New Solar Policy Research

It isn't hyperbolic to say that the GW Solar Institute was one of the main factors in getting me where I am today, both figuratively and literally. The guidance and assistance the Institute provided while I was researching the Solar REIT concept was nothing short of invaluable. Therefore it brings me great pleasure to present two student research papers published by the Institute recently. That their quality would have earned them a post regardless of this affiliation speaks both to the ongoing usefulness of the Institute and the cleverness of GW students.

The first paper, 'Sunny Dispositions' was written by an acquaintance, Joel Meister, whose experience in the solar world shines through in this excellent paper discussing some of the problems which could arise in the post-1603 Treasury grant program world. For those unfamiliar with the business, these issues center on recapture, a tax law concept which allows clawbacks of tax credits if systems are sold after they are put in service, but before five years have passed. The paper is full of interesting historical details which would be helpful to anyone trying to understand the economic drivers of the industry and includes an interesting, and seemingly simple, legislative recommendation to solve the problems it identifies.

The second paper, China's Solar Policy, was written by three grad students, Alim Bayaliyev, Julia Kalloz and Matt Robinson. It is somewhat distractingly addressed to the Solar Institute rather than a neutral reader at a few points, but this slight flaw is more than made up for by the content which focuses on the main drivers behind China's recent solar explosion. While some of the lessons we could glean from China's expansion could lack usefulness for global audiences if that expansion came as a result of unfair trade practices, the authors do a good job of staying neutral on that issue, instead just presenting the relevant success factors (easy credit, central government support for R&D and cheap land should all sound familiar to US audiences; negative interest rates might not). The paper does a good job bridging the frequent chasm between academic research and practical market knowledge, and is timely in light of the emerging trade issues.

Both of these are good reads for anyone interested in the solar industry and contribute impressively to the growing body of academic research focused on solar energy policy.

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