Analysis of Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariffs in the U.S.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has published a report analyzing the impacts that state level feed-in tariff policies can have on the renewable energy industry across the country. The report uses data and reports from around the world to highlight the various benefits that a feed-in tariff type of policy can have on renewable energy development.

A feed-in tariff is an energy policy that provides for a guarantee of payment to renewable energy developers for the energy that is produced. This type of policy can be thought of as an advanced form of a production-based incentive because payments are made for the actual electricity produced and not for how much capacity is installed. The most common feed-in tariff payment is based on the actual levelized cost of renewable energy generation. This method of payment provides a price adequate to ensure a reasonable rate of return on for investors. 

The authors of the report delve into the various advantages of feed-in tariff policies and the number of challenges to implementing feed-in tariff policies in the U.S. The report also provides a review of the current state-level and utility-level feed-in tariff policies that are currently in place across the county and compares them with the successful models found in Europe. These states include Gainesville, Florida; various Wisconsin utilities; California; Vermont (report was written prior to passage of the state-wide feed-in tariff so this analysis focuses on the two utility-specific programs); Washington; and Oregon. The authors wrap up the report with a discussion of best practices for feed-in tariff policy design and implementation, followed by an analysis on how to use a feed-in tariff policy to achieve state renewable energy goals.

The authors highlight one of the most important elements of a feed-in tariff policy - that it allows for more participants in renewable energy project development. In their analysis the authors state that there are significant impacts of a feed-in tariff on developing community ownership, but it will depend on how the program is structured and payments determined. 

You can read the full report here (PDF).

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