With a law degree from the University of Colorado—considered one of the best in the nation for environmental law—Doran's research centers on analyzing the regulatory and legal implications of Smart Grid and carbon capture and storage. "From a metaperspective," he says, "it's fascinating to look at the early development arcs for both of these technology pathways to see the common legal, public policy, and societal issues that regulators and technology developers are encountering."
Smart Grid is the technology that is transforming the electric grid into something that is bi- directional and "smart" because of the information embedded in it. "This embryonic technology has all sorts of benefits for saving energy," says Doran, "but it also presents a lot of privacy issues, which need to be sorted out. One of the fundamental questions here is who owns the data that tells us when we are home, what types of appliances we use, and when we use them?"
Carbon capture and storage, Doran's other research emphasis, is the technology being developed to capture CO2 at its source, transport it to a remote site, and inject it in the subsurface where eventually it will not be a risk if vented to the atmosphere. This technology, also considered embryonic, has its own host of legal issues and social concerns. "Who is responsible if the CO2 leaks into the ground hundreds of years later, who owns the subsurface where the CO2 is injected, and where are the incentives for making this cost competitive?" asks Doran.
Naturally inquisitive, Doran thrives on solving the energy problem through the public policy lens, yet he understands the approach has to be multidisciplinary. "For us to solve the energy problems we need to involve a number of disciplines," he says. "At RASEI, we have the unique opportunity to design an approach that combines all of our problem solving perspectives for a real chance to shape our energy future. Having policy-minded folks, like me, working in a rich, collaborative environment with sociologists, engineers, and computer scientists is fascinating and inspiring."