Schwarzenegger Institute hosts New Zealand Parliamentary member Gareth Hughes

On October 5, the Schwarzenegger Institute hosted New Zealand Parliamentary member Gareth Hughes for a visit. Hughes, a member of New Zealand’s green party, has been serving the New Zealand public for six years, where he has served as a champion for broad-ranging sustainability policy efforts. He visited USC as part of a 2-week US Study Tour that included visits with other top universities such as UC Davis, tech industry leaders including Tesla and Facebook, and state energy policy leaders at California Independent System Operator. 

Schwarzenegger Institute faculty fellow Nicole Sintov, who is a Professor in the USC Sol Price School for Public Policy and Research Lead at Viterbi School of Engineering, arranged Hughes’ visit. Sintov and Hughes share numerous interests around sustainability, including wildlife protection, building out smart grid infrastructures, and promoting the adoption of electric vehicles. Sintov brought together a number of USC’s top faculty, students, and staff to engage with Hughes on various topics under the umbrella of energy and environmental policy.

For instance, Bonnie Reiss, Global Director of the Arnold Schwarzenegger Institute of State and Global Policy, along with Institute members Conyers Davis, Director of Strategic Initiatives, and Mebus Behrle, Chief Deputy, exchanged perspectives on energy and environmental policies in California, the U.S., and New Zealand.

Additional policy-focused discussions were held with Adam Rose, Professor at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. Here, the focus was on economic elements involved in environmental public policy and natural hazard management. Hughes also met with Lee White, a native New Zealander and doctoral candidate at the Sol Price School of Public Policy, who shared with Hughes her recent findings on drivers of electric vehicle adoption. They discussed differences in social and economic factors that may differentially impact the success of electric vehicle policies in Los Angeles vs. New Zealand.

Hughes had the opportunity to discuss smart grid innovations at multiple levels with experts involved in LADWP’s Los Angeles Regional Smart Grid Demonstration Program (LA SGRDP). Michael Orosz, Research Director of the Decision Systems group at the USC Information Sciences Institute, and Research Associate Professor at the Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, spoke with Hughes about the Los Angeles’ smart grid overall project goals and progress to date, focusing on how the four pieces of the project —  customer behavior, electric vehicles, demand response, and cyber security — fit together to create a foundation for developing interdisciplinary smart grid innovations.

In addition, Professor Viktor Prassana of the Viterbi Department of Electrical Engineering and Director of the Center for Energy Informatics, shared his work on integrating demand response into the LA SGRDP, including customer-centered efforts, into load management. With Professor Mohammed Beshir of the Viterbi Department of Electrical Engineering, Hughes compared the New Zealand and the Los Angeles electric vehicle charging infrastructures, and Beshir shared his work on technical impacts of EV charging on the power grid.

Dialogue with Professor Kelly Sanders of the Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, focused on water policy. In particular, the two discussed water pricing, agricultural uses of water, and ways in which water pricing changes could potentially foster conservation.

Undergraduate students also showcased USC’s sustainability spirit in their interactions with Hughes. Students from the i2s (Interdisciplinary Sustainability Sciences) research group, Sarah Weingust and Zachary Manta, escorted Hughes on tours through campus and highlighted USC’s student-driven sustainability initiatives.