Building a long-term renewable energy strategy
In the United States, renewable energy investors face a hodgepodge of federal and state regulations, incentives, and subsidies that aim to stimulate private sector renewable development. Many would argue that this is to be expected given the nature of our political system, which, whether or not by design, is decidedly myopic in its policy development. Yet the United States still does not have a long-term federal renewable energy strategy (RES).
This is not to say that these programmes do not work on some level, at least in the short term. But, what can policymakers do to better promote private sector renewable development?
"The best policies establish clear, stable and comprehensive ground rules, and do not rely on an overly prescriptive approach and direct subsidisation for favoured technologies," explains Ron Norman, PA expert in renewable energy markets at the Scottish Low Carbon Investment Conference, 28-29 of September in Edinburgh.
Policies can take myriad forms, but there are a few constants that must be present:
a framework that does not rely on direct subsidies, but instead takes a holistic view, accounting for all market impacts and non-market impacts (eg, effects of pollution that are not directly measured) and thereby levelling the playing field for technologies with varying costs and different environmental footprints
a laissez-faire approach in terms of what renewable technologies can be utilised to meet programme goals
rules that are clear, congruent, consistent, and immune to short-term political winds.
Such a task will certainly be easier said than done, especially in the current political atmosphere in the United States. However, programmes like these would create long-term confidence in the marketplace, successfully expanding renewable penetration while still relying on the private sector to drive the engine of change.
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