Renewable Energy Law
Renewable energy sources, such as hydroelectric, solar, wind and geothermal, have provided an increasing percentage of American energy needs over the last two decades, with those energy sources finally surpassing the production of the U.S. nuclear power energy program in 2011. The Obama administration has made clear its commitment to alternative or renewable energy sources, with President Obama seeking a commitment from the Department of Defense to obtain at least 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy annually.
Federal Renewable Energy Laws
In the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Congress created a federal tax credit for residential property, allowing the credit for solar electric and solar water systems, as well as fuel cells. In 2008, the credits were extended to small wind energy systems and geothermal pumps
In 2011 alone, approximately 1,000 renewable energy related bills were proposed in state legislatures across the country. The acts addressed a wide range of topics, including:
- Financing of renewable energy projects—the use of loans, bonds and rebates, as well as the creation of financing authorities
- Tax incentives—Seventeen states enacted laws allowing tax incentives for property owners using solar, wind and other renewable sources of energy, or for economic development that included alternative energy sources.
- Grants—Illinois, Virginia and Oregon provide grants to fund clean energy projects.
- Mandatory renewable energy standards—A number of states have required that a specific percentage of future electricity sales come from renewable sources. States have also authorized credits for the use of renewable energy sources.
- Location and land use—Most states have enacted legislation governing where alternative energy structures may be located on property
- Ownership rights—In many states, legislatures have passed laws giving alternative energy ownership rights to surface owners of real property. These laws typically prohibit a municipality from placing alternative energy structures on private property without compensating the landowner.
- Self-generation of electricity—California and Texas have both enacted statutes that allow private property owners to generate their own electricity through alternative means, up to a certain output, without being considered a utility.
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