It’s getting easier to be green. And more profitable.
Just ask Edward Zaelke. The Morgan, Lewis & Bockius partner graduated from law school in 1983 with an eye on starting a renewable-energy practice. In the late 1970s, the government had been keen to push legislation to curb the country’s dependence on foreign oil.
But “as soon as I started practicing, the oil market crashed,” Zaelke recalled.
And so instead of working on renewable-energy projects, Zaelke ended up working for big oil and energy companies.
Today, it’s a different story. Zaelke, like most energy attorneys, is benefiting from a renaissance in the renewable-energy sector as high oil prices and new state and federal legislation aimed at reducing greenhouse-gas emissions from fossil-fuel power plants spur interest in alternative fuel sources.
“Just in the past two years our renewable-energy practice has more than tripled in size, and my own practice has more than doubled in size,” Zaelke said. “We are probably putting in the neighborhood of 22,000 to 25,000 hours in renewable-energy work, and that’s triple what we were doing two years ago.”
In the last few years, investors have put in as much as $5 billion on wind energy projects alone, according to Zaelke, president of the American Wind Energy Association. And wind is not the only alternative energy source on the move right now — solar energy and biofuel production such as ethanol are hot with investors, too.
Morgan Lewis represents more than 20 companies involved in the wind industry, including developers, lenders, manufacturers and private-equity providers. The firm says its lawyers have worked on deals adding up to billions of dollars.