Global Power Law & Policy

Legal and Policy Developments Affecting the Global Power Industry.

 

1
FERC Announces Proposed Rule to Reduce Regulatory Burden for Generators that Own Generation Tie-Lines
2
Doing Business in India Webinar – May 21
3
President Obama Announces New Commitments to Drive Solar Development
4
Third Time’s a Charm? Administration Weighs More Guidance on Recent Changes to Renewable Electricity Credits
5
K&L Gates to Attend AWEA WINDPOWER 2014
6
EPA Survives Challenge to Cross Border Air Pollution Rule
7
Upcoming Event: Investing in Renewable Energy 2.0
8
New Turns in Germany’s Energy Turnaround
9
Energy Tax Incentives Prominent in Senate Finance Committee’s Extenders Package
10
President’s Budget Sets Energy Tax Priorities

FERC Announces Proposed Rule to Reduce Regulatory Burden for Generators that Own Generation Tie-Lines

In a Noticed of Proposed Rulemaking announced on May 16, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) proposed the following three reforms to reduce regulatory burdens for generators that own generation tie-lines (also known as Interconnection Customer’s Interconnection Facilities or “ICIF”) and to promote the development of generation resources, while still ensuring open access to those seeking transmission service over the ICIF:

Blanket Waiver of Certain Open Access Rules: A public utility (1) that is subject to open access transmission tariff (OATT) requirements, open access posting requirements, and FERC’s standard of conduct rules solely because it owns, controls, or operates ICIF and (2) that sells electric energy from its Generating Facility would be granted a waiver from the requirement to file an OATT and from related open access posting requirements and standard of conduct rules. Also, unlike under the current policy under which a third-party request for transmission service automatically revokes a generator’s OATT waiver, the proposed blanket waiver would not be revoked if transmission service over the ICIF is requested by a third party.

Federal Power Act (FPA) Sections 210 and 211 Apply to Third-Party Requests for Service: For a third party to obtain interconnection and transmission services on ICIF, the third-party must submit an application to FERC under Federal Power Act (FPA) sections 210 and 211, 16 U.S.C. §§ 824i-j. Sections 210 and 211 grant FERC the authority to require, respectively, the physical interconnection of a third-party’s facilities and the provision of transmission service to a third party if FERC determines that doing so is in the public interest.

Five-Year Safe Harbor Preserving Priority Transmission Rights: ICIF owners that are eligible for the proposed blanket waiver would be entitled to a rebuttable presumption that (1) they have definitive plans to use the capacity on the ICIF and (2) they should not be required to expand their facilities. The rebuttable presumption would last for a period of five years following the ICIF’s energization. However, the ICIF owner would need to make an informational filing to FERC reporting that its five-year safe harbor period had begun. The safe harbor period is intended to preserve eligible ICIF owners’ priority use, which is particularly important to generation projects that will be developed in phases.

The proposed reforms would replace FERC’s current policy of granting priority transmission rights and waivers of OATT and related open access requirements to ICIF owners on a case-by-case basis. FERC found that its current case-by-case approach has created undue risk, burden, and uncertainty for generation developers. The proposed reforms are intended to mitigate these problems while still ensuring open, non-discriminatory access to the transmission grid.

FERC’s announcement seeks comments from the industry on ways to implement and refine the proposed rule, including comments on: (1) the circumstances under which the proposed blanket waiver should not apply or might be revoked, (2) whether planned future use by an affiliate of an ICIF owner is an appropriate factor for the Commission to consider when making a priority rights determination in a Section 210 or 211 proceeding, and (3) whether the structure and length of the proposed safe harbor period is appropriate. Comments on the proposed rule will be due 60 days after the notice of the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register.

Stay tuned for more alerts from K&L Gates with more in-depth analysis of the proposed rule. If you would like to sign up to receive K&L Gates energy alerts, you can do so here.

 

Doing Business in India Webinar – May 21

Is your company planning on or already doing business in India? If so, you need to familiarize yourself with the latest business, political, and regulatory issues affecting your business and your employees when entering this promising but challenging and diverse market.  In this complimentary webinar, a panel of K&L Gates partners with vast experience working with companies who are doing business in India, will address a range of legal issues to give you a comprehensive grasp on the business operating environment in India.  The purpose of this webinar is to provide international legal and business context. The information in this webinar should not be considered legal advice on Indian law or otherwise. Like all non-Indian law firms, K&L Gates does not practice Indian law and we work with a network of counsel in India on Indian law issues as necessary in any given situation.

To learn more and to RSVP for log-in instructions, visit the event page here.

President Obama Announces New Commitments to Drive Solar Development

On Friday, President Obama announced private sector goals and commitments for solar installation, applauded those private financial institutions which are “leading the way” on solar and renewable investments, and announced a series of “executive actions” which the Administration is taking to stimulate the use of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.  Read the White House Fact Sheet here.

The President’s announcement came in the middle of Senate debate on the Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill which has been stalled for years in the US Senate.  And again this week, because of issues unrelated to energy efficiency, it appears that the bill will not advance.  The Administration has clearly decided – as they have on other energy and environment issues – to take steps which do not need Congressional action in order to advance the President’s energy agenda.  Read More

Third Time’s a Charm? Administration Weighs More Guidance on Recent Changes to Renewable Electricity Credits

The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are considering whether to release a third round of guidance on the production tax credit (PTC) for renewable electricity under Section 45 of the Tax Code and the investment tax credit (ITC) in lieu of the PTC under Section 48. The intent of the guidance would be to further clarify the changes in the PTC/ITC enacted as part of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA) (Pub. L. No. 112-240). Read More

K&L Gates to Attend AWEA WINDPOWER 2014

A team of K&L Gates attorneys will attend the AWEA WINDPOWER 2014 conference and exhibition in Las Vegas from May 5 to 8. This premier industry event brings together a diverse group of professionals with interest in wind power – project developers, suppliers, technicians, power purchasers, service providers, and others – to discuss trends, to hear from innovators and specialists, and to network and collaborate with colleagues. Our attorneys look forward to contributing to the conversation at the K&L Gates exhibit booth (no. 2977). Please be sure to stop by and say hello.

Additionally, K&L Gates attorneys Sam Hines and Lindsey Greer will present on the importance of worker status in the offshore wind environment during the poster presentations on Wednesday, May 6 from 4:30pm to 6:00pm in Bayside Hall D. Please join Sam and Lindsey to discuss the various legal statuses offshore workers hold under U.S. maritime law and the potential liabilities offshore employers can face in the event of a worker injury.

We look forward to seeing you at AWEA.

To learn more about the K&L Gates attorneys attending the event, please click on the names listed below:

David Benson

David Hattery

Teresa Hill

Julius “Sam” Hines

Bill Holmes

Will Keyser

Paul Lacourciere

Andrew Young

Christian Lucky

Lindsey Greer

Ankur Tohan

EPA Survives Challenge to Cross Border Air Pollution Rule

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) regulation of cross border air pollution.  In a 6-2 ruling,[1] the Supreme Court reversed the D.C. Circuit, holding that EPA’s cross border air pollution rule (the “Transport Rule”)[2] did not violate the Clean Air Act (“CAA”) by establishing a new federal scheme for regulating upwind emissions that drift over state lines.  The decision likely will impact those power plants in “upwind states” that contribute to cross border air pollution by imposing more stringent air emissions limits for those facilities.  However, the decision may also spur an increase in development of renewable energy and lower emission natural gas fired plants.

The Transport Rule establishes good neighbor obligations among 28 states for three primary pollutants: NOX, SO2, and ozone, and EPA has established National Ambient Air Quality Standards (“NAAQS”) for each of these pollutants.[3]  Any state whose ambient air quality exceeds the NAAQS is considered in “non-attainment.”  The CAA requires that upwind states, whose emissions cause or contribute to exceedances of NAAQS standards in downwind states, control their emissions to the extent required to avoid such contribution.  The Transport Rule is made up of two basic components: it quantifies each state’s emissions reduction levels under the good neighbor provision and imposes Federal Implementation Plans (“FIPs”) to implement those reductions at the state level.

EPA calculated the necessary emissions reductions in a two stage approach.  The first stage screens from its requirements all upwind states that contribute less than 1% of any downwind state’s nonattainment.[4]  The second stage applies a multi-factor assessment to set reductions in those upwind states on a cost-per-ton reduction basis (which relied on the costs to install pollution reduction technology) that was distributed across all power plants in the upwind states.[5]  Finally, the Transport Rule proposed to achieve cost-per-ton reductions over multiple years, beginning in 2012 and relying on a maximum budget for each pollutant that a state’s power plants may collectively emit through 2014.[6]  Since EPA found that many State Implementation Plans (“SIPs”) did not properly provide for these emissions budgets, EPA invalidated those SIPs and instead required those states to comply with new state-specific FIPs.  It did so without giving the states an opportunity to correct their SIPs based upon EPA’s objections, and (at least according to some) without giving the states guidance on how to address those objections.

The Supreme Court reviewed the D.C. Circuit Court’s conclusion that the Transport Rule exceeded EPA’s statutory authority to impose more stringent air quality requirements through the good neighbor provisions of the CAA.  First, the D.C. Circuit Court determined that the Transport Rule exceeded CAA authority because the good neighbor provision could impose emissions reductions on upwind states that could go beyond those states’ significant contribution to downwind air pollution in other states.  Second, the D.C. Circuit concluded that the Transport Rule failed to provide states with the first opportunity to implement the good neighbor reductions through their own SIPs.  Instead, EPA quantified the states’ good neighbor reductions and simultaneously set forth EPA-designed FIPs to implement those obligations at the state level without first providing the states an opportunity to correct their SIPs.

The Supreme Court overturned the D.C. Circuit Court decision, concluding that EPA reasonably interpreted the good neighbor provision and that the CAA did not required EPA to give states  a grace period to file revised SIPs.

It is still uncertain how the Supreme Court’s decision will ultimately affect the implementation of and reductions required under the Transport Rule.  Significant issues lie ahead for EPA related to regulatory impacts and the legal implications for the Transport Rule.  For example, since EPA is already several years behind the start date for the rule—January 1, 2012—the agency will likely have to issue new regulations to modify implementation dates.  Likewise, EPA may need to adjust the Transport Rule to address revisions and updates to air quality standards for ozone and particulate matter.  And finally, EPA may face further litigation that was stayed since the D.C. Circuit decision, or litigation related to technical revisions to the Transport Rule during the stay.[7]

Despite these issues, the Supreme Court decision presents two significant implications. First, by agreeing that EPA may foreclose a state’s ability to determine how emission reductions are to be achieved and allocated among sources, the decision may have changed the fundamental federal/state regulatory relationship under the CAA.  Second, the decision demonstrates the broad deference to EPA on substantive and technical issues, and reaffirms the Court’s view that when reasonable minds differ on technical issues, EPA’s interpretation will prevail as long as it is rational and supported by the record. Both points support EPA’s continuing efforts to impose greater regulation on the fossil fuel industry, which may accelerate the adoption of new pollution control technologies or the replacement of fossil fuel energy production with alternatives that do not emit, or emit less of, these criteria pollutants.

For additional information on the decision underlying the Supreme Court’s decision, see:


[1] Justice Alito did not participate.  Justices Scalia and Thomas joined in dissent.

[2] Federal Implementation Plans: Interstate Transport of Fine Particulate Matter and Ozone and Correction of SIP Approvals, 76 Fed. Reg. 48,208 (Aug. 8, 2011).

[3] For additional details on the regulated pollutants, see 76 Fed. Reg. 48,208.

[4] EME Homer City Generation LP v. EPA, 696 F.3d 7, 11 (D.C. Cir. Aug. 21, 2012).

[5] Id. at 11-12.

[6] Id. at 12.

[7] Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, D.C. Cir., No. 12-1346, 9/27/12; Wisconsin Public Service Corp. v. EPA, D.C. Cir., No. 12-1163, 4/6/12.

Upcoming Event: Investing in Renewable Energy 2.0

On May 15, 2014, K&L Gates will host its annual event on investment in renewable energy in its Frankfurt office. The event is co-sponsored by Grontmij and Alexa Capital.

The program will address recent developments that shape the environment of investment in renewable energy, focusing on investment in the UK while also covering German and European trends.

As in previous years, the program will combine legal and commercial perspectives, and presents speakers with professional backgrounds in project development, M&A, finance and law, all widely experienced in the renewable energy sector.

This year, program and speakers include:

  • The Development of the Yield Co: implications for investing in renewables and energy

Gerard Reid, Partner, Alexa Capital

  • UK Energy Market Reform: what it means for investors

Anthony Fine, Partner, K&L Gates, London

Paul Tetlow, Partner, K&L Gates, London

  • UK Power Grids: opportunities and solutions for renewable energy industry

Vijay Shinde, Head of UK Grid Services, Grontmij, Newcastle

  • Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs): the growing need and what it means for renewable investors

Dr. Felix Grolman, CEO, Grundgrün Energie GmbH

  • The Future of Offshore Wind

Ian Nolan, Chief Investment Officer, Green Investment Bank 

  • Yield Cos: strategies to lower the cost of capital

Mark Henderson, Partner, Greencoat Capital

Nick Boyle, CEO, Lightsource 

  • Development Companies: entering and operating in the UK

Thomas Kercher, CEO, PFALZSOLAR GmbH

Oliver Christof & Constantin Windisch-Graetz, Christof AG

  • Renewable Energy 2.0: what it means for all of us

Anthony Fine, K&L Gates (Chair)

Vijay Shinde, Grontmij

Gerard Reid, Alexa Capital

Felix Groelman, Grundgrün Energie GmbH

Mark Henderson, Greencoat Capital

Nick Boyle, Lightsource

For more information: click here.

For registration: click here.

New Turns in Germany’s Energy Turnaround

In March 2014, the German government presented the details of its plans for changes in the country’s renewable energy support scheme. The planned legislation (the “Draft”), which passed the cabinet on 8 April 2014, seeks to curb the increase of energy costs and to promote a stronger market integration of renewable energy production.

Under the Renewable Energies Act (“EEG”), renewable energy producers are entitled to fixed feed-in tariffs and to priority feed-in into the grids. The spread between the market price and the feed-in tariff is levied to electricity consumers by a renewable energy surcharge (“EEG Surcharge”) whereby energy-intensive industries benefit from a reduction.

Under the EEG support scheme, renewable energy sources have experienced a boom in Germany, now serving as a source for about 25 % of the country’s electricity consumption – four times as much as a decade ago. In turn, the system has increasingly been put under political pressure as energy costs (especially for households) continue to increase. In addition, the support scheme is held to produce a paradox effect: whereas consumer prices increase due to the EEG Surcharge that levies the feed-in tariffs, wholesale electricity prices plunge because the rapidly growing renewables are flooding the market. The effect of this price development is tangible: Germany’s second largest utility, RWE AG from Essen, whose core business is electricity delivery, has announced a net loss for the year 2013 of 2.8 billion Euros. It was RWE’s first loss-making year since the end of the Second World War. Read More

Energy Tax Incentives Prominent in Senate Finance Committee’s Extenders Package

The Senate Finance Committee approved its long-awaited tax extenders package on April 3, 2014. The Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency (EXPIRE) Act, which the Committee approved by voice vote, would extend dozens of temporary tax incentives that expired at the end of last year or are set to expire at the end of this year. Moreover, the package includes numerous energy tax incentives that lapsed at the end of last year.

The EXPIRE Act would extend the following energy tax provisions:

  • * Production tax credit and investment tax credit with respect to facilities producing electricity from certain renewable sources (e.g., wind) (Sections 45 and 48)
  • * Deduction for energy efficient commercial building property (Section 179D)
  • * Credit for residential energy efficient property (Section 25C)
  • Alternative fuel refueling property credit (Section 30C)
  • Credit for electric motorcycles and three-wheeled vehicles (Section 30D)
  • Second generation biofuel producer credit (Section 40)
  • Special depreciation allowance for second generation biofuel plant property (Section 168(l))
  • Tax credits for biodiesel and renewable diesel (Section 40A)
  • Credit for the production of Indian coal (Section 45(e)(10))
  • Credit for energy efficient new homes (Section 45L)
  • Alternative fuel and alternative fuel mixture credit (Sections 6426 and 6427(e))
  • Credit for new qualified fuel cell motor vehicles (Section 30B) (expires in 2014)

* Provision was not included in Senator Ron Wyden’s (D-OR) “Chairman’s mark” but was added to the package before the Committee’s mark-up.

That said, the EXPIRE Act is, for the most part, a “clean” extenders package, meaning that the proposal mostly changes termination dates and includes few changes to underlying policy. As a result, certain modifications sought by the renewable energy industry were not included. For example, the proposal would not expand Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) along the lines of Senator Chris Coons’ Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act (S. 795). Additionally, the EXPIRE Act would not impose a “commence construction” requirement (as opposed to a “placed in service” requirement) with respect to solar projects under the investment tax credit under Section 48. Finally, it would not extend the credit for energy efficient appliances under Section 45M.

K&L Gates hosted Chairman Wyden for a breakfast meeting on April 8. Wyden stated that he is working with Senate leadership on a strategy that would bring the EXPIRE Act to the Senate floor. Some staff indicate that floor action could occur as early as the next congressional work period, during the weeks of April 28 or May 5. Meanwhile, the House Ways and Means Committee may also consider energy tax incentives soon as part of its planned series of hearings on tax extenders.

We will provide more updates as this debate unfolds over the coming months.

President’s Budget Sets Energy Tax Priorities

On March 4, President Obama released his annual budget request to Congress. The President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 request includes many proposals from previous years, but it also includes some new ideas—including on energy taxes. Below is a summary of the Administration’s energy tax proposals.

  •  Modify and Permanently Extend the Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit (PTC).  As in its budget request last year, the Administration would make the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 45 PTC permanent, refundable, and available to solar facilities. However, there are two significant changes from last year: (1) the Administration would make the credit available for electricity consumed directly by the taxpayer; and (2) solar facilities could choose to use either the PTC or the investment tax credit (ITC) under IRC Section 48 through the end of 2016. After 2016, the proposal would repeal the permanent 10 percent ITC for solar and geothermal property.
  • Modify and Permanently Extend the Deduction for Energy-Efficient Commercial Building Property. The Administration would raise the current maximum deduction for energy-efficient commercial building property to $3.00 per square foot, increase the maximum partial deduction for each separate building system to $1.00 per square foot, and provide a new deduction to reward energy savings achieved by retrofits to existing buildings, among other changes.
  • Provide a Tax Credit for the Production of Advanced Technology Vehicles. The Administration would replace the existing tax credit for plug-in electric drive motor vehicles with a credit for “advanced technology vehicles” that: (1) operate primarily on an alternative to petroleum fuels; (2) use technology employed by few other vehicles in the U.S.; and (3) exceed the “target” miles per gallon gasoline equivalent (MPGe) by at least 25 percent.
  • Provide a Tax Credit for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Alternative Fuel Commercial Vehicles. The Administration would create a new tax credit for alternative fuel vehicles weighing more than 14,000 pounds. The credit would equal $25,000 for vehicles weighing up to 26,000 pounds and $40,000 for vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds.
  • Extend the Tax Credit for Cellulosic Biofuels. The tax credit for the production of cellulosic biofuels under IRC Section 40 (recently re-titled the “second generation biofuel producer credit”) expired at the end of 2013. The Administration would retroactively extend the credit through 2020 at its current level of $1.01 per gallon.
  • Modify and Extend the Tax Credit for the Construction of Energy-Efficient New Homes. The Administration would extend the tax credit for new energy-efficient homes acquired before 2015. For homes acquired between 2015 and 2025, the proposal would provide a $1,000 credit for the construction of a qualified ENERGY STAR certified new home.  The Administration would also provide a $4,000 tax credit for construction of DOE Challenge Homes.
  • Reduce Excise Taxes on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to Bring Into Parity with Excise Taxes on Diesel. The Administration would lower the 24.3 cents per gallon excise tax on LNG to 14.1 cents per gallon after 2014.

The Administration has also proposed to repeal numerous tax preferences for conventional energy companies. In particular, the President proposed to repeal the following provisions:

  • Credit for Enhanced Oil Recovery (“EOR”) Projects
  • Credit for Oil and Natural Gas Produced from Marginal Wells
  • Expensing of Intangible Drilling Costs 
  • Deduction for Tertiary Injectants 
  • Exemption to Passive Loss Limitation for Working Interests in Oil and Gas Properties 
  • Percentage Depletion for Oil and Natural Gas Wells
  • Domestic Manufacturing Deduction for Oil and Natural Gas Production
  • Expensing of Exploration and Development Costs
  • Percentage Depletion for Hard Mineral Fossil Fuels
  • Capital Gains Treatment for Royalties
  • Domestic Manufacturing Deduction for the Production of Coal and Other Hard Mineral Fossil Fuels

In addition to repealing these provisions, the Administration would increase the geological and geophysical amortization period for independent oil producers from two years to seven years.

Although it’s unclear whether Congress will enact any of these proposals into law, the Administration’s budget request is significant in that it establishes the President’s position on energy tax issues moving forward. This positioning is especially important as Congress debates tax extenders legislation and energy tax reform. It’s also important when considered in comparison to recent proposals from House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI), whose tax reform discussion draft would repeal incentives for alternative energy, and former Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), whose tax reform staff discussion draft would establish a regime of technology-neutral tax incentives to reward reductions in greenhouse gas emissions while eliminating other energy tax provisions.

Stay tuned for more information as this debate unfolds.

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