Formulating a Law of Sustainable Energy: The Renewables Component
51 Pages Posted: 4 May 2011 Last revised: 17 Mar 2015
Date Written: May 3, 2011
Renewable energy development has recently expanded in the United States, but the law has failed to keep pace with this expansion. Law perennially chases human needs, and in some respects, this is good. When law develops in response to change, it accounts for the real needs of those who work within the law. But relying on old common law principles to guide new development can also be problematic; suboptimal doctrines can become entrenched, and those with the most to gain or lose from legal decisions may have undue influence in the reactionary legal process. This Article argues that scholars — as they began to do in the 1970s for solar energy — should embark upon a project to develop a Law of Renewable Energy. Through this project, scholars should identify the gaps in the law and explore alternatives for effectively filling these gaps — alternatives that will ensure comprehensive review of the potential environmental and social effects of renewable development, provide accessible and efficient approval processes for the developers who must work within the proposed legal framework, and enable rapid yet safe development of renewable energy. Development of renewable energy is an essential piece of a sustainable future, yet, as described in this Article, the laws that emerged prior to the growth of renewables and govern this growth are in some cases antiquated and do not logically translate to the renewables context. For a sustainable future, this must change.
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