Document Type



Energy and Utilities Law | Property Law and Real Estate


This Article argues that a well-conceived policy approach to building-related renewable energy (“BRRE”) — that is, renewable energy incorporated into inhabited structures and used by those structures’ occupants — could transform the way we produce and consume energy by maximizing efficiency while simultaneously minimizing energy sprawl. The vast majority of Americans favor renewable energy, at least in concept. Yet private property owners still face significant obstacles in trying to incorporate renewable energy into their projects. This Article analyzes barriers faced by the project team for 360 State Street, an award-winning, mixed-use LEED® Platinum building in downtown New Haven, Connecticut. Among other features, the project incorporates one of the first fuel cells in a multifamily residential building in the world, uses 55 percent less electricity than a standard code-compliant building, must abide by a development agreement with the municipality requiring certain commitments to sustainability, and has become a poster child for the LEED® for Neighborhood Development program. It is an ideal case study because information about it is readily available; the project team considered multiple types of BRRE and coupled one type of BRRE with significant energy efficiency measures; and its primary funding comes from a single private source, meaning that the impact of renewable energy financing rules on decision-making can be more easily discerned than it might be in other projects that involve primarily public, or multiple private, sources. A case study can help confirm or rebut assumptions in the legal literature about the impact of BRRE-related law and policy on private decision-making. As this Article shows, the case study suggests that while legal scholars have focused primarily on issues related to the installation of BRRE, issues related to the operation of BRRE may be just as, if not more, significant to prospective BRRE developers. BRRE can be expanded if scholars and policymakers address barriers, particularly at the state level, to fully utilizing BRRE capacity once it is installed.