Rooftop solar wars in the US: The legal battle over net metering

Date & time

12.30–2pm Friday 4 August 2017


Moot Court

Level 3, ANU College of Law, 5 Fellows Road, ACTON, ACT, 2600


Professor Lincoln Davies, Presidential Endowed Chair in Law, College Of Law, University of Utah


For interstate visitors, we offer suggestions for accommodation near ANU.


Nicole Harman
02 6125 0454

Presented by ANU College of Law


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.



  • Professor Lincoln Davies »

    A recognized expert in energy law and policy, Professor Davies joined the faculty in 2007. His research spans a broad array of energy topics, including renewables and alternative energy, carbon capture and sequestration, nuclear power, utility law, and regulatory and technology innovation. He is a leading authority on state renewable portfolio standards (“RPS”) and assured water supply laws (“wet growth”). Additional research interests include environmental law, water law, land use, administrative law, and procedure. In 2012, he was awarded the McCloy Fellowship in Environmental Policy to conduct comparative research on renewable energy policy in the United States and Germany. He also holds positions as principal investigator for the Institute for Clean and Secure Energy and as Chair of the American Bar Association’s Committee on Energy Infrastructure and Siting. Since 2008, he has served on the Utah Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure.

    Prior to joining the faculty, Professor Davies practiced in the Washington, D.C. office of Steptoe & Johnson LLP. In 2001, he served as a clerk to the Honorable Leonard H. Russon, Associate Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court. He was educated at Stanford and Michigan.

    Professor Davies teaches civil procedure; energy law; administrative law; environmental justice; and law, religion, and environmentalism.

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