The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 signed by President Trump on February 11th, included a package of tax credits that may be a boost for renewable energy development and storage projects. The deal extends tax credits for the so-called “orphan” renewable energy technologies along with nuclear power production. Continue Reading “Orphaned” Energy Tax Credits Included in Budget Deal
On February 12, 2018, the White House issued its proposed framework for an infrastructure bill to Congress. Notably, the White House’s infrastructure plan proposes to (1) establish a firm deadline of 21 months for lead agencies to complete their National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) reviews and an additional 3 months thereafter to approve or deny a permit (i.e., a decision on an interstate natural gas pipeline project or hydropower license application must be made within 2 years of the application); and (2) amend the Clean Water Act (“CWA”) to set a deadline for a state agency to determine whether a CWA section 401 certificate application is complete.
The infrastructure plan, titled “Legislative Outline for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America,” provides a framework for a bill with four key components: (1) funding and financing infrastructure improvements; (2) provisions for road transportation, water infrastructure, veterans affairs property, and land revitalization improvements; (3) infrastructure permitting improvements; and (4) workforce development. In the proposal, the White House asks Congress to quickly act on an infrastructure bill that would “stimulate at least $1.5 trillion in new investment over the next 10 years, shorten the process for approving projects to 2 years or less, address unmet rural infrastructure needs, empower State and local authorities, and train the American workforce of the future.”
Of note, the White House proposes to streamline the NEPA process, including FERC’s environmental reviews of applications for interstate natural gas pipeline projects and hydropower licenses. With respect to NEPA reviews, the White House proposes to, among other things:
• Establish a firm deadline of 21 months for lead agencies to complete their NEPA reviews;
• Establish a deadline of 3 months after the NEPA review for the agency to approve or deny the project. This 3-month deadline would also apply to permits issued by state agencies acting pursuant to delegated authority. The plan adds that “[a]ppropriate enforcement mechanisms would be established to ensure that permit decisions are issued”;
• Clarify that an agency is not required to consider alternatives that are outside its jurisdiction during the NEPA review; and
• Require the Council on Environmental Quality to revise its regulations to streamline the NEPA process.
The White House also proposes to amend the CWA to set a deadline for state agencies to determine whether an application for a CWA section 401 certificate is complete and to clarify the deadline for a state decision on the application. In doing so, the White House notes that states currently have up to 1 year to act on an application, or the requirement is waived. The White House continues, however, that states often fail to act within the 1-year period or require applicants to re-file a more complete application prior to the 1-year deadline, “which produces a loop of repeated lack of issuance and re-filing.”
The White House concludes that its infrastructure plan “will strengthen the economy, make our country more competitive, reduce the costs of goods and services for American families, and enable Americans to build their lives on top of the best infrastructure in the world.”
A copy of the White House’s infrastructure plan is available here.
In 2017, there were a record number of solar policies debated in state legislatures and commissions, with nearly every state considering some kind of solar policy or rate change. Recently, the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center (NCCETC) released its 50 States of Solar report which reviews solar policies and initiatives across the nation. In its report NCCETC found that there were 249 state actions on solar policies in 2017: 34% were related to residential fixed charges and minimum bill increases, 27% were distributed generation (DG) compensation policies, and 12% were community solar policies. The actions took place in 45 States plus the District of Columbia. That is up by 17% from 212 actions in 2016 and 42% from the 175 actions in 2015. Continue Reading State-level Solar Policy Actions up 17% in 2017
On Monday, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) issued its “Master Plan” to develop the state’s offshore wind resources and establish 2,400 MW of offshore wind generation by 2030. The plan is a component of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) strategy to build clean and affordable energy systems across the state in an effort to achieve New York’s Clean Energy Standard with a goal of 50% renewable generation by 2030. Continue Reading New York Announces Master Plan to Develop 2.4 GW of Offshore Wind
While hydroelectric generation has historically been the largest source of renewable electricity generation, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects wind power to surpass hydro and become the largest renewable generation source sometime in the next two years. 2017 was a relatively wet year with hydro providing 7.4% of total utility-scale generation. But with only a handful of new hydro plant slated to come online in the next two years, hydroelectric generation will depend largely on water runoff and precipitation. Currently, the EIA predicts that hydro will be slightly lower in 2018 and 2019, and will produce 6.5% and 6.6% of utility-scale generation respectively. Although weather also greatly affects wind generation, output forecasts from wind are more dependent on capacity and the timing of new facilities coming online.
On January 18, 2018, FERC approved California Independent System Operator Corporation’s (“CAISO”) changes to its resource adequacy program to, among other things, (1) allow capacity located in a local capacity area, but procured as system capacity, to provide system substitution capacity during forced outages and (2) cap a load serving entity’s (“LSE”) monthly local capacity requirement at its monthly system capacity requirement.
CAISO and the local regulatory authorities within its footprint administer the resource adequacy program to ensure that LSEs procure enough transmission system capacity to meet their forecasted load, plus a reserve margin set by their local regulatory authority. Additionally, LSEs are required to procure local area capacity—capacity capable of meeting capacity requirements in a transmission-constrained area and that is also located within that area—and flexible resource adequacy capacity—resources that can ramp up and down quickly to manage variability. Moreover, LSEs must submit annual and monthly resource adequacy plans to CAISO demonstrating that they have procured enough capacity to meet their forecasted load and reserve margin, while scheduling coordinators for resource adequacy resources submit annual and monthly supply plans that CAISO uses to verify that LSEs are meeting their resource adequacy requirements. Continue Reading FERC Approves Changes to CAISO’s Resource Adequacy Program
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced that President Trump has implemented tariffs on imported solar cells and modules. The tariffs will be in effect for four years and include 30% tariffs on imported solar cells and modules for the first year, with the tariffs decreasing to 15% by the fourth year. Also, the first 2.5 gigawatts of cells imported each year will be exempt from the tariffs. The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) previously determined that increased imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells were a substantial cause of serious injury to the domestic industry producing competing articles. The USITC later issued remedy recommendations, including tariffs, to be considered by President Trump. For more information about the President’s decision, please see the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative fact sheet here.
The Wind Energy Foundation released a report finding that upgrades and investment in transmission infrastructure is necessary to keep up with corporate demand for renewable energy. As the price of solar and wind energy has fallen, corporate demand for renewable energy has increased to a point that existing transmission lines are inadequate to provide access to such energy. Since 2013, U.S. corporations have committed to buying roughly 9 GW of wind and solar power and in 2016, the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance set a target of purchasing an additional 60 GW of renewable energy by 2025. According to the report, transmission planners and regulators must approve plans to expand and upgrade transmission lines and FERC must improve their transmission planning process. With much of the renewable energy development taking place in the central U.S., long-distance transmission will be required to provide the renewable energy to major cities on the coasts. The full Wind Energy Foundation report can be found here.
The Second Session of the 115th Congress has officially kicked-off what promises to be an interesting and exciting new year. In the link below you will find an update from Troutman Sanders Strategies on the fast-approaching midterm elections and how federal policy decisions will be affected in 2018. The outlook describes the policy issues Congress and the administration may address over the coming months, provide information on members who have left or are leaving Congress, and analyze how those departures will affect leadership positions on congressional committees.
Read the full report here.
In his State of the State speech on January 3, 2018, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced an ambitious, multifaceted clean energy and climate change agenda. The principal objectives are as follows:
- Expand Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and Reduce Emissions Equitably From the Highest-Polluting, High Demand “Peaker” Power Plants
- Issue Solicitations in 2018 and 2019 to Develop at Least 800 MW of Offshore Wind Projects and Foster Offshore Wind Industry and Workforce in New York State
- $200 Million Investment to Meet Unprecedented Energy Storage Target of 1,500 Megawatts by 2025 In Order to Increase Transmission of Clean and Renewable Energy
- Create the Zero Cost Solar for All Program for 10,000 Low-Income New Yorkers
- Reconvene Scientific Advisory Committee on Climate Change Disbanded by the Federal Government
- Governor Directs the Establishment of Energy Efficiency Target by Earth Day
- Regulations to Close all Coal Plants to be Adopted