Solar Energy, Utilities, and Fairness
6 San Diego J. Climate & Energy L. 115 (2015) (symposium)
34 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2014 Last revised: 3 Jul 2015
Date Written: 2015
To what extent should fairness considerations drive energy policy? This basic question underlies much of the current debate over the net metering programs and related policies that have propelled record growth in the rooftop solar industry over the past decade. Utilities are increasingly calling for reforms to these programs, claiming that they are unfair in one way or another.
Fairness is a notoriously fuzzy concept capable of describing a wide range of distinct policy ideals. Unless they are properly managed, general claims of unfairness can thus confuse and distract decision-makers in their attempts to address complicated regulatory challenges. In light of these risks, how should policymakers respond to the various fairness arguments arising in the ongoing struggle over disruptive innovation in the nation’s energy sector?
This Article analyzes the primary fairness arguments that utilities are leveling against net metering programs and electricity rate designs as rooftop solar energy expands across the country. By categorizing and more thoroughly evaluating these arguments, the Article seeks to enhance the dialogue between utilities, legislators, state regulators, and the solar energy industry over how to best orchestrate the nation’s shift toward more sustainable electricity strategies. The Article ultimately argues that general appeals to fairness are detrimental in policy debates involving distributed solar energy. Shunning fairness arguments in favor of clearer, more specific arguments would benefit decision-makers as they search for solutions to the complex policy challenges associated with transitioning to a more sustainable electricity system.
Keywords: Utilities, State Regulators, Solar Energy
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation