Solar power dominates renewable energy headlines today. It is more affordable, more popular, and more ubiquitous than ever. The role of law and policy in driving solar’s growth cannot be overstated. At the same time, the use of law and policy to support the technology increasingly has come into question. This is a rapidly emerging—and incredibly important—trend globally.
In the United States, much of this debate has begun to play out over state-level support for rooftop solar in the form of “net metering”: laws that require utilities to pay rooftop solar customers for excess electricity they produce. Until recently, net metering was a mainstay of U.S. renewable energy policy—and, arguably, the cornerstone of U.S. solar policy. Now, however, these policies are under attack.
The debate over net metering in the United States pits competing and well-heeled interests: incumbent utilities versus upstart solar companies, customers who can afford rooftop solar versus those who cannot, old markets versus new, traditional fuels versus emergent technologies.
It is the story of an energy system in transition, of the rise of energy democracy, and of “death spirals” and policy innovation. It is a story worth paying attention to, because it may repeat across the globe.
In this talk, Professor Davies will trace the emerging debate over net metering in the United States, and what its import may be globally—for the future of solar as an energy technology, as a climate mitigation tool, and as a means of promoting sustainability.