myself have had a little bit of history with that power plant in that it is located near a beach where I used to go as a kid and near where my parents lived when I grew up and continue to live. And my parents did not like the idea of nucular power and protested that power plant and actually brought me out as a kid to protest that power plant as they were working to approve it and get it constructed. They were unsuccessful, of course, and Diablo Canyon got built. Diablo Canyon was supposed to retire in the near future here, but California is a bit starved for generation capacity. And so California has decided to extend the operation of that nucular power plant for an additional five years, it’s still in the process of that extensions being evaluated at some of the regulatory agencies, but it’s my assumption that it will be operation will be extended for five years. And that’s really because we just need the generation capacity, we can’t shut down a large power plant and continue to have our electric system be reliable. But after the end of that five year period, I would expect that generation resource to be replaced by other generation resources. So at the present time, I don’t see much of a future for nuclear power in California. That said, there are, you know, potential technical developments that could change that you mentioned before in terms of kind of the smaller generators and that type of thing. That’s something I really know a lot about. But I think it would require some real technical breakthroughs before before we’d see nuclear power again, in California, despite you know some of the advantage that’s that we see with that generation resource.


Will Bachman  24:37

Now, I have read about how if you get too high a percentage of solar or wind on a grid supplying it that it can get a bit unstable because the stability of like the frequency and voltage is partly due to just the inertia the the inertia, right Have these rotating kind of devices or turbans? You know, whether it’s Nuclear, coal, natural gas, whatever driving turbines that helps with the stability. And I’ve heard that like, maybe Germany has some issues with this, because they have so much solar. But what’s going on with California? And is that, first of my correct and how to regulations address that is there is there a concern of getting too much wind and solar on a grid, and then having some, you know, reliability or stability issues?


Seth Hilton  25:32

There, there are certainly challenges with, I would say, differences with how a grid would be operated. If it’s relying on generation resources, like we used to have in California, where you have a lot of natural gas fired generation on the system, and some natural gas fired generation that you can ramp up and down fairly quickly, and some baseload generation, that that generally works around the clock, although you can have outages with those power plants and some baseload resources, like like nuclear, for example. And then a grid that’s very different from that, where you have a lot of wind, you have a lot of solar, you have some of the technical challenges that you mentioned, although that can be addressed through technology a bit with things like how you with how you handle the inverters that are associated with that solar power generation. But you know, it’s very different, you know, the sun goes down, and all of a sudden, you have a lot of generation drop off the system, because you have so many, you know, PV solar panels in California, or the wind dies, when you don’t expect it, right. And then you lose a lot of wind generation. So it takes a little more of a balancing act to operate a grid system like that, you need a lot of energy storage on the system. And and so the regulatory agencies are certainly cognizant of those challenges. And the grid operators, well, the California Independent System Operator, and are creating regulations to deal with that challenge, including requiring procurement of additional energy storage, for example. So there are challenges. You know, it’s a very different grid. There’s different operational concerns. But I think we know, at this point, how to solve those problems.


Will Bachman  27:33

Talking about energy storage, like, how does that work at utility scale, what sort of big energy storage projects are being done or have had been done in California?


Seth Hilton  27:45

California has procured a vast amount of energy storage and is rapidly increasing a lot of those energies that energy storage is really lithium ion batteries. So it’s just a large utility scale battery, where they store energy with the battery and then discharge it when it’s needed. So I’d say most of the storage resources in California consists of battery storage,


Will Bachman  28:11

that’s our like, in Are they out in the field or in a big warehouse? Like what do they physically look like? This massive batteries? I would imagine that also there’s like, some safety issues there. Like what does facilities look like?


Seth Hilton  28:26

Yeah, it’s a big, I’ve seen a lot of them. But one of the early ones that was developed when it actually came online, I got to have a tour of it because I helped negotiate the power purchase agreement with Southern California Edison for that facility. And it really is just a, you know, facility that has a bunch of smaller batteries all linked together, right. And one of the advantages of energy storage is that it’s fairly small, relatively facility, right? You can drop these batteries really anywhere. And so it’s, it’s if you go inside, it’s a bunch of batteries all linked together with wires, it’s the way I would describe it.


Will Bachman  29:08

Like how big are they? Are they as big as a Walmart? Are they big as a Dunkin Donuts? Like just Yeah,


Seth Hilton  29:15

somewhere between the two closer to like the Dunkin Donuts size rather than you know, like shipping container size maybe more for a lot of these are several shipping container sizes. Not the you know maybe what I think it was like the Costco or the huge Walmart’s there, they’re smaller than that. They can they can be much smaller than


Will Bachman  29:35

Wow. Okay. So, so it’d be, you know, sort of a let’s call it the Dunkin Donuts plus size, you know, in that range. How much how much batteries with if that thing was filled up with batteries. How many homes could you run for how long with one of those storage container sized you know, energy storage places?


Seth Hilton  30:01

See you now you’re now you’re really testing me knowing that we don’t have an accurate answer for this. But let me let me try and come up with it with an accurate answer you, you have kind of storage facilities on the utility scale that may run from kind of 20 megawatts, 200 200 300 megawatts and really large storage facility. And generally when we think of a megawatt that’s a measurement of capacity, but one megawatt can probably serve, you know, that capacity conserve maybe 800. Homes. Yeah, so you’re, you’re talking about a fair amount of capacity with some of these energy storage facilities, so they can conserve a lot of they can put out a lot of megawatt hours that serve a lot of


Will Bachman  30:51

love home. Okay, so one megawatt can do 800 homes. And then I imagine that they’re rated on megawatt hours, like it could serve 800 homes like one megawatt, but they’d probably be in terms of megawatt hours, right? Like, okay, could do 800 homes for 10 hours, something like that. Yeah, and usually,


Seth Hilton  31:07

for a variety of regulatory reasons, what these are measured on, it’s kind of for our, for our time period, if you have a 40 megawatt battery, you’re looking at it producing, you know, 40 megawatt hours, each hour for four hours, Oh, I see before it would need to be need to be recharged. I’ve been thinking one of the challenges is, of course, that we need some longer duration storage, and batteries may not be the way to do that. pumped hydro is probably one of the more interesting ways of kind of options in terms of long duration storage, although there’s a lot of other options where you, you pump water to the top of a hill, and then it’s stored up there, and then you release it when needed to run a turbine to generate electricity. So you can you can store energy in the form of water at the top of a hill for a while, and then just you know, release it when you need it.


Will Bachman  32:08

That’s cool. So interesting. Okay, so tell me about charging stations for both electric vehicles as well as for hydrogen vehicles. What’s going on there?


Seth Hilton  32:24

We’re developing a fair number of them in both cases, right? We need a lot of this is not necessarily my area, the transportation sector. So one of my colleagues is very focused on that in California, and work with but yeah, we need a, we’re developing a lot of charging stations. And we’ll need them as we transition to barring these and the California Energy Commission is working towards creating additional hydrogen fueling stations across the state of California so that, you know, fuel cell hydrogen fuel cell cars, for example, will have the fueling stations they need to operate. And hydrogen is also I think, a good solution. If you’re talking about larger vehicles, like truck transport, that type of thing. So creating the fueling infrastructure to provide the energy for those vehicles as well.


Will Bachman  33:14

So why is hydrogen better for like, are good for big, big? Why is it maybe better than electricity for big trucks?


Seth Hilton  33:24

Well, I think when you when you’re talking about the amount of energy you need to produce to move a larger vehicle, you’re talking about larger and larger batteries, and there will be concerns in size concerns associated with that. Whereas if you’re talking about a smaller, you know, kind of your standard electric car than your Tesla, the batteries are, are a lot smaller and might provide a more viable option, regardless, so


Will Bachman  33:49

how did you end up in this world of energy regulatory policy, so forth? How did


Seth Hilton  33:59

that? How did that happen? As I as I mentioned, it was a bit random, I would, I would like to claim that I saw this coming when I was graduating from from law school in 95. And I set my path to do energy regulation, because I knew it would be important, and I knew there’d be a need for it. There was nothing of the sort. So I graduated from Harvard, I went on to law school immediately to UC Davis, and then graduated in in 95. And thought I would go work for a law firm for a while and get some experience and then do something else with my law degree. And I started off as a as a litigation associate, actually worked, clerked for a federal judge in in LA for a year and then joined a firm where I was doing litigation. Cuz that kind of sounded like the interesting area to me. And then I was in LA for a few years doing litigation. And then I got engaged to somebody I’d met in law school. And she had a job in the Bay Area. And she told me I had to move. So I did move up to the Bay Area, and work for a small litigation shop for a while and then was looking for another job and joined a very large firm Morrison, Forrester, as a litigation associate, around 2000. And right around that time, California was having an energy crisis, there were a number of blackouts, there wasn’t sufficient generation capacity to meet retail load demands. And so there were some real challenges there. And of course, whenever those those types of challenges, litigation always follows. So Morrison and Forrester was doing a lot of energy litigation. And the regulatory there was a regulatory piece of that we had to understand what was going on at the various regulatory agencies both within the state and that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. And I got tasked with kind of monitoring those regulatory developments and participating at regulatory agencies when needed is connected to the litigation. We were doing. And I think part of it was, I thought it was fascinating to read 200 Page orders at or the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission about how they were dealing with the crisis. And not a lot of other associates thought that was an interesting job. So they were happy to kind of handle hand that work off to me. And so I did that for a few years at Morrison and Forrester. And then I moved over to my my current law firm still Reeves, which has a very, very active energy practice, and gradually shifted my practice over the years from doing energy litigation and energy, regulated regulatory work to now almost exclusively exclusively doing regulatory work, although occasionally I still do a little bit of litigation. So. So that’s how I ended up here through through accident and misadventure. But I’m glad I ended up here.


Will Bachman  37:19

Let’s go back to Harvard. Tell me, were there any courses or professors that you had at Harvard, that continue to resonate with you, where they’ve, you know, kind of shaped your life in some way or some interest that you have?


Seth Hilton  37:34

I, there was actually one course that in some ways kind of fundamentally changed the direction of, of where I ended up. And I, my father was a lawyer, and then a judge. And when I was growing up, as my dad still constantly reminds me, I told him, I did not want to become a lawyer. That is not what I wanted to do. I was not interested in that type of work. And then, at Harvard, I happened to take a constitutional law course. And of course, like many of us, I was not sure at all what I wanted to do after graduation. And I took a constitutional law course. And that was actually the point where I started to think, hey, law really is actually could be an interesting profession. I was fascinated by the Constitutional law course. And I thought, maybe I should explore this a little further. My father always really enjoyed his law practice and being a judgment that maybe this is something I could explore. And frankly, I don’t know what else I’m going to do. So that kind of led me to go into law school, which led me to my career which led me to where I am today. So that one was kind of a turning point at Harvard.


Will Bachman  38:52

Where can people find you online? Seth, if they wanted to check out what you’re doing and follow up or even reach out?


Seth Hilton  39:00

Well, they have my contact information, if they look up my law firm stories as T O E, L, a separate word ri ve s, all of my contact information is is right there. And I would certainly be happy to hear from people.


Will Bachman  39:14

All right, well, we’ll include that link to your profile in the show notes.


Seth Hilton  39:19

Fantastic set.


Will Bachman  39:20

This has been a fun discussion. Thank you for tolerating my questions and helping educate me a bit about energy in California. It was really fun to hear about what you’re working on.


Seth Hilton  39:33

Well, thank you. I really, really appreciate you taking the time to chat with me. It’s been fun