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?
This week, two highly anticipated visits have captivated the attention of the nation’s capital and the world. President Obama welcomed both Pope Francis and Chinese President Xi Jinping to Washington, with climate change concerns on top of each agenda. Momentum on the issue will carry into next week as United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon brings together heads of state to discuss climate change on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
The Obama administration also announced several funding efforts aimed at bolstering renewable energy technology. On September 16, Vice President Biden announced $102 million in initiatives targeted at scaling solar technology in 24 states. The day prior, the DOE announced that its small business voucher pilot program will launch September 23. The program will provide $20 million to selected national labs which will distribute vouchers and provide guidance to small businesses developing clean energy technologies. For more on these developments and the latest from Washington, read our update from ML Strategies.
Although there are a variety of barriers to expanding clean technology’s reach across the United States, there are also numerous ways to optimize policy that will streamline renewable energy and cleantech at ever greater scales. Over the next six weeks, we will feature a series providing insight into the problems and possible solutions that, if implemented, promise a bright future as clean energy moves America forward. Going forward, each week Tom Burton will publish an installment with one problem and the potential solution(s).
This series will be based off Tom Burton’s keynote presentation entitled, “Policy and Legal Implications of Implementing Renewable Energy at Scale,” which was presented last summer at the American Renewable Energy Institute’s 12th Annual American Renewable Energy Day (AREDAY) Summit in Snowmass Village, Colorado. To view his full presentation, please see below or click here. This year’s theme was “Racing Climate Change – Green Bridge with China: Road to Paris.” Mintz Levin sponsored the event in conjunction with many others. The summit featured speeches from a number of perspectives on cleantech and renewable energy, including Thomas L. Friedman of The New York Times¸ the Honorable Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia, Huang Ming of Himin Solar, and General Wesley Clark.
This week, the House had hearings on several energy policy issues, including the crude oil export ban, the electric grid, and a broad bipartisan energy package. Also in D.C., President Obama continues his busy fall climate agenda as he prepares for Pope Francis’ visit, which will partly center on the Pope’s environmentally focused encyclical Laudato Si.
The Department of Energy also had two exciting announcements this week. On September 10, the DOE released its second Quadrennial Technology Review, outlining the energy world’s broad research and development challenges. It emphasizes current technological developments in several areas, such as fuel cells and water use, that are crucial to the country’s energy future. The Department also awarded $6.5 million to seven organizations to advance low environmental impact hydropower technologies. For a full report on the week in Washington, read the latest update from ML Strategies.
On Thursday, September 10, The New England Clean Energy Council (NECEC) hosted its third annual Legislative Roundup. The event brought together clean energy advocates and technology developers from around the Northeast to discuss the region’s latest policies and their impact on residents, businesses, and other key entities. The panel presentation, moderated by NECEC President Peter Rothstein and NECEC VP of Policy and Government Affairs Janet Gail Besser, included Jeff Marks of E2Tech, Kate Epsen of the New Hampshire Sustainable Energy Association, Gabrielle Stebbins of Renewable Energy Vermont, as well as Dan Bosley and Sue AnderBois, both of NECEC. Read below for a look at the latest in regional energy policy trends:
Mintz Levin attorney Kristin Gerber garnered recognition in a Huffington Post article last week for her work in the social entrepreneurship sector. Kristin was highlighted as one of the Hult Prize Foundation’s “Great Partners” – people who have engaged directly with teams competing for the Hult Prize to create value – for the services she has provided to Hult Prize competitors over the past few months. She has spent at least 40 hours providing legal advice for free, serving as a legal mentor for the competition’s six finalists. For more on the Hult Prize and how Kristin has assisted these social entrepreneurs, read on!
Interested in upcoming events in the energy technology industry? Look no further! Our blog features an events page dedicated to listing happenings around the globe. Click here to view it – and feel free to add this page to your favorites list!
Are you hosting an energy event that you’d like us to include? Please reach out to Cassie Bent at CMBent@mintz.com.
Below we’ve included upcoming events in September. For a full list of events, visit the events page.
Congress is officially back in session, and several important energy-related issues loom on the horizon, including TSCA reform and a tax extenders package that could potentially impact renewable energy tax credits. President Obama, meanwhile, wrapped up a trip to the Arctic last week, announcing several funding initiatives designed to encourage energy efficiency in Alaska and elsewhere.
With Congress out of session over the past few weeks, President Obama continued to make climate change and clean energy a key part of his agenda. In addition to visits to New Orleans and Alaska focused on climate change, the president also announced a number of key initiatives designed to incentivize and reward innovators in the clean technology sector. Continue Reading