Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Evaluating Renewable Energy Support Policy Efficacy: A View Beneath the Surface

Friday, November 13, 2015 : 10:55 AM
Board Room (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Lincoln Davies, University of Utah
Most scholarship to date that assesses the efficacy of renewable energy support policies is quantitative.  These studies aim to extrapolate from the number or amount of installed facilities and produced electricity to measure whether any given renewable energy law is effective, or whether one type of policy is more effective than another.

This paper aims to add a new vantage to this inquiry.  Rather than relying on quantitative renewable energy production and installation data, we look beneath the surface to help expose how these policies actually function on the ground.  To do so, we use interviews conducted in two different countries—Germany and the United States—that use different policy tools to promote renewable energy development—feed-in tariffs (FITs) and renewable portfolio standards (RPSs).  The interviews include stakeholders in multiple sectors of the regulatory process: (1) renewable energy industry representatives and investors; (2) utility managers; and (3) government administrators charged with renewable energy policy implementation.

The juxtaposition of the experiences in Germany and the United States provides new insights into what is actually important in making renewable energy policy effective. This research helps fill a number of gaps in our knowledge about renewable energy policy, and complements existing quantitative research on the question.  Most critically, the interviews provide an on-the-ground, nuts-and-bolts view of how renewable energy policies function, a view that goes beyond how a policy is written and seeks to get to the heart of how it actually works on a day-to-day basis.  Second, the interviews provide additional context to a growing body of literature that aims to assess which specific policy design attributes of renewable energy laws drive policy efficacy.  Third, the interviews speak to the question of whether FITs and RPSs are mutually exclusive policies, or rather, whether they might be used in tandem—and, if so, how and why combining RPSs and FITs may augment policy efficacy.  Together, this analysis of the experiences in Germany and the United States provide new lessons for renewable energy policy implementation not just domestically but across the globe as well.