Stanford Law School Felix Mormann
Faculty Fellow

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  • How to Make Renewable Energy Competitive

    New York Times (June 1, 2012; with Dan Reicher)

    Excerpt: Renewable energy needs help. Technological innovation has significantly reduced the cost of solar panels, wind turbines and other equipment, but renewable energy still needs serious subsidies to compete with conventional energy. Today, help comes mostly in the form of federal tax breaks. These tax incentives, and the Congressional battle over extending them for wind projects beyond the end of this year, mean that other, more powerful policies to promote renewables are not getting the attention they deserve. If renewable energy is going to become fully competitive and a significant source of energy in the United States, then further technological innovation must be accompanied by financial innovation so that clean energy sources gain access to the same low-cost capital that traditional energy sources like coal and natural gas enjoy.
    Two financial mechanisms that have driven investment in traditional energy projects - real estate investment trusts and master limited partnerships - could, with some help from Washington, be extended to renewable energy projects to lower their cost and make America's energy future cleaner, cheaper - and more democratic... (Full Article)  

  • Beyond Emission Pricing - a Renewables Revolution in the True Sense of the Word

    Invited Guest Essay for Consumer Energy Report's R-Squared Expert Blog (May 19, 2011)

    Excerpt: Policy measures in the U.S. and across the globe tend to focus on the cost-competitiveness of wind, solar, and other renewable energy technologies. Feed-in tariffs, production tax credits, and certificate trading schemes all aim to bridge the cost gap between renewable energy technologies and fossil fuel incumbents.
    With its focus on generation cost, the present policy landscape tends to ignore regulatory, behavioral, and other obstacles to a timely transition to renewable energy. A closer analysis of the electricity market, for instance, reveals a whole plethora of barriers to the entry of renewable energy technologies. A look at Europe's two largest economies - France and Germany - reveals just how important these barriers are. Both countries have established promotional policies that offer similar financial incentives for electricity generation from renewables. Yet, Germany has achieved several orders of magnitude greater deployment rates than neighboring France, pointing to other forces at play than generation cost-competitiveness alone... (Full Essay)  

  • Renewable Energy Needs Comprehensive Policies, Says Stanford Scholar

    by Antonio Pasolini for (May 31, 2011)

    Excerpt: A new paper by Stanford lawyer Felix Mormann argues that pricing alone will not drive the transition to renewable energy, one of the key ingredients to a low-carbon economy necessary to mitigate the impacts of climate change. He identifies and analyzes the obstacles presently barring the rise of renewables, evaluates the role of the current policy favorite emission pricing, and offers design recommendations for a comprehensive U.S. renewables policy. He argues that a comprehensive renewables policy is required to address each and every one of the existing barriers. So why is that not being done?
    "Like every new technology, renewable energy technologies first have to prove themselves in the lab. Hence, the initial focus is on their scientific and engineering aspects. As lab results make way for demonstration projects, potential for commercialization triggers more economic analysis. Only once scaling and large-scale deployment appear within reach, do regulators tend to get involved", he told Energy Refuge. "This rather reactive role of regulators is by no means unique to renewables, but applies to almost all transformative technologies. What's special about renewables, however, is that the potpourri of financial support policies around the world appears to have distracted from regulatory barriers to their large-scale deployment. Simply put, public policy presently tends to compensate for these obstacles, rather than eliminate them..." (Full Story)