Three Barriers to Renewable Energy that the Industry Must Overcome

Image Credit: USDA – California rancher Ned Wood unlocks the controls for the photovoltaic solar cells and well pump on Friday, Jul. 24, 2015 in Contra Costa County, CA. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

 

Key Takeaways:

  • A need of standardized laws, requirements & regulations to speed up build-out of renewables
  • Streamlining / eliminating “soft costs” to increase renewable energy investments
  • Navigating around lobbying efforts to slow investments in renewables

Cities and states across America are setting goals to generate 100% of their electricity from carbon-free sources. However, senior fellow Eric Gimon at the climate policy think tank Energy Innovation made note that there will be speed bumps along the path. He cites several major barriers to renewable energy which governments, utilities and consumers must overcome if the we wish to have success on the path to 100% renewables.

One barrier to deploying widescale, zero-emitting renewables  –  “distributed energy resources (DERs)” as Gimon calls them – hinges on a need to simplify the complicated regulatory environment of standards, incentives and.  Currently, every city, business, or home works within its own patchwork of laws and regulations; for example, net-metering rules vary from state to state. Such a diverse and non-standardized legal framework slows the growth of renewables. Standardize these legal frameworks (and their incentives) on a statewide or national scale, says Gimon, and massive clean energy investments will follow.

Another barrier to renewable energy falls under the umbrella of “soft costs”: costs which don’t involve equipment or installation services, but rather refer to unnecessary red tape or customer acquisition costs. Soft costs result in a U.S. consumer paying over three times what someone in Australia would pay for a  5-kilowatt solar array. Even EV chargers are not immune from these soft costs, as Gimon notes that “EV chargers face complicated siting and permitting rules, and widely varying electricity rate pricing structures.”

Finally, “hostile incumbents” are a significant barrier to renewables. These include any corporation or entities which may create new rules, requirements, and regulations on customers wishing to take advantage of renewable products (these rules and regs are often accompanied by legislative bodies backing them up).  One solution to this barrier would be to have utilities take a more proactive stance on investing in renewable technologies and at the same time removing barriers for their customers to use such technologies at their home or business.

 

What We’re Reading: “Overcoming Barriers to 100% Clean Energy, Part One: The Electricity Distribution Network,” published in Forbes