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FIT in the USA

Constitutional questions about state-mandated renewable tariffs.

Fortnightly Magazine - June 2010

States should look to implement those elements of FITs that make them successful—namely investor security, low transaction costs and contract certainty—without treading into Constitutionally suspect waters.


Editor’s Note:  This article was adapted, in part, from a more detailed article, “Fire & Ice,” published in volume 20 of the  Duke Energy & Policy Forum  (2010).



1. See Kenyan Ministry of Energy,  Feed-in-Tariffs Policy for Wind, Biomass and Small Hydro Resource Generated Electricity  (2008).

2. See Wilson H. Rickerson  et al ., If the Shoe FITs: Using Feed-in Tariffs to Meet U.S. Renewable Electricity Targets Electricity J ., May 2007, at 73, 73–74.

3. Anne Held et al.,  Feed-in systems in Germany, Spain and Slovenia: A comparison  (2007).

4. Janet L. Sawin,  National Policy Instruments: Policy Lessons for the Advancement & Diffusion of Renewable Energy Technologies Around the World 5 (2004).

5. See Wilson Rickerson & Robert C. Grace,  The Heinrich Boll Found The Debate over Fixed Price Incentives for Renewable Electricity in Europe and the United States: Fallout and Future Directions 1  (2007).

6. Ashley Seager,  Green Power: Germany Sets Shining Example in Providing a Harvest for the World: Thanks to Tariff Guarantees, Germany Has 200 Times as Much Solar Energy as Britain The Guardian , July 23, 2007, at 27.

7. Mark Landler,  Germany Debates Subsidies for Solar Industries N.Y. Times , May 16, 2008, at C1.

8. Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturchutz und Raktorsicherheit,  Development of Renewable Energies in Germany in 2007  at 7 (2008) .

9. Ethan Howland, “Utilities, Solar Developers Should Seek New Procurement Approaches, Report Says,”  Electric Utility Week , Dec. 15, 2008, at 28.

10. Paul Gipe,  CEC Recommends Cost-Based Feed-in Tariff , Wind Works, Jan. 5, 2009 .

11. Paul Gipe, “Gainesville Moves Rapidly to True Solar Tariff,”  Wind Works , Jan. 5, 2009.

12. Ucilia Wang, “Budget Shortfalls Could Shrink States’ Solar Incentives,”  greentechsolar, Jan. 14, 2009 .

13. Federal Regulation and Development of Power (“Federal Power Act”) , 16 U.S.C. §§ 824d–e.

14. Pub. Util. Dist. No. 1 of Snohomish County Wash. v. Fed. Energy Regulatory Comm’n , 471 F.3d 1053, 1058 (9th Cir. 2006),  vacated on other grounds , 547 F.3d 1081 (9th Cir. 2008)

15. Id. at 1066,  aff’dMorgan Stanley Capital Group v. Pub. Util. Dist. No. 1 of Snohomish County, Wash , 128 S.Ct. 2733 (2008). For a discussion of the California and Western energy crisis that spawned this litigation, see Ferrey,  Soft Paths, Hard Choices: Environmental Lessons in the Aftermath of California’s Electric Deregulation Debacle , 23  Va. Envtl. L.J . 251 (2004)

16. N. States Power Co. v. Minn. Pub. Util. Comm’n , 344 N.W.2d 374, 378 (Minn. 1984).

17. Pub. Util. Dist. No. 1 , 471 F.3d at 1066; see also  Entergy La., Inc., v. La. Pub. Serv. Comm’n,  539 U.S. 39, 47 (2003) (noting that the filed-rate doctrine applies to the states through federal preemption).

18. Nantahala Power & Light Co. v. Thornburg, 476 U.S. 953, 966–67 (1986); Miss. Power & Light Co. v. Miss.