Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Public Policy & Administration

First Advisor

Damian Pitt

Second Advisor

Blue Wooldridge

Third Advisor

Elsie Harper-Anderson

Fourth Advisor

Linda Fernandez


Solar photovoltaic (PV) energy has become a topic of intense policy debate at the state level in the United States (U.S.). Solar supporters have pointed to the economic development, environmental, and public health benefits this technology can provide. However, electric utilities and other interests have fought to scale back or cut favorable state PV policies as grid-connected solar PV installations have increased, due to decreased profits, grid complications, and customer fairness, among other reasons. This research first uses a hierarchical regression analysis with cross-sectional data from the years 2012–2013 to examine the suite of state-level policies used to encourage state non-utility PV installations. Comparing the impact of various policy approaches to other factors such as electricity costs, electricity market deregulation, per capita income, and the availability of solar energy resources, this research finds net energy metering to be the most important policy driver of non-utility PV installed capacity. Given this finding, the research shifts its focus to community net energy metering or shared solar, which is an innovative policy approach that allows multiple consumers to share the costs and benefits of ownership in an off-site solar PV facility, opening market access to a wide variety of individuals. Using the punctuated equilibrium framework and semi-structured telephone interviews with policy experts across the U.S. from the solar industry, environmental groups, government, and electric utilities, this research discovers that electric utility lobbying and an overall lack of attention have hindered community solar enabling legislation. However, opportunities exist for future development via increased participation, collaboration, and key events that may alter the policy equilibrium. Finally, this method is utilized in Virginia to more narrowly study why the state has dismissed community solar legislation multiple times. Such an approach is useful in understanding how other historically laggard states may adopt community net energy metering or shared solar legislation in the future.


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Energy Policy Commons