How The City Hall Fellowship Launched My Public Policy Career

Sep 21, 2012

In the third part of our series on the City Hall Fellows program, Shaibya Dalal, a 2011-12 City Hall Fellow, discusses how the Fellowship led to a new-found passion for energy policy and regulatory law.

Shaibya Dalal, 2011-12 City Hall Fellow
Shaibya Dalal, 2011-12 City Hall Fellow

By Shaibya Dalal

In 2008, I somehow ended up with a summer internship at San Francisco’s Office of Risk Management. The world of insurance contracts and liabilities was not exactly tantalizing; however, I was fascinated by the planning that must take place to protect the City’s many departments from disasters. I studied areas of overlapping power between different agencies, and watched my boss bring multiple parties together at the table and emerge strategically with a productive agreement.

My internship provided a glimpse into local government, but City Hall Fellows exposed me to the inner workings and how individual efforts contribute to the City’s overarching goals. One of my projects I’m most proud of stemmed from San Francisco’s 2011 Updated Electricity Resource Plan (ERP), which consists of multiple strategies to help San Francisco achieve a greenhouse-gas free electric system by 2030. When I began my Fellowship at the San Francisco Public Utility Commission’s (SFPUC) Power Enterprise in August 2011, I was handed a thick copy of this ERP and informed that I would be spending a large chunk of my time assisting with its implementation.

This was somewhat daunting. In school, I had focused on constitutional law and policy on poverty and inequality. Armed with very little understanding of the City’s energy and environmental policies, I set out to conquer the ERP in my new cubicle. Recommendation #3 caught my eye: it addresses the basic concept of a “Green Test Bed” to promote and encourage the deployment of new renewable and energy efficient technologies in San Francisco, as well as to attract green energy firms to locate within the City.

With assistance from two of my fellow City Hall Fellows, I took the lead on shaping the definition of such a program and developing a framework for its creation. My experience was bolstered by the Fellowship’s Civic Leadership Development sessions, which taught me about inter-agency collaborations, how to maneuver my way through senior management, and the various ways in which public servants balance priorities with limited budgets and resources.

Our final Green Test Bed report includes ten detailed case studies and provides the SFPUC and the City with robust screening criteria, phased-in program structures, and a step-by-step road map, which outlines the program from planning to the first installation. I continue to stay involved as the SFPUC takes our ideas from paper to reality.

Besides self-initiating projects like the Green Test Bed, I gained valuable experience working with the City Attorney’s Office to advocate for the City’s regulatory interests at the state level, analyzed existing models of Community Scale energy systems, and participated in settlement discussions with PG&E on behalf of the Power Enterprise.

Were it not for City Hall Fellows, I doubt I would’ve delved into the intricacies of local government or the unfamiliar operations of the SFPUC. I certainly wouldn’t have discovered the complexities of energy policy and the surprisingly interesting utility industry. Today, I am seriously considering a career in the energy and environmental sectors; for that, and much more, I will always be grateful to City Hall Fellows.

After her Fellowship, Shaibya Dalal stayed on at the San Francisco Public Utility Commission’s (SFPUC) Power Enterprise as a Regulatory Analyst for the CleanPowerSF program. Earlier this week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors formally approved the program, through a historic veto proof 8-3 vote, after eight long years. When it launches, CleanPowerSF will enhance local control of energy, create healthy competition and bring 100% renewable energy to San Franciscans. Shaibya earned a B.A. in Political Science with a minor in Public Policy from U.C Berkeley in 2011. 

© Victoria Johnson 2012, all rights reserved.