Thursday, May 11, 2017

STEP at APPAM Student Conference 2017

Matt Grimley, Ben Ihde, Isaac Evans

Matt Grimley (MS-STEP), Ben Ihde (MS-STEP), and Isaac Evans (MPP) represented the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the Association for Public Policy and Management (APPAM) conference in Riverside, CA from April 9th-10th. This conference brought together graduate researchers from many policy disciplines to share and receive feedback on their research from their peers. The team attended to present their research on community solar gardens in Minnesota.

At APPAM, the team, represented by Matt Grimley, presented their research on Minnesota’s community solar gardens. Community solar is a financing mechanism where subscribers to a solar array help to overcome the high up front capital costs of renewable energy. These solar arrays were designed to allow Xcel Energy customers without appropriate rooftop space or capital to enjoy the benefits of solar power. The program has rapidly expanded solar power capacity in Minnesota, but the Humphrey team is examining how the policy behind the program has influenced or restricted the flow of benefits to different classes of ratepayers.

Matt presented on the second day on a panel alongside two other graduate students. The first student was researching the costs and benefits of investments in charging stations versus battery technology, while the second focused on heat-wave vulnerability in India. Matt, Isaac, and Ben fielded questions from the audience, and returned from the conference with new perspectives on their research and how best to communicate it to a larger audience.

For Ben, the highlight of the conference itself was a session presented by the Pardee RAND Institute that discussed the policy of startup accelerators and autonomous cars, two of his personal interests. As a native Midwesterner, he also enjoyed hiking up Mount Rubidoux with Isaac, due to the warm weather, the incredible views, and the opportunities for bouldering.

Isaac really enjoyed attending the talks of other students and learning about the wide range of policy tools and perspectives other students are using that could be incorporated into the community solar garden project. Particularly, he found analyzing the use of crime rates and determinants using regression and spatial analysis the most interesting. Finally, anyone who knows Isaac would know that he especially loved trying all of the food Riverside had to offer.  

Matt enjoyed the pleasant climate and fresh food, almost as much as he enjoyed the policy discussions with his conference peers.

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