The Energy Overseer

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Arthur O'Donnell was for over three decades an award-winning reporter specializing in energy, environment and economics. His books include: In  the City of Neighborhoods (iUniverse 2004) The Guilty Environmentalist (Trafford 2003) and Soul of the Grid (iUniverse 2003). For beginning readers, When Chelsea Came to Stay (Trafford 2004), co-written with Tess Kelly, with illustrations by Sophia Varcados.

Use this link to find a list of my books and articles for sale via

From 2008-2010, I was Executive Director of the Center for Resource Solutions, a globally influential environmental non-profit group that created and administers the Green-e independent certification of renewable energy and carbon offsets.

Currently, I work at the California Public Utilities Commission as a Program Supervisor in the Energy Division's Grid Planning & Reliability section. I work with a team of analysts and engineers charged with developing and implementing policies and practices for Grid Modernization, Smart Meters and Home Area Networks, Advanced Energy Storage, and other innovative areas.

What's New in 2014

I'll be making some industry conference appearances to talk about my assigned areas of energy policy at the CPUC , including these recent and upcoming appearances:

Energy in the Southwest, Law Seminars International, July 21-22, 2014, Sana Fe, NM. I'll be on the stellar faculty for this annual event, discussing how energy storage technologies can help make renewable energy more valuable for the utility grid.

Grid Edge Live & Executive Council, San Diego, June 23-25, 2014

Clean Energy States Alliance Annual Members Meeting, April 8, 2014, Sacramento

Young Professionals in Energy "Challenges and Opportunities for the Smart Grid" April 24, 2014, San Francisco

From the Wayback Machine

This feature ties together current headlines with past reports I've done, to provide context and perhaps show that there is nothing new under the Sun. Click here for more....

July 2014

Yosemite Marks 150th Anniversary as America's First National Park

In 1864, America did something unprecedented by setting aside a portion of its most beautiful and valuable lands for the enjoyment and edification of its citizens. On June 30, 1864, while the nation was still engaged in a bloody Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln established the Yosemite Grant, preserving forever 39,000 acres of California's most spactacular scenery (since expanded to 760,000 acres) for America's first and, arguably, most popular National Park with over 3.5 million visitors annually.

Ever since, Yosemite has been subject to extreme use, and the tension between preservation and public access continues to this day. Back in July 2005, as Western correspondent for E&E's Greenwire, I spent some time in Yosemite, documenting the attempts of Park management to meet requirements of the Wild and Scenc Rivers Act on the Merced River, while accommodating public demands for more amenities in the Park. Many of the issues raised in that article continue to this day, although an attempt to reach compromise appears to be working for the benefit of future generations of Park visitors.

Find the July 15, 2005, article here.

Then about two years later, in May 2007, I revisited the Park management's attempts to implement the Yosemite Valley Plan, despite lawsuits and adverse actions. See The Land Letter article here.

June 2014

Japanese Nuclear Drama is Deeper than Media Shows

A Japanese judge has rejected the restart of two nuclear reactors owned by Kansai Electric Power, showing doubt that the power plants are safe from potential seismic activity. More than 50 nuclear plants in Japan remain out of service more than three years after the Fukushima nuclear facility was inundated by earthquake induced flooding waters and revealed the huge vulnerability of the nation's dependence on nuclear power.

Back in 2004, I wrote about the increasing skepticism of the Japanese public about nuclear energy and its risks, based on reaction to a fatal industrial accident at the Mihama nuclear unit. This article for Energy Central generated more reader reaction than anything I'd ever written, showing the huge divide in the energy community over nuclear power.

I was, perhaps, a decade early in declaring Japan's reaction against nuclear as a fatal blow. But I'll stand by my opinion expressed at the time that the government's backing of nuclear power was on shaky grounds.

See the Business Electric report here. If you think Climate Change denial is adamant, it is nothing compared to nuclear denial. Just do a Google search for recent Forbes Magazine articles about the Japanese situation and the comments filed. The "debate" is truly amazing, given the reality.

May 2014

California Energy Markets Marks 25th Anniversary

On May 5, 1989, the California Energy Markets newsletter came to life -- five hours past deadline (oops) and a jam-packed 20 pages in length. CEM was a novelty at the time, an energy trade publication with a sense of humor and drama, and a decidely outsider's perspective of the utility industry. I served as Editor, and eventually Associate Publisher and co-owner, of CEM for about 13 years. Over the years, I was fortunate to work with some terrific journalists who brought fresh insights to the coverage of regulatory policy, legislation, and energy market formation and destruction. I'm proud to say we accomplished some things that never happen in trade journalism -- like winning top awards from the prestigious National Press Club and other entities for our coverage of the Western Energy Crisis in 2000-2001. Happily, the newsletter continues to this day with a newer crew of journalists who still do a great job covering the California market and regulatory scene.




In the May 2, 2014, issue of CEM, current editor Chris Raphael's Bottom Lines column reflects on the newsletter's first 25 years, and he asks me about the old days. Although I generally prefer to look forward, join me on this trip back in time.

Over the course of a long and varied career as an independent journalist, author, record producer, environmentalist and sometime political activist, I've been blessed to work with many wonderful people on worthy and fun projects. Looking back over the years, here are a few that I recall most fondly and proudly:

Click on the images above and learn more





Appearances 2013 2012 2011
California Current
Greenwire 2004-2007
Restructuring in a Rear View Mirror
Land Letter 2006-07
Return to Power Road
KZAM Reunion
Roadie for the Kinks...

Several of my older articles about energy issues and related topics continue to draw interest and response from readers, so please feel free to browse through this list of popular items:

The Clean Tech/Regulatory Nexus

Intersecting Circles of Innovation

Non-Profit Congress 2006: A Statement of Grace in an Era of Indifference

Bruce-onomics - A Buyers' Market for Springsteen Tickets?

Restructuring in the Rear View Mirror and Story Archive

Courtroom 22, PG&E Bankruptcy 2001

Nuclear Power According to the Simpsons

The Guilty Environmentalist's Home Inefficiency Tour

Sounds of Silence at Hunters Point

Light Bulbs: An Even Better Idea

The Energy Overseer

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For information about speaking availabilities, call 415-648-9405