Reimagining net metering: A polycentric model for equitable solar adoption in the United States

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Journal Article

Disparities in renewable energy deployment disproportionately afflict marginalized communities and slow the clean energy transition necessary to combat climate change. Most solutions focus on top-down government initiatives to subsidize renewable energy. However, this approach has had mixed efficacy, raises questions about the durability of support, and lacks political feasibility in certain contexts. We propose a new energy development model that leverages the logic of polycentric governance, which refers to having multiple centers of decision-making as opposed to one. Our model rethinks the practice of net metering, where households and organizations can sell excess power back to the grid. Rather than pocketing the proceeds, our model taps into individual altruism by allowing households and organizations to donate some of this money to build renewable energy for underserved communities. This could accelerate clean energy development by providing resources and fostering collaboration between communities and power companies. Our framework represents a novel decentralized approach to a “just energy transition” that complements government-led initiatives. This paper describes the program, discusses design issues, and presents proof-of-concept survey research from the United States.

Energy Research & Social Science
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