This Land Is Pure Land: How Barriers To Property Development Affect The Value Of State-Level Renewable Energy Incentive Programs
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Why is it that states like California and New York, which have some of the strongest environmental regulations and renewable energy incentive programs in the country, have had less success incorporating clean power onto the grid than their relatively laissez-faire counterparts like Texas and Iowa? Using a combination of econometric analysis and case studies into the development process, this thesis evaluates how land use regulations influence the renewable energy industry –and, consequently, how to maximize the economic value of state-level incentives.The project is divided intothree sections. The first provides an overview and history of how the nature of the renewable energy industry came to vary so much from state to state. In particular, it explores the difference between regulated and deregulated electricity markets, as well as the emerging rift between distributed renewable power (user-level; for example, rooftop solar panels) and utility-scale renewable installations (think solar farms). The second section describes the econometric component of the thesis, which evaluates which characteristics of land development –including the presence of endangered species, average land value, and quantity of government-owned property –have the greatest impact on project development, as well as which states’ renewable incentive programsare helped and hurt the most by these underlying qualities. The third section discusses the policy implications of the study, offering recommendations for how states can improve their incentives and touching on how federal interventions and technological advancements can change the conversation moving forward.