Category: Emissions

1
FERC Updates PURPA Rules and Dismisses Petition to Declare Jurisdiction over Net-Metering Sales
2
Keeping “PACE” in Commercial Real Estate Improvements: A Primer on the New Washington Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy and Resiliency (C-PACER) Program
3
CLE Presentation: COVID-19: Perspectives for the “Next New Normal” for Renewable and Utility Companies
4
FERC Sets Technical Conference to Assess COVID-19 Impacts on Energy Industry
5
Join Us! Energy Storage Association Webinar: Energy Storage, Trade and China
6
Treasury to Extend Deadlines for Accessing Wind, Solar Tax Credits
7
What’s Next for California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard?
8
Illinois District Court Rejects Federal Preemption Challenges to State Zero-Emissions Credit Program
9
Executive Order Directs Federal Agencies to Reconsider Federal Initiatives Focused on Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Climate Change
10
CEQ Issues Final Greenhouse Gas Guidance Directing Federal Agencies to Consider Climate Change in their NEPA Reviews

FERC Updates PURPA Rules and Dismisses Petition to Declare Jurisdiction over Net-Metering Sales

By Kimberly Frank, Buck Endemann, Abraham Johns

On July 16, 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or “the Commission”) issued two noteworthy electric power orders: the first is a final rule (“Order No. 872”) that updates regulations implementing the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (“PURPA”);[1] the second dismisses the New England Ratepayer Association’s (“NERA”) petition for a declaratory order on FERC’s jurisdiction over net energy metering sales.[2] 

Final Rule on PURPA Update

In September 2019, FERC issued of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NOPR”) to significantly change how it implements PURPA, a law that applies to small power producers.[3]  In Order No. 872, FERC largely adopted the NOPR’s proposed revisions to the Commission’s regulations implementing PURPA sections 201 and 210.  Notable changes to the PURPA regulations include: (1)  providing additional flexibility to set “avoided cost” rates for qualifying facilities (“QFs”) sales; (2) modifying the “one-mile rule” to allow for consideration that affiliated QFs more than one mile but less than ten miles apart may be at the same site ; (3) revising procedures to  challenge  initial QF certification and re-certification; (4) revising the threshold from 20 megawatts (“MW”) to 5 MW at which a utility may petition to terminate its obligation to purchase from certain QFs; and (5) requiring states to develop criteria that must be met for a QF to be entitled to a contract or legally enforceable obligation (“LEO”).   

Changes included in Order No. 872 will be effective 120 days from publication in the Federal Register.  When effective, Order No. 872 will not affect existing contracts, LEOs, or existing certifications for facilities, but will be prospective, applying to new contracts or LEOs, and certifications or recertifications for facilities filed after the order’s effective date.

Dismissal of NERA Petition for Declaratory Order

On April 14, 2020, NERA filed a petition for declaratory order, seeking FERC’s declaration that FERC holds exclusive jurisdiction over wholesale energy sales from behind-the-meter generation[4] and requiring that the rates for such sales be priced pursuant to the Federal Power Act (“FPA”) or PURPA, when applicable.  Specifically, NERA asked FERC to declare jurisdiction over energy sales of rooftop solar and other distributed energy resources on the customer side whenever the output exceeds the customer’s demand, or the energy is meant to bypass customer load.  NERA characterized “full net metering,” as “a practice through which an electricity consumer produces electric energy from a generation source (most often solar panels) that is located on the same side of the retail meter as the customer’s load.”[5]  Historically, the Commission sees such transactions as retail in nature and regulated by the states.  NERA argued, however, that the energy exceeding customer demand or bypassing customer load is sold to a utility for resale to customers, making them wholesale sales, and therefore, subject to FERC’s jurisdiction.[6] 

The Commission began its analysis with a reminder: “Declaratory orders to terminate a controversy or remove uncertainty are discretionary.”[7]  The Commission then used its discretion not to address the issues presented, as they did not “warrant a generic statement” from FERC.[8]  The Commission found that NERA never identified “a specific controversy or harm” to be addressed.[9]  Further, the Commission found that to the extent NERA is concerned that certain New England state regulatory authorities are not pricing QF sales in accordance with PURPA, the petition did not meet PURPA’s requirements for enforcement. 


[1] Qualifying Facility Rates and Requirements Implementation Issues Under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978, 172 FERC ¶ 61,041 (2020).

[2] New England Ratepayers Ass’n, 172 FERC ¶ 61,042 (2020) (“NERA Order”).

[3] Qualifying Facility Rates and Requirements Implementation Issues Under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978, 168 FERC ¶ 61,184 (2019) (“NOPR”).

[4] Behind-the-meter generation refers to energy generated from the customer side of the retail meter.

[5] NERA Order at P 3.

[6] NERA Order at P 4.

[7] NERA Order at P 35.

[8] NERA Order at P 35.

[9] NERA Order at P 36-37.

Keeping “PACE” in Commercial Real Estate Improvements: A Primer on the New Washington Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy and Resiliency (C-PACER) Program

Authors: Rhys W. Hefta, Craig S. Trueblood, David L. Benson, Kari L. Larson

Commercial property owners in the state of Washington may soon have access to a new source of funding for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and resiliency improvements to their buildings. Washington’s C-PACER legislation (House Bill 2405), passed by the legislature during the 2020 regular session, went into effect 11 June 2020. The C-PACER program aims to address the significant needs for property owners to finance energy efficiency upgrades, renewable energy improvements, stormwater management, water conservation, and resiliency retrofits to address vulnerabilities to earthquakes and other natural disasters.

The state and many local governments across the country are imposing new requirements on the owners of existing buildings to reduce water and energy consumption, control stormwater runoff, minimize damage from earthquakes, and convert to renewable sources of energy. These types of building improvements often have high up-front capital costs and long cost-recovery periods. This combination has inhibited investment by property owners who may not plan on holding an asset long enough to see the benefit of these improvements.

With the enactment of the C-PACER program, Washington joins 36 other states that have enacted some form of property assessed clean energy legislation (20 of which have current active programs). Washington’s C-PACER program, like some other states, relies on private rather than public financing. Unlike traditional private financing models, C-PACER loans are not personal debt obligations. Rather, the C-PACER loan is repaid through a voluntary assessment on the improved property that runs with the land and is secured by a super-priority lien. Accordingly, the obligation to repay the C-PACER loan remains with the property regardless of any transfer of ownership. Because of this unique structure, C-PACER loans can allow for a much longer repayment period than traditional financing options. In addition, the super-priority of the lien allows for lower interest rates. In theory, the longer term and beneficial rate will improve the ability of the owner to repay the C-PACER loan, as the owner actually accrues the benefit of savings on utility bills, lower insurance premiums, and other operating cost reductions from the improvements.

The following is a brief summary of the key information to know about the C-PACER program.

Is the C-PACER Program Available Statewide?

The C-PACER program is a voluntary program that is to be managed on a statewide basis by the Washington Department of Commerce (though a C-PACER program guidebook is not expected this year as a result of COVID-19). Once established, each county must opt into the program on a voluntary basis. However, counties are not required to wait for the statewide program. Each county is empowered to establish its own program in compliance with the requirements of the state legislation. Accordingly, availability will vary by jurisdiction. No counties have yet adopted a program.

What Properties Qualify?

Under the C-PACER program, owners of agricultural, commercial, and industrial properties are eligible to obtain financing for qualifying projects. The C-PACER program also applies to owners of multifamily residential properties with five or more dwelling units. Eligible property may be owned by any type of business, corporation, individual, or nonprofit organization permitted by state law. However, as noted above, individual counties have broad discretion to establish their own program within the parameters of the state legislation and could limit the types of properties that qualify.

What Projects Qualify?

C-PACER financing is available both for qualifying improvements to existing commercial buildings and new construction. Qualified improvements include, among others, solar panels, high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, insulation and other improvements that address safe drinking water, or those that decrease energy or water consumption or demand through efficiency technologies, products, or activities. Improvements that support the production of clean, renewable energy, including a product, device, or interacting group of products or devices on the customer’s side of the meter that generates electricity, provides thermal energy, or regulates temperature, would also be deemed qualifying improvements. Likewise, improvements that increase resilience are also qualified improvements. Examples of resilience improvements include seismic retrofits, flood mitigation, stormwater management, wildfire and wind resistance, energy storage, and microgrids. The inclusion of resiliency improvements is a feature of the Washington legislation that is not found in other jurisdictions and may be of particular interest for owners of unreinforced masonry buildings and other properties in need of seismic improvements.

How Is the C-PACER Loan Repaid?

As discussed above, C-PACER loans are repaid by a voluntary assessment on the improved property, secured by a lien in favor of the county, which is then immediately assigned to the C-PACER lender. The lien is second only in priority to the lien for unpaid taxes. Once a C-PACER loan is advanced, the administration of the C-PACER loan (including enforcement) is done by the private lender. After the adoption of a C-PACER program, a county’s role is limited to the approval of an assessment and recordation of a C-PACER lien, as well as to the administration of the C-PACER program (which may be contracted out to a private third party).

Who Makes the C-PACER Loans?

Subject to compliance with generally applicable licensing requirements, any private entity can make a C-PACER loan.

What Is the Impact for Holders of Mortgages on the Property?

Because the lien of a C-PACER loan is superior to all other debt obligations other than unpaid taxes, written consent of any existing mortgagee or other holder of a security interest in the real property is required before an owner can obtain a C-PACER loan. Note that the super-priority nature of C-PACER loans may be objectionable to mortgage lenders (and, in fact, some lenders expressly prohibit borrowers from obtaining any such loans).

How Is the C-PACER Lien Enforced?

The private lender is responsible for collection and enforcement of delinquent C-PACER liens or C-PACER loan installment payments. The C-PACER lien is enforced by the lender in the same manner that the collection of delinquent real property taxes is enforced by the county under chapter 84.64 RCW, including the provisions of RCW 84.64.040, with minor exceptions.

CLE Presentation: COVID-19: Perspectives for the “Next New Normal” for Renewable and Utility Companies

Join us on Wednesday, June 10, 2020, for a CLE presentation on “COVID-19: Perspectives for the “Next New Normal” for Renewable and Utility Companies.”

Companies are seeing unprecedented legal and business impacts due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  These impacts are bringing about changes in strategy and how many companies approach their day-to-day business operations to adapt to this new business environment. This one-hour session will involve a presentation by the following K&L Gates attorneys sharing their perspectives on what to consider during the “next new normal.”

Moderator: 

Panelists:

This presentation will include the evolving legal and business impacts of COVID-19 in connection with:

  • Contract Issues
  • Insurance Issues
  • Potential Work Issues
  • Litigation Trends

This webinar will contain a chat feature in which you can submit questions so that we may tailor this presentation to address your concerns.

To register, please click here.

FERC Sets Technical Conference to Assess COVID-19 Impacts on Energy Industry

By: William Keyser, Sandra Safro, Patrick Metz and Abraham Johns

On May 20, 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or the “Commission”) announced that it will hold a technical conference to discuss the impact on the energy industry of emergency conditions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.  The conference will take place July 8-9, 2020 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Preregistration for the conference is available at: http://www.ferc.gov/whats-new/registration/07-07-20-form.asp.  FERC will issue a supplemental notice that includes the conference agenda in a proceeding opened in Docket No. AD20-17-000.

The Commission plans to use the conference to assess the ongoing impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on parts of the U.S. energy industry.  While the Commission already enacted short-term regulatory relief actions for regulated entities, the conference will explore long-term options for safeguarding the nation’s energy markets, electric transmission system, natural gas and oil transportation, and future operation of energy infrastructure. 

In addition, FERC intends for the event to serve as a public forum for the Commission and stakeholders to address the recovery of the industry from the COVID-19 pandemic.  The event will afford the public an opportunity to receive high-level information about how COVID-19 may change the energy industry moving forward. 

Among the topics the Commission plans to cover in panels and discussions are: (1) ongoing and future operational and planning challenges due to COVID-19; (2) operations, planning, and infrastructure development impacts anticipated due to the effect of COVID-19 on electric demand; (3) operations, planning, and infrastructure development impacts anticipated due to the effect of COVID-19 on natural gas and oil demand; and (4) anticipated issues related to access to capital, such as credit, liquidity, and return on equity.

Further information about the event will be posted on the Calendar of Events webpage for the event.  K&L Gates will continue to monitor for updates from the Commission about the conference.

Join Us! Energy Storage Association Webinar: Energy Storage, Trade and China

Please join K&L Gates’ Elizabeth Crouse on the Energy Storage Association’s upcoming webinar, Energy Storage, Trade and China, on Thursday, May 21 from 12:00 PM – 1:00 CDT.

This webinar will explore the key trade and national security policies that currently impact the ESS market in the U.S. and assess their potential impacts on future deployments, including:

• How might regulatory developments under the Executive Order impact storage?
• What might the future hold for tariffs?
• How do these processes play out in an election year?

For more information and to register, please click here.

Treasury to Extend Deadlines for Accessing Wind, Solar Tax Credits

Author: Elizabeth Crouse

This afternoon, the Office of Legislative Affairs at the Department of Treasury, issued a letter to Charles Grassley, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, indicating that Treasury intends to issue administrative relief to the solar and wind industries regarding certain investment tax credit (“ITC”) and production tax credit (“PTC”) deadlines. Although the letter does not provide any details as to the nature of this relief, Chairman Grassley’s April 23, 2020 letter to Treasury requested that the four-year safe harbor for the continuous construction and continuous efforts test for the PTC and ITC be extended to a five-year safe harbor period.

Chairman Grassley did not request administrative relief concerning the impact of COVID-19 related measures taken by manufacturers and shipping companies on a customer’s “reasonable expectation” that materials purchased in 2019 would be delivered within 3.5 months after payment. This latter provision is important for purposes for establishing beginning of construction of solar projects in 2019.

What’s Next for California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard?

By Buck Endemann

In September 2018, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved several significant changes to California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) that will take affect on January 1, 2019. [1] The LCFS is California’s “cap and trade” regime for transportation fuels, where fuels are assigned a Carbon Intensity (CI) that varies depending on their feedstock and how they are produced or manufactured.  Producers of fuels with a CI under the annual cap (for 2018, 93.55 grams of CO2 equivalent per Megajoule) earn credits while producers of higher-carbon fuels like gasoline and diesel incur deficits and are required to buy offsetting credits to meet the annual average CI value.  Credits are bought and sold in the secondary market, and the current LCFS credit price of nearly $200/Metric Ton is driving the development of many facilities that are able to produce transportation fuels with low CI scores. 

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Illinois District Court Rejects Federal Preemption Challenges to State Zero-Emissions Credit Program

By Molly Suda, Donald A. Kaplan, William M. Keyser, John L. Longstreth, and Elizabeth P. Trinkle

UPDATE: On July 25, 2017, the New York court issued its decision, which also upheld New York’s ZEC program. We will have more analysis of that decision in a later post.

On July 14, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois issued an opinion dismissing challenges to the state of Illinois’ zero-emissions credit (“ZEC”) program. Illinois’ ZECs are tradable credits created by statute that, in the court’s words, put “money in the coffers of Exelon from the sale of ZECs that will give it a benefit when pricing its energy in the wholesale market relative to competing energy producers that do not receive ZEC payments.” The ZECs represent the zero-emissions attributes of nuclear power and would provide additional revenue for nuclear power plants, whose owners state they are unable to cover their costs in the current low-price wholesale energy and capacity markets.

In its decision in the companion cases Village of Old Mill Creek v. Star and Electric Power Supply Association v. Star upholding the ZEC program, the court rejected arguments that Illinois’ program is preempted by the Federal Power Act and further concluded that ZECs do not discriminate under the dormant commerce or equal protection clauses. If affirmed on appeal, the opinion could have important implications for the future of other states’ programs aimed at supporting at-risk nuclear power plants and may influence the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (“FERC”) outlook on its role in integrating state programs and policies into wholesale energy markets.

To read the full alert on K&L Gates HUB, click here.

Executive Order Directs Federal Agencies to Reconsider Federal Initiatives Focused on Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Climate Change

By William J. Moltz, David J. Raphael, Sandra E. Safro, Ankur K. Tohan, Michael L. O’Neill                     

President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order on March 28, 2017, entitled “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth” (“Order”), which is designed to prompt reconsideration, and in some cases revocation, of the Obama Administration’s actions to address greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.  The Order directs several federal agencies to review, and possibly withdraw, specific policy initiatives like the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) Clean Power Plan rulemaking and the U.S. Department of the Interior (“Interior”) 2015 and 2016 rules on oil and gas production on federal lands.  In addition, the Order directs the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality (“CEQ”) to rescind its 2016 final guidance document regarding the consideration of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change impacts in environmental reviews performed under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”).  More broadly, the Order also directs all federal agencies to review “all agency actions” that “potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources.”

As discussed in greater detail below, the Order may have far-reaching implications for U.S. policy on energy production, greenhouse gas regulation, and climate change that could have spillover impacts for energy infrastructure development.  A vigorous debate is certain to follow with interested stakeholders evaluating strategic options including notice and comment rulemaking, litigation, and legislative advocacy.

To read the full alert on K&L Gates HUB, click here.

CEQ Issues Final Greenhouse Gas Guidance Directing Federal Agencies to Consider Climate Change in their NEPA Reviews

By Craig Wilson, Cliff Rothenstein, Sandra Safro, Ankur Tohan, David Wochner and Michael L. O’Neill

On August 2, 2016, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) published a final version of its guidance to federal agencies requiring the consideration of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and effects on climate change when evaluating potential impacts of a federal action under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). CEQ explains that it does not expect the Final Guidance to be applied to federal actions for which a NEPA review has been concluded or actions for which a final environmental impact statement or environmental assessment has been issued. As discussed in greater detail below, although the Final Guidance is not legally binding on federal agencies, various aspects of the document have the potential to delay permitting timelines as agencies determine whether and how to incorporate the Final Guidance into their reviews and very likely will add to the level of review that agencies undertake.

To read the full alert, click here.

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