Energy Policy

Impacts of Policy on Energy Systems


As you've explored the various energy policies that have been implemented throughout US history, what do you notice about how they influence the energy systems themselves?

Let's look at some examples.

The 2008 Farm Bill has many provisions for renewable energy. Without these provisions (and the funding they carried) much of this work couldn't be completed. The money designated for competitive grants is designed to help quicken the pace of technology transfer from the research phase to on-the-ground projects.

  • $2.1 billion in guaranteed loans for cellulosic projects
  • $500 million for bioenergy and bio-based product research
  • $500 million for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency grants

Read an article from CNNMoney about the importance of the energy provisions in the Farm Bill.

The 2014 Farm Bill (they generally only occur every 5-6 years) was especially problematic and delayed because of Congressional bickering. You can learn more about the highlights between the 2014 version and pre-2014 versions, but here are a few of them:

  • It reduced mandatory funding for the Energy Title from $1.12 billion over four years (as specified in the 2008 version) to $694 million over 5 years. And while this reduces the scope and funding available for energy-related projects quite considerably, it does build upon important historical successes. The Rural Energy for America Program (known as REAP) helps agricultural producers and rural business owners (and rural electricity cooperatives!) in the form of loan guarantees and competitive grants in all 50 states. Under this iteration of the Farm Bill, it's the top-funded program.

Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) - mandate that states generate a set percentage of their electricity from renewable sources. In the absence of that state being able to produce renewable sourced electricity at home, they also have the option to buy Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) from other electricity suppliers. The benefits of a RPS system include improved air quality, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and, potentially, job creation in the emerging renewable sectors.

Want to know more about the RPS in your state? Click here for a list of RPS policies across the country from DSIRE (the go-to website for energy policies in the U.S.!). See detailed summary maps here. You can see the most recent version here. and a summary map that has solar carveouts and distributed generation requirements here.

The 2005 Energy Policy Act provided a whole host of provisions and measures related to the production, distribution, and types of energy we use in the United States. This list is FAR from exhaustive, but is just here to get you thinking about some of the impacts on energy systems we can have with our policy decisions. If you'd like, you can read a summary of all enacted provisions of the bill.

  • Increased the amount of biofuel (typically ethanol) required to be mixed with gasoline sold in the United States (to 4 billion gallons by 2006, 6.1 billion gallons by 2009, and 7.5 billion gallons by 2012). What impact do you think this provision alone has on energy systems? Is incentivizing increased production of ethanol sound energy (and environmental and climate) policy? Who are the winners and losers associated with subsidized ethanol production?
  • Requires public electric utilities to offer net metering to customers on request.
  • Authorizes $200 million for "clean coal" initiatives, increases coal as an energy source.
  • Provides incentives to companies to drill for oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act directed more than $31 billion into clean energy projects around the country. You can read the Obama White House Retrospective Analysis to learn more. And of course, the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act has a host of provisions that impact energy and climate.