Making Sense of the Rapidly Evolving Legal Landscape of Solar Energy Support Regimes

KLRI Journal of Law & Legislation, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 81-142 (2016)

University of Utah College of Law Research Paper No. 195

62 Pages Posted: 7 Jan 2017 Last revised: 2 Feb 2017

See all articles by Lincoln L. Davies

Lincoln L. Davies

Ohio State University (OSU) - Michael E. Moritz College of Law

Date Written: December 31, 2016

Abstract

Change defines the solar industry today. Photovoltaic (PV) panels have become far more prevalent globally; prices have fallen precipitously; and the rise of solar is causing shock waves throughout the electricity sector, with advocates pushing for “grid parity” and incumbents fearing a utility “death spiral.” Much attention has been paid to these shifts. Much less focus has been put on the dramatic changes now taking place in the legal instruments used to promote solar power. These changes are just as critical — and are intrinsically intertwined with — the evolution of the solar energy industry itself. As one set of commentators has observed, we may now be observing the “emergence of the next generation of renewable electricity policies.”

This Article aims to make sense of the myriad changes in solar energy support policies worldwide. It identifies the four primary mechanisms used to promote solar to date and traces the key changes that these laws are rapidly undergoing. In so doing, the Article offers a critical roadmap for understanding the recent past of solar support laws, and their potential future. Specifically, the Article observes that the rapid changes to solar support mechanisms derive directly from a fundamental tension at the center of how these laws interface with the electricity system, and that because of this tension, the recent changes to these laws are likely only to continue. Three case studies — of Germany, Japan, and Nevada — are used to highlight the broader lessons the Article offers.

Keywords: Solar energy, photovoltaics (PV), distributed generation (DG), grid parity, death spiral, net metering, net billing, feed-in tariff, feed-in premium, RPS, tender, tiering, banding, credit multipliers, Germany, Japan, Nevada

JEL Classification: K2, K23, K32, L78, N7, N72, P16, Q3, Q30, Q38, Q4, Q41, Q42, Q43, Q48

Suggested Citation

Davies, Lincoln L., Making Sense of the Rapidly Evolving Legal Landscape of Solar Energy Support Regimes (December 31, 2016). KLRI Journal of Law & Legislation, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 81-142 (2016); University of Utah College of Law Research Paper No. 195. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2893731

Lincoln L. Davies (Contact Author)

Ohio State University (OSU) - Michael E. Moritz College of Law ( email )

55 West 12th Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210
United States

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