In early April 2017, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) partnered with investor-owned electric distribution companies across the state to jointly issue a request for proposals (RFP) for renewable energy generation. The mission of the RFP is to ultimately help the state meet goals outlined by energy diversity legislation signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker in August 2016. By the time the initial deadline closed on July 27th, the state had received nearly four dozen bids for a contract to add more renewable power to its energy portfolio.
Earlier this year, Massachusetts passed legislation that will require the state’s distribution utilities to purchase carbon-free electricity from hydropower and on and offshore wind farms under long-term contracts for up to 30% of the state’s electricity supply. Despite opposition from incumbent generators and large consumers over concerns that the bill would interfere with market competition, Democratic legislators found common ground with Republican Governor Charlie Baker to enact historic “clean energy” legislation that will transform the fuels used to generate the state’s power while significantly reducing its carbon-footprint. To learn more, read on!
The U.S.’s offshore wind industry is poised for a burst of activity after faltering for several years on the heels of the stalled Cape Wind project in Massachusetts. The country’s first offshore wind farm will open this fall off the coast of Rhode Island. To read more about this project, continue reading!
Last Sunday, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a compromise energy bill to significantly increase electricity produced by renewable energy sources. The state’s utilities will be required to purchase power from on and offshore wind farms, as well as power from hydroelectric dams located largely in Canada. Governor Baker is expected sign the bill in short order, as he has strongly supported purchasing imports of clean energy. To learn more about this bill, read on!
After meetings last week with Pope Francis and Xi Jinping, this week President Obama continued his environmental push with a visit to the UN General Assembly and an interview in Rolling Stone. On Capitol Hill, Senators and Congressmen are dealing with energy tax extenders among a host of other issues, including avoiding a government shutdown.
Also of note in D.C., the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced that on November 9th it will auction land off the coast of New Jersey for wind development. It has identified 13 companies as qualified to participate in the upcoming sale. According to the agency, the area could support up to 3400 MW of commercial wind generation. For more on the week in Washington check out the latest update from ML Strategies.
Tom Burton, Chair of Mintz Levin’s Energy Technology Practice, will publish a weekly installment providing insight into the challenges and possible solutions that, if implemented, promise a bright future as clean energy moves America forward. In this series, Tom will include one challenge per week and the potential solution(s). This is the second installment of the series. To read Part 1, click here.
The Problem: Supply and Demand Geographic Mismatch
Because much of America’s renewable energy supply is inland and demand is on the coasts (about 52% of the U.S. population is coastal), demand cannot meet supply without extensive transmission networks. For instance, about 60% of the nation’s wind energy is produced inland – Texas alone accounts for 25%. However, states and localities have many different rules regarding the siting of these lines, making project development complex. While the Federal Power Act (FPA) grants the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) authority to regulate electricity transmission in interstate commerce as well as the sale of electricity for resale, it reserves all other authorities to the states.
- Recently, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals used the FPA to invalidate a FERC Order encouraging demand response because states have jurisdiction over interstate transmission.
- In 2014, Ohio enacted a bill to revise the setback distance to a minimum of 1,125 feet from the nearest property line. Several proposed wind farms were immediately off the table, and had the Blue Creek Wind Farm not been grandfathered in, only 12 of its 152 turbines would have been able to be built. The case shows that the complicated nature of regulations has implications for renewable energy development beyond transmission alone.
- CapX2020 was a Minnesota project involving several utilities that wanted to expand transmission for wind development. It took over 11 years to complete, in part due to a state law known as “Buy the Farm,” which allows landowners to require utilities purchase their entire property outright. CapX required negotiations with over 2,000 landowners, about 100 of whom requested buy the farm and have negotiated over many years. If this continues, renewables will truly “buy the farm.”
Obviously, the rules need to change, but how?
The Obama Administration’s release of the final Clean Power Plan kicked off a busy second half of the year for climate and energy policy issues. As climate issues increasingly become an important part President Obama’s legacy, and as we march closer and closer to the end of the year international climate negotiations in Paris, read on for a list of the upcoming high level energy and climate events that are sure to transform the industry:
ENERGY AND CLIMATE DEBATE
Congress returns to Washington this week for a two-week session before leaving again to campaign in advance of the November elections. The House will vote on a fairly clean continuing resolution on Thursday, with the Senate to debate the funding measure shortly thereafter. The continuing resolution will likely fund the government through December 11. The measure could serve as a vehicle for two other September priorities: reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, the charter of which is set to expire September 30, and passage of the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act. Following the November 4 election, Congress will return for an intense lame duck session that could include debate on a lengthy and wide range of issues, including a host of expired tax provisions such as the production tax credit.
ENERGY AND CLIMATE DEBATE
Congress is in recess for the remainder of August, but when it returns for just over two weeks in September, much of the focus will turn to crafting a continuing resolution to keep the government open while senators and representatives continue to negotiate a budget.
In addition to negotiating a continuing resolution, reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank and Department of Defense programs, and addressing internet taxation, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has identified several bills for debate prior to the November elections. Majority Leader Reid plans to hold votes on measures to raise the minimum wage, address pay equity issues and student loan rates, and guarantee access to contraception, as well as a constitutional amendment to limit campaign contributions and spending.
On the House side, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told the House Republican conference August 8 that he plans to bring up two packages of jobs and energy legislation and an Obamacare bill in September. Though not finalized, the energy package would approve the Keystone XL pipeline (H.R. 3), limit environmental regulations (H.R. 1582), and open federal lands to energy extraction (H.R. 4899).
On Wednesday, March 12th, the Northeast Energy and Commerce Association will host the 11th Annual Conference on Renewable Energy. This content-rich, one-day conference will explore the emerging dynamics of renewable energy in New England. Conference Co-Chairs David O’Connor, Senior Vice President of Energy for ML Strategies, LLC, and Matt Shortsleeve, Regional Director of RGS Energy, will kick off the conference with a welcoming speech and overview of the day’s events. Throughout the day, participants will hear from industry experts, both within and outside the region, through provocative panel presentations, informative exhibitor booths and relaxed networking breaks. The experts will share keen insights and seasoned perspectives on topics such as solar incentive structures, off-shore wind prospects, transmission expansion and innovative financing models.
The Northeast Energy and Commerce Association (NECA) promotes environmentally sound, reliable and cost-effective wholesale and retail markets for the production and delivery of electric power supply, competing energy services and resource alternatives, including conservation, innovative demand-side and power delivery technologies, renewable energy and distributed generation. NECA’s 950 members, representing 130 entities, include developers and owner/operators of competitive power projects, both regulated and merchant transmission and distribution companies, power marketers and traders, fuel and equipment suppliers, power consumers and various service providers to the power industry, including law firms, investment bankers, environmental engineering and economic consulting firms. Through its regular series of meeting and conferences throughout the year, NECA serves as a clearinghouse of cutting-edge industry information. Continue Reading NECA 11th Annual Renewable Energy Conference