Who Decides Where the Renewables Should Go?: A Response to Danielle Stokes’ Renewable Energy Federalism
By Michael B. Gerrard,
One of the central tasks in addressing the climate crisis is transitioning from an energy system based on fossil fuels to one that mainly uses renewable energy. In her article “Renewable Energy Federalism,” Professor Danielle Stokes has highlighted one of the key impediments to this transition — delays in state and local permitting of renewable energy facilities. She has proposed a new approach that would give more authority to the federal government. Stokes’ approach has much to commend it. However, I differ on some aspects.
I will begin by describing the magnitude of the problem — the amount of new renewable capacity that is needed for the United States to meet its climate objectives. Then I will describe the current system (if it can be called that) for deciding what renewable facilities are built where, and how Stokes would change that system. I will provide some historical perspective on how major projects have been sited, and the important role of private developers in energy generation projects. Finally, I will offer my views on which parts of Stokes’ proposal I would follow and which I would modify or discard.