This Article identifies and analyzes the obstacles presently barring the rise of renewables, evaluates the role of the current policy favorite emission pricing, and offers design recommendations for a comprehensive U.S. renewables policy.
Successful climate change mitigation requires a timely shift to renewable sources of energy, such as sunlight, wind or tides, to decarbonize today’s high-carbon electricity sector. But market pull alone is not strong enough. This Article discusses the most widely cited economic barriers and identifies and evaluates additional obstacles related to the electricity sector’s regulatory framework.
Emission pricing is largely considered the most efficient policy to drive the timely transition to a renewables-based electricity sector. This Article argues that, for political, conceptual, and, most of all, regulatory reasons, emission pricing will not fuel the rise of renewables at the speed necessary for successful climate change mitigation.
Rather, a comprehensive renewables policy is required to address each and every one of the existing barriers. Drawing on the policy experience of other sectors and nations, I offer recommendations for the design of a comprehensive U.S. renewables policy. Many of the proposed policy recommendations aim at non-economic barriers, which can be overcome through regulatory intervention. Once these barriers have been removed, policy support for renewables can focus on the remaining economic barriers and, hence, becomes far less costly. In light of the plethora of obstacles to a timely transition to renewables, this Article calls for concerted policy action by scientists, engineers, economists, lawyers, marketers, and educators to fuel the renewables revolution.