Category: Energy & Utilities

1
Act on Electromobility and Alternative fuels Enters into Force
2
FERC Rejects DOE’s Grid Reliability and Resilience NOPR
3
Tax Reform Conference Bill Released: PTC and ITC Emerge Battered
4
The Senate has passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Is this the next drop in the renewable energy roller coaster?
5
Today’s House vote in Favor of H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
6
Senate’s Version of the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” Is Good News for Energy Renewables
7
ITC Commissioners Recommend Tariffs and Quotas on Imports of Solar Cells and Modules; President May Announce Final Remedy Decision before End of 2017
8
Senate Energy Committee Talks Energy Storage, Hurricane Response, and Grid Resiliency
9
FERC Seeks Additional Comments on Proposed Primary Frequency Response Requirements for Electric Storage and Small Generating Facilities
10
K&L Gates Blockchain Energizer – Volume 9

Act on Electromobility and Alternative fuels Enters into Force

By Dr. Karol Lasocki, Piotr Michajłow, and Paulina Barańska

The Act of 11 January 2018 on Electromobility and Alternative Fuels enters into force on 22 February this year. It establishes a system of incentives for the promotion of the use of vehicles powered by alternative fuels, mainly electricity, and also introduces mechanisms for initiating investments in the necessary infrastructure.

The Act introduces into Polish law the requirements of Directive 2014/94/EU of 22 October 2014 on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure. EU Member States are to ensure that by 31 December 2020, an appropriate number of publicly available recharging points have been created to allow electrically powered vehicles to move at least in urban/suburban agglomerations and other densely populated areas.

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

FERC Rejects DOE’s Grid Reliability and Resilience NOPR

By William M. Keyser, Molly Suda, Gillian R. Giannetti and Toks A. Arowojolu

On January 8, 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (the “Commission”) issued an order rejecting the Department of Energy’s (“DOE”) notice of proposed rule making (“NOPR”) that would have allowed fuel secure generation that would include coal and nuclear generation facilities with a 90-day fuel supply to “fully recover costs” to maintain the resiliency of the electric grid. The Commission found that the NOPR did not comply with Section 206 of the Federal Power Act (“FPA”). Instead, the Commission initiated a new proceeding to “examine holistically the resilience of the bulk power system” and directed regional transmission organizations (“RTOs”) and independent system operators (“ISOs”) to respond to questions outlined in the order addressing grid resilience issues by March 9, 2018. All other interested entities may submit reply comments by April 9, 2018. Commissioners LaFleur, Chatterjee, and Glick each issued separate concurring opinions.

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Tax Reform Conference Bill Released: PTC and ITC Emerge Battered

By Elizabeth C. Crouse

Earlier this evening, the conference committee considering the tax reform bills previously passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate released legislative text for the much rumored conference bill. Although neither the Production Tax Credit (“PTC”) nor the Investment Tax Credit (“ITC”) are directly impacted, the Base Erosion and Anti-Abuse Tax (often referred to as the “BEAT” or “International AMT”) provides only partial relief for U.S. corporations subject to that tax that have PTCs or ITCs available to offset their U.S. federal income tax.

Under the conference bill, a U.S. corporation that is subject to the International AMT may use up to the lesser of 80% of the PTCs and ITCs available to them or the “base erosion minimum tax amount” only through 2025. The PTC and ITC cannot be used to eliminate any International AMT otherwise due.

As in previous iterations of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the conference bill does not distinguish between PTCs and ITCs earned in respect of qualifying projects that have already been placed in service or begun construction. In addition, although the International AMT rate has been adjusted (5% for tax years beginning in 2018, 10% for tax years beginning between 2019 and 2025, and 12.5% thereafter), the rate applicable to U.S. corporations that are in an affiliated group with any bank or registered securities dealer will always be 1% higher than the generally applicable rate. In addition, the PTC and ITC cannot be used to reduce the International AMT due in any tax year beginning in 2026 or thereafter.

Thus, although the impact of the International AMT is somewhat reduced in the conference bill, the International AMT could still prompt some multinational investors in renewable energy projects to divest certain operating projects and projects under development as well as discourage investment in new projects.

The Senate has passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Is this the next drop in the renewable energy roller coaster?

By Elizabeth C. Crouse

Early in the morning of Saturday, December 2, the U.S. Senate voted along party lines to approve its version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the “Act”). The U.S. House of Representatives approved its rather different version of the bill on Thursday, November 16, 2017. Although the two bills now must proceed through the conference process to reconcile their differences, many predict that any bill ultimately sent to the President will largely resemble the Senate version. It is not clear how long the conference process may take, but Congressional Republicans have indicated that they intend to send a final bill to the President before Christmas, perhaps as early as December 15. Ultimately, while it appears that the investment tax credit (“ITC”) and production tax credit (“PTC”) provisions likely will not be changed in the reconciliation bill, the net effect of other provisions, particularly a new “International AMT,” may significantly chill the tax equity market that supports much of the renewable energy industry.

The PTC and ITC Provisions Are Not Expected to Change

The tax reform measure approved by the full Senate includes several changes compared to the version approved by the Senate Finance Committee and also differs in some significant ways compared to the House bill. It is important to note that while the House bill includes dramatic cuts to the PTC and more limited revisions to the ITC, the Senate bill would not change either credit program. During the Senate Finance Committee mark-up, Republicans indicated their intent to address the availability of the ITC and PTC for certain “orphan” technologies before the end of the year. Addressing energy provisions in a different tax package would relieve some of the pressure on revenues in the tax reform bill as lawmakers must stay within the budget reconciliation instruction constraints, including that the deficit may not be increased by more than $1.5 trillion over a ten-year period.

Provisions That May Suppress Tax Equity Investment

However, both bills include radical changes to corporate and international taxation that may suppress investment in renewable energy projects that qualify for the ITC and PTC.

  • First, the change in the corporate income tax rate to a flat 20% rate (or perhaps a 22% rate, based on recent statements from the President), temporary renewal of 100% bonus depreciation and increased expensing of capital investments are expected to reduce appetite for tax credits because of generally reduced corporate exposure to U.S. federal income taxes. In addition, the Senate bill would not repeal the corporate Alternative Minimum Tax. (Under current law, a corporation that is subject to the Alternative Minimum Tax may be required to pay tax on income that would otherwise be sheltered by the PTC or ITC under certain circumstances. However, there is a significant effort to at least reduce the corporate Alternative Minimum Tax in the reconciliation bill.).
  • Second, in the course of changing the United States from a “worldwide” to a “territorial” tax system, the bills would add “base erosion” provisions that may inhibit investment by multinational corporations in the United States generally and specifically in PTC and ITC projects. In other words, under the bills, a person would be required to pay U.S. federal income tax on the income it earns in the United States, but not outside of the United States. The base erosion provisions are intended to limit the ability of a taxpayer to reduce its U.S. income through certain transactions and arrangements with non-U.S. affiliates. One of these rules would discourage a U.S. company from financing its operations with debt from a non-U.S. affiliate beyond a certain point.

Another base erosion provision would require a U.S. corporation to pay tax on 10% (11% if it is a bank) of (x) its “modified” taxable income, less (y) the tax it would otherwise pay without taking into consideration its U.S. federal income tax credits other than the research and development credit. A U.S. corporation is subject to this rule if it pays non-U.S. affiliates for a threshold amount of goods and services, e.g., component parts or administration, and the multinational group has gross receipts of more than $500 million on average over the prior three years (the “International AMT”). Although generally applicable, this rule would require a calculation of adjusted income that would not account for the PTC or ITC, regardless of when the PTCs or ITCs were earned. Thus, a company that is subject to the International AMT will likely be required to pay tax on income that would otherwise be sheltered by the PTC or ITC, including income that may be sheltered under the existing Alternative Minimum Tax rules. There are reports that a coalition of Republican Senators are attempting to exclude the PTC and ITC from the adjusted income calculation for the International AMT, but it is not clear that will be accomplished during the reconciliation process.

What does this mean for the renewable energy industry?

If the bill that ultimately crosses the President’s desk largely mirrors the Senate bill, it is likely that many of the very large tax equity investors will become subject to the International AMT (since many of those investors are banks, they are also likely to become subject to the higher International AMT rate). Some of those investors have indicated that they will attempt to sell their PTC and ITC holdings and will pull back from further investment. While it seems unlikely that the largest investors will completely exit the PTC and ITC market, even a partial withdrawal seems likely to cause significant turbulence in the market. While the provisions applicable to the tax equity investors that are not subject to the International AMT are more of a mixed bag, the reduction in the corporate income tax rate and increase in bonus depreciation may curb their PTC and ITC appetite.

There is a reasonable possibility that the reconciliation bill will diverge from the bills in material ways, particularly if the President’s recent statements considering a 22% corporate income tax rate are taken seriously. In any event, it seems likely that negotiations over the tax bills may convert the Suniva Section 201 proceeding into just one among several concerns for those riding the “solarcoaster” in the months ahead; at the same time, the uncertainty that the Senate and House bills create with respect to the PTC will occupy the attention of the wind industry.

Today’s House vote in Favor of H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

By: Elizabeth C. Crouse

Earlier today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. As expected, the limitations on the Production Tax Credit and Incentive Tax Credit that we discussed in our post on November 3 remain in the House bill: the House Republicans would dramatically curtail the PTC, leave the ITC in respect of solar energy installations largely intact, and renew the ITC in respect of several “orphan” renewable energy technologies. However, as discussed in our post on November 15, the Senate Republicans would not change the existing PTC or ITC provisions in the Senate tax reform package. (According to recent news reports, the Senate Republicans intend to renew the ITC in respect of the “orphan” technologies in an extenders bill later this year.) The Senate has not yet voted on its separate tax reform proposal and, at this point, it is not clear whether a conference committee bill will include any provisions regarding the PTC or ITC.

Senate’s Version of the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” Is Good News for Energy Renewables

By: Charles H. Purcell, Mary Burke Baker, Elizabeth C. Crouse, Rachel D. Trickett

On November 2, 2017, we alerted taxpayers that the House Ways and Means Committee had unveiled its much anticipated tax reform bill titled the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” (the “House Plan”). The House Plan includes substantial modifications to existing renewable energy tax credits including the production tax credit (“PTC”) and the investment tax credit (“ITC”), and also eliminates other tax incentives entirely, effective beginning after 2017, including the Section 199 Domestic Production Activities Deduction (the “DPAD”), the New Markets Tax Credit (the “NMTC”), the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit (the “HRTC”), the Enhanced Oil Recovery Credit, and the Credit for Producing Oil and Gas from Marginal Wells.

On the evening of November 9, 2017, Senate Republicans released the Senate’s proposal (the “Senate Plan”). The Senate Plan differs from the House’s proposed legislation in several key ways. Significantly, the Senate Plan does not modify the PTC or the ITC, which is consistent with public statements made by several Senate Republicans since the House Plan was released. Similarly, the Enhanced Oil Recovery Credit, Credit for Producing Oil and Gas from Marginal Wells, and NMTC would all be left intact and the HRTC would remain available, albeit in reduced form. However, unlike the House Plan, the Senate’s proposed legislation did not address expired energy credits for qualified fuel cell and small wind energy property, qualified microturbine property, or production from advanced nuclear power facilities.

Similar to the House’s proposed legislation, the Senate Plan would repeal the DPAD effective for tax years beginning after 2017. As we discussed in our previous alert, repealing the DPAD would affect a variety of domestic manufacturers of a number of items, including solar panels, construction equipment, and software, as well as oil and gas producers.

The Senate Plan is moving very quickly and is expected to proceed on a schedule roughly one week behind that of the House Plan.

ITC Commissioners Recommend Tariffs and Quotas on Imports of Solar Cells and Modules; President May Announce Final Remedy Decision before End of 2017

By: Stacy J. Ettinger, Elias B. Hinckley, and James R. Wrathall

As we previously reported, on September 22, 2017, the U.S. International Trade Commission (“ITC”) found that increased imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic (“CSPV”) cells and modules have seriously injured (economically harmed) U.S. solar manufacturers. The four ITC Commissioners have now announced their separate recommendations for how to alleviate or “remedy” that economic injury. Remedies, such as tariffs or quotas, normally can be imposed for a maximum of four years.

The President will have the final say on whether to impose a remedy, and if so, the form, amount, and duration of the remedy. There is speculation in Washington that the President’s remedy decision could be announced in December.

The stakes are high. Industry experts believe that tariffs at the levels originally requested by Suniva could massively impede the economic health and growth of U.S. downstream users and consuming industries, more than doubling the costs of some solar projects and putting tens of thousands of jobs at risk. Industry experts believe that imposition of tariffs at the levels recommended by the Commissioners could potentially have less of a draconian impact. Public comments on remedy issues for the President’s consideration may be submitted before November 20, 2017.

As described below, the Commissioners’ recommendations range from 10-35 percent tariffs on cell and module imports to defined quotas on imports of CSPV products. As a result of the ITC’s earlier injury findings, imports from free trade agreement (“FTA”) countries Mexico and Korea would be subject to imposition of remedies while imports from other FTA countries, including Canada, would not.

Chair Rhonda Schmidtlein recommends an in-quota tariff rate of 10 percent and an in-quota volume level of 0.5 gigawatts for imports of cells. Imports of cells that that exceed the in-quota 0.5 gigawatt volume level would be subject to a 30 percent tariff. Commissioner Schmidtlein also recommends a 35 percent tariffs on CSPV modules, to be reduced in each subsequent year.

Vice Chair David Johanson and Commissioner Irving Williamson recommend a 30 percent tariff on CSPV cell imports in excess of 1 gigawatt. In each subsequent year, the tariff rate would decrease and the in-quota amount would increase. For imports of CSPV modules, Commissioners Johanson and Williamson recommend a 30 percent tariff, to be reduced in each subsequent year.

Commissioner Meredith Broadbent recommends a quantitative restriction (quota) on imports of CSPV products into the United States, including cells and modules. The first year import quota would be set at 8.9 gigawatts, to be increased by 1.4 gigawatts in each subsequent year.

Commissioner Broadbent also recommends the President administer these quantitative restrictions through the sale of import licenses at public auction at a minimum price of one cent per watt. The revenue generated by the sale of import licenses would be used to assist domestic CSPV product manufacturers, including for purchase of production equipment, hiring of production workers, and R&D.

The ITC will send its final report to the President, including the Commissioners’ remedy recommendations, by November 13, 2017. The President has up to 60 days – and complete discretion – to determine the form, amount, and duration of the remedy.

The Commissioners’ remedy recommendations, if adopted by the President, would likely result in less impact on final module pricing than Suniva had originally requested. For example, the initial pricing impact of a 30 percent tariff would likely be in the range of 10 to 15 cents per watt on CSPV modules. This amount would likely decline as the price of modules drops and the tariff rate is reduced over time. Additionally, some CSPV manufacturing might shift to free trade agreement countries not included in the injury finding, which could further pull prices lower over time.

Public comments on remedy issues for the President’s consideration are due to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (“USTR”) on November 20, 2017. Rebuttal comments are due November 29, 2017. USTR will hold a public hearing on December 6, 2017.

For more information on the solar proceeding, including information on filing comments on remedy issues, contact Stacy Ettinger, Elias Hinckley, or Jim Wrathall of K&L Gates.

Senate Energy Committee Talks Energy Storage, Hurricane Response, and Grid Resiliency

By Jim Wrathall and Kristin Hoeberlein

On Tuesday, October 4, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a full committee hearing to discuss the status and future of energy storage technologies.

Committee Chairman Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AL) opened the hearing discussing the recent massive power outages caused by hurricanes in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Texas, and Florida. In the wake of these disasters, she emphasized consideration of energy storage technologies as part of grid reliability and resilience in rebuilding programs. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) urged that a supplemental aid package assisting Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands should be a bipartisan effort aimed at rebuilding grid infrastructure in a renewable and sustainable way, with energy storage technologies an important part of the solution.

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FERC Seeks Additional Comments on Proposed Primary Frequency Response Requirements for Electric Storage and Small Generating Facilities

By Molly Suda, William M. Keyser, and Elizabeth P. Trinkle

In one of its first orders since regaining a quorum, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) issued a Notice of Request for Supplemental Comments (“Notice”) on August 18, 2017, seeking comments related to circumstances where electric storage resources should be required to provide primary frequency response and the costs associated with primary frequency response capabilities for small generating facilities.

The Notice builds off of comments received in response to FERC’s November 17, 2016 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NOPR”). Along with a number of other proposals, the NOPR proposed to modify the pro forma Large Generator Interconnection Agreement and the pro forma Small Generator Interconnection Agreement to require all new large and small generating facilities, both synchronous and non-synchronous, to install, maintain, and operate equipment capable of providing primary frequency response as a condition of interconnection. The NOPR also proposed including minimum operating requirements for droop and deadband parameters and requirements to ensure timely and sustained responses to frequency deviations.

The NOPR did not include provisions specific to electric storage resources, and several commenters noted that by failing to address electric storage resources’ unique technical attributes, the NOPR requirements could pose an unduly discriminatory burden on such resources. In response to these concerns, FERC seeks additional information to better understand (1) the performance characteristics and limitations of electric storage resources; (2) potential ramifications to electric storage resources from the proposed primary frequency response requirements; and (3) what changes are needed to address the issues raised by stakeholders. While the Notice sets forth a number of specific questions for commenters to address, in general, the Notice seeks comments on operational limitations or challenges and potential adverse effects if electric storage resources are required to provide primary frequency response. The Notice also seeks comments on whether there are reasonable parameters or requirements that could apply to electric storage resources’ provision of primary frequency response.

In response to the NOPR, commenters also suggested a need to further investigate the costs for small generating facilities to install frequency response capability and argued that the proposed requirement would impose disproportionate costs on small generating facilities. Accordingly, to further assess small generating facilities’ ability and cost to comply with the proposed primary frequency response requirement, the Notice seeks comment on:

  • The differences in costs to install, maintain and operate governor or equivalent controls for small generating facilities versus large generating facilities;
  • Whether recent technological advances in primary frequency response capability minimize or eliminate barriers to entry for small generating facilities; and
  • Whether an exemption is appropriate for all or a subset of small generating facilities based on disproportionate cost impacts.

Developers, owners, and operators of electric storage resources and small generating facilities should consider whether the proposed primary frequency response requirements materially affect the cost, operation, and/or feasibility of projects to be developed. The Notice offers interested stakeholders an additional opportunity to shape FERC’s interconnection policy to avoid barriers to the integration of electric storage resources and small generating facilities and ensure any unique features of these technologies are addressed in future rules. The invitation for additional comments suggests that FERC may be interested in building a record to support different treatment or rules for energy storage resources and smaller distributed energy resources compared to traditional generation. Comments are due 21 days after publication of the Notice in the Federal Register.

K&L Gates Blockchain Energizer – Volume 9

By Molly Suda, Buck B. Endemann, and Ben Tejblum

There is a lot of buzz around blockchain technology and its potential to revolutionize a wide range of industries from finance and healthcare to real estate and supply chain management. Reports estimate that over $1.4 billion was invested in blockchain startups in 2016 alone, and many institutions and companies are forming partnerships to explore how blockchain ledgers and smart contracts can be deployed to manage and share data, create transactional efficiencies, and reduce costs.

While virtual currencies and blockchain technology in the financial services industry have been the subject of significant debate and discussion, blockchain applications that could transform the energy industry have received comparatively less attention. Every other week, the K&L Gates’ Blockchain Energizer will highlight emerging issues or stories relating to the use of blockchain technology in the energy space. To subscribe to the Blockchain Energizer newsletter, please click here.

IN THIS ISSUE

  • Illinois Moving Forward with Blockchain Pilots
  • Singapore: Latest Country to Develop a Regulatory Sandbox to Promote Energy Innovation
  • LO3 Energy Developing Blockchain-Powered Microgrid Technology to Australia

To view more information on theses topics in Volume 9 of the Blockchain Energizer, click here.

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