Abstract

Solar photovoltaic (PV) energy has provoked intense policy debate at the state level in the United States. Electric utility providers and other interests have fought to scale back or cut favorable state policies as grid-connected solar PV installations have increased. One innovative approach to dealing with these challenges is to permit community net energy metering (NEM) or “shared solar” that allows multiple electric utility customers to share the costs and benefits of ownership in a local solar PV facility. This has stimulated the development of off-site shared solar arrays, or solar gardens, and increased access to PV technology. In Virginia, however, no rules exist that require electric utilities to permit community shared solar through NEM. This article utilizes the punctuated equilibrium theory (PET) framework and a historical institutionalism methodology to examine the political forces that shape state policy and to analyze why Virginia has dismissed community solar legislation multiple times. Such an approach is useful in understanding how other historically laggard states may adopt community shared solar legislation in the future.
Full Paper
Gilbert Michaud
Senior Research Associate

Dr. Gilbert Michaud is a Senior Research Fellow at gLAWcal –Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development (United Kingdom). He is also an Assistant Professor of Practice at the George V. Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs at Ohio University.

Summary

Solar photovoltaic (PV) energy has provoked intense policy debate at the state level in the United States. Electric utility providers and other interests have fought to scale back or cut favorable state policies as grid-connected solar PV installations have increased. One innovative approach to dealing with these challenges is to permit community net energy metering (NEM) or “shared solar” that allows multiple electric utility customers to share the costs and benefits of ownership in a local solar PV facility. This has stimulated the development of off-site shared solar arrays, or solar gardens, and increased access to PV technology. In Virginia, however, no rules exist that require electric utilities to permit community shared solar through NEM. This article utilizes the punctuated equilibrium theory (PET) framework and a historical institutionalism methodology to examine the political forces that shape state policy and to analyze why Virginia has dismissed community solar legislation multiple times. Such an approach is useful in understanding how other historically laggard states may adopt community shared solar legislation in the future.

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