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Analyzing the costs and benefits of distributed solar energy in Virginia (USA): a case study of collaborative energy planning

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Solar energy policy has become controversial in Virginia and many other states. Proponents point to its environmental, public health, and economic development benefits, and argue that it can help support electric grid operations. However, detractors, including many electric utilities, contend that the growth of customer-owned, distributed solar energy systems will create costs that must be passed on to ratepayers. This article presents a case study in which the authors led a multi-faceted Solar Stakeholder Group to evaluate the costs and benefits of distributed solar energy in Virginia. We examine this project in the context of collaborative planning theory, finding that it created shared learning among participants and facilitated greater understanding of opposing viewpoints, but did not produce a consensus vision for future action. We also note some of the Stakeholder Group's broader contributions to the ‘value-of-solar’ debate and discuss its implications for future distributed solar energy efforts in Virginia.
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Keywords: case study; collaborative planning; solar energy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Urban and Regional Studies and Planning, L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, USA 2: George V. Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, Ohio University, Athens, OH, USA 3: Public Policy and Administration, L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, USA

Publication date: September 19, 2018

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