Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Renewable Energy Policy and Governance: The Influence of Stakeholders, State Context and Resource Characteristics
by Rountree, Valerie, Ph.D., The University of Arizona, 2018, 92; 10812355
Abstract (Summary)

as essential to growing domestic and state economies, decreasing reliance on foreign fossil fuels, and providing carbon-free sources of energy to combat climate change. Because fossil fuel-based energy production predominates in the electricity market, many states and nations have resorted to policies that incentivize producers to turn to renewables.

In the absence of strong national policy, many U.S. states have adopted Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) policies requiring electric utilities to generate a minimum percentage of electricity from renewable energy resources, which helps to create a stable and reliable market for renewable energy technologies. While renewable energy offers new possibilities for clean energy generation, it also poses new regulatory and governance challenges, as a wide range of stakeholders, such as electric utilities, regulatory agencies, environmental and consumer advocacy groups, independent power generators, and private citizens, increasingly seek to influence how RPSs are designed and implemented. When and how do these diverse stakeholders participate in renewable energy policy formation and administration? Does it matter for shaping policy outputs?

These three dissertation papers explore the processes by which state-level renewable energy policies are designed and implemented, the opportunities for stakeholders in associated decision-making processes, and whether and how the design of participatory decision-making processes are suited to different decision contexts. It uses a variety of data sources, including interviews conducted in Colorado and Nevada in June 2016, agency documents, news pieces, and scholarly literature. In doing so, this dissertation aims to contribute to applied and scholarly understandings of the role of stakeholders in renewable energy policy and decision-making, an area that has received relatively little attention in scholarly research.

Together, these papers demonstrate unique challenges to renewable electricity governance—there are powerful individuals and groups that influence both policy design and implementation. With few requirements for stakeholder engagement, certain stakeholder groups, namely organized members of the public and renewable energy advocates, currently have limited opportunities to influence decisions, hold decision makers accountable or realize process-related benefits, such as building knowledge and social capital. As a result, the RPS policy may be growing increasingly ineffective in some states (like Nevada) and the exclusion of these stakeholders may be slowing gains in renewable energy deployment.

Yet, there remains an important role for stakeholder participation in renewable energy governance in the U.S. Given recent actions by the federal government to reduce funding for renewable energy programs and research and create market conditions that heavily favor the fossil fuel industry, it is up to states now more than ever to sustain the momentum towards a clean and renewable energy future gained over the past two decades. As it stands, the processes by which decisions in the U.S. electric sector are made are less a reflection of democratic or capitalist ideals, and more so of the utility monopoly system on which the electric sector was founded. Thus, the greatest challenge to introducing new and improved opportunities for stakeholder participation may be overcoming the industry culture this history has created.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Garfin, Gregg
Commitee: Baldwin, Elizabeth, Buizer, James, Fisher, Larry, Woodhouse, Connie
School: The University of Arizona
Department: Natural Resources
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-B 79/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Environmental Studies
Keywords: Policy, Renewable Portfolio Standards, Renewable energy, Stakeholder participation
Publication Number: 10812355
ISBN: 9780438015258
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