Fossil-based natural gas may be headed for a reckoning, at least in Washington State. Not long ago, natural gas was seen by many as the key “bridge fuel” necessary to transition our society away from oil and coal. Natural gas has its upsides; most significantly, it burns more efficiently and emits fewer pollutants than coal.1 Yet burning natural gas still emits greenhouse gases (GHG), including methane, a potent climate pollutant. According to EPA, methane accounts for approximately 10% of the GHG emissions in the United States.2 That is a problem for states like Washington that have called for zero carbon emissions in the power sector by 2045 and have also enacted laws aimed at reducing GHG emissions throughout other sectors.Read More
Opportunities for economic growth in Indian country — including the development of retail space, hotels and resorts, energy projects, data farms, and more traditional farming activities, to name a few — are tied to several recent tax-related developments. These developments include federal regulations regarding the taxation of on-reservation real property and improvements leased and/or owned by non-Indians, whether tribes can collect sales taxes for on-reservation transactions with non-Indians, and how treaties can impact taxation of certain off-reservation activities. The developments are important for both tribes and nontribal parties interested in investing in on-reservation economic growth and development.Read More
With a partial veto from Governor Inslee on April 1, 2016, Washington State has enacted legislation that may help Puget Sound Energy (PSE) recover costs associated with the decommissioning and remediation of its interest in the Colstrip coal-fired plant, which is located southwest of Billings, Montana. PSE owns half of the older two units of the Colstrip plant. Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill (SB) 6248 expressly authorizes the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC), after a hearing, to allow a utility to “to place amounts from one or more regulatory liabilities into a retirement account” for decommissioning and remediation costs for the older two units. Thus the WUTC now has the express authority to allow PSE to use certain tax credits to help cover decommissioning and remediation costs at the Colstrip plant instead of returning those tax credits to customers over time.
The Washington State Department of Commerce is holding its Virtual Bidder’s Conference on January 12, 2016 at the Seattle office of K&L Gates to provide information to applicants about applying for Clean Energy Fund 2 grants. As mentioned in an earlier blog post, the Clean Energy Fund provides grants to projects that support the development, demonstration and deployment of clean energy technologies. The CleanTech Alliance has been hosting a series of public meetings across Washington State to provide a platform for the Washington Department of Commerce to provide information to and answer questions from applicants.
A series of public meetings are being held across Washington State to provide an update on the Washington State Legislature’s Clean Energy Fund II. The Clean Energy Fund provides grants to projects that support development, demonstration and deployment of clean energy technologies and is administered by the Department of Commerce’s State Energy Office. Personnel from the Department of Commerce will be at each meeting to provide information and answer questions.
The next meeting is being held in Spokane, Washington at Avista Utilities. The meeting details are:
- When: Thursday, December 17, 2015
- Where: Avista Utilities
1411 E. Mission Avenue
Spokane, WA 99202
If you are interested in attending the meeting on December 17 in Spokane, you can register here. We will keep you updated on future scheduled meetings and updates on the Clean Energy Fund II. More information on the Clean Energy Fund II can be found here.
K&L Gates attorneys Ankur K. Tohan, Daniel C. Kelly-Stallings, and Alyssa A. Moir recently penned an article for the Environmental and Land Use Law Section of the Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) analyzing greenhouse gas regulation in Washington. Their article, “Greenhouse Gas Regulation in Washington: What the Clean Power Plan and Washington Clean Air Rule Mean for the State,” is available from the WSBA website.
Washington State is about to become the latest state to take local action to address global climate change. Governor Jay Inslee recently directed the Washington Department of Ecology (“Ecology”) to make new rules aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions in the state. The new rules are scheduled to be adopted in summer 2016 and to take effect shortly thereafter. The result will be called the “Washington Clean Air Rule.”
The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (the “WUTC”) is in the midst of an investigation into methods for modeling the costs and benefits of energy storage in utility integrated resource plans (“IRPs”). During its review of the 2013 IRPs of Washington’s regulated utilities (Puget Sound Energy (“PSE”), Avista, and PacifiCorp), the WUTC directed the utilities to start considering how energy storage could be incorporated into future IRPs. As part of this effort, WUTC staff issued a white paper in May 2015: Modeling Energy Storage, Challenges and Opportunities for Washington Utilities. On August 7, the WUTC noticed a comment period on the white paper; the comment period closes on September 25, 2015. The WUTC will use the comments received during this period to determine whether it is necessary to give utilities direction on how energy storage should be treated in their planning and procurement processes, and may issue a policy statement at the end of the investigation to provide that guidance.
The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC) has issued an interpretive policy statement clarifying its jurisdiction to regulate third-party owners of solar panels and other net metering systems as “Public Service Companies.” Docket No. UE-112133 (July 30, 2014) (statement). While the WUTC’s policy statement provides useful guidance on the agency’s current position and the action it will likely take in the future, the statement is not binding on the agency. Read More
There’s a busy week ahead for those who are involved in energy storage on the US West Coast.
In California, the three investor owned utilities (Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric) have now applied to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for review and approval of their energy storage procurement plans. The plans explain how each IOU intends to procure by 2020 its share of the 1,325 MW energy storage target set by the CPUC in D. 13-10-040. The CPUC will be holding a workshop to provide information on the applications from 10am to 4pm on Friday, March 14, 2014, at the CPUC’s auditorium at 505 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco. There is also a call in number for the workshop: 866-830-4003, Participant passcode: 9869619.
A little to the north of California, energy storage is becoming a focus of attention in Oregon. Renewables Northwest will be holding its Second Energy Storage Meeting in K&L Gates’ Portland Office, 1 SW Columbia St, 19th Floor, from 10am to Noon on Thursday, March 13. The meeting will help interested parties prepare for an energy storage workshop organized by the Oregon Department of Energy and the Oregon Public Utility Commission, which will be held from 8am to 4:30pm on Wednesday, March 19 at the White Stag Building, 70 NW Couch St, Portland, OR 97209. You can register for the workshop here.
Still further north, K&L Gates will be sponsoring a Washington Clean Technology Alliance meeting on Progress and Promise in U.S. Grid Energy Storage, Including Washington State, featuring special presentations by Dr. Imre Gyuk, U.S. Department of Energy, and Richard Locke, Washington State Department of Commerce. This event will be held on March 20, 2014 from 4:00 to 6:30 pm at K&L Gates’ offices in Seattle, 925 4th Ave, Suite 2900. Advanced tickets are required, and they’ll be on sale through March 16. You can obtain tickets for the event here.
K&L Gates attorneys will be attending each of these events, and we look forward to seeing you there!