What is a Renewable Energy Policy?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A renewable energy policy is an energy policy which focuses on using energy derived from renewable sources, such as wind, solar, water, and geothermal power. Energy policy is frequently set at the national level by the government, although smaller government entities such as municipalities can also develop their own energy policies, especially if they feel that the government policy does not address their concerns or meet their needs. Like other branches of public policy, energy policy requires input from a number of people, and it can grow extremely complex.

A wind farm that's used to make renewable energy.
A wind farm that's used to make renewable energy.

Governments develop energy policy to address the demand for energy within their borders, addressing concerns about generation, storage, distribution, and consumption. Renewable energy policy recognizes not only the need for electricity, but long-term concerns about energy availability, and the environmental impact of energy generation. Many nations use their renewable energy policy to actively promote and incentivize the use of renewable energy by energy companies and consumers.

Solar power is a form of renewable energy.
Solar power is a form of renewable energy.

A renewable energy policy can include a number of measures to promote the use of renewable energy and the development of alternative energy sources. These measures can include grants to companies working in the renewable energy field, laws which mandate an increasing percentage of renewable sources for energy generation at power plants, and incentive programs for individual consumers, such as grants to people who install solar panels on their homes. The policy is designed to shape law and society together to increase the adoption of renewable energy.

Individual nations can take renewable energy policy to various extremes. There are a number of concerns which can be addressed by such policies, including worries about reliance on foreign energy sources, national security issues, pollution, domestic industry, and environmental responsibility. Renewable energy policy is often promoted as a way to ensure that energy will be available to future generations, and as a way to achieve energy independence, for nations which lack deposits of oil which could be used to produce fossil fuels.

Policy can be formulated in the legislature, by government agencies, and in the executive branch of government. A renewable energy policy usually includes input from advocates for alternative energy who provide information about alternative energy sources and who may actively lobby in support of particular renewable sources. Policymakers can also include legislators concerned about their constituents, environmentalists, and members of the energy generating community. Ideally, such policy will be practical and achievable, rather than unrealistic and frustrating to people attempting to meet energy goals and targets.

A renewable energy policy usually includes input from advocates for alternative energy who provide information about alternative energy sources and who may actively lobby in support of particular renewable sources.
A renewable energy policy usually includes input from advocates for alternative energy who provide information about alternative energy sources and who may actively lobby in support of particular renewable sources.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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