University of Michigan Gateway Ford School

Renewable Energy Policy Initiative (REPI)


Conduct, support, and disseminate high-quality applied academic research on state and local policies impacting the deployment of renewable energy in the American federal system that informs both scholarship and the policy process.


As national concern for addressing global warming grows, more and more Americans are looking for governmental action to speed a transition to low-carbon energy sources. Most of the focus has been on federal action or—in the Trump era—reversal of prior federal action. Furthermore, the lion’s share of attention has been paid to a handful of policies that either put a price on carbon (e.g., carbon tax or cap-and-trade) or require utilities to meet renewable energy or improved energy efficiency targets. Below the radar, though, are state and local government level policy choices—on tax policy, land use regulation, infrastructure investment, and use of public land—that can serve to facilitate or hinder an energy transition. Taken individually, these policies may seem innocuous, but collectively they can serve to provide preferred status to some energy sources and impact the performance of other policies. As a result, some states have opted to use these lower-profile policies to facilitate an energy transition even in states where talking about climate change is politically untenable. Meanwhile in other states, these lower-profile policies may—knowingly or unknowingly—undermine achievement of even more explicit state climate policies including renewable portfolio standards and carbon pricing.

REPI research takes a multidimensional approach to identifying the range of state and local policies that impact renewable energy development, understanding how these policies interact, and understanding the politics at play behind their adoption, implementation, and long-term durability.

Furthermore, REPI research recognizes that the policy debate over renewable energy plays out very differently in urban and rural communities, and in red, blue, and purple states.

Rather than seeing this web of policies and diverse stakeholder interests as obstacles to a rational climate policy, our research aims to identify policy designs that work within this complex system—relying not on hypothetical models, but actively engaging with policymakers to learn from real-world experiences.

In turn, REPI aims to translate that knowledge back to policymakers, the media, and the public, to inform state and local decision-making.

REPI Policy Workshop

In May 2019, CLOSUP hosted a workshop in conjunction with the National Conference of State Legislatures, bringing state legislators from across the country who are active in energy issues to UM’s campus to engage Ford School and affiliate researchers on REPI research-in-progress, and brainstorm topics for future research. The authors also developed policy briefs on their research.

Plans are currently underway for a second workshop to be held in Summer 2020.


Funding to-date for the Renewable Energy Policy Initiative has been provided by the Ford School Renewable Energy Support Fund and through the Graham Sustainability Institutes’ Emerging Opportunities Program.

735 South State Street, Ann Arbor, MI. 48109-3091  | 
ph: 734-647-4091  | 
© 2020 Regents of the University of Michigan      
University of Michigan Gateway Ford School Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy