Senate Finance Committee Passes PTC Extension as Part of Tax Extenders

On April 3, the Senate Finance Committee passed a modified extenders package that includes a two-year extension of the renewable energy production tax credit (PTC) under section 45 of the Internal Revenue Code as well as an extension of the option to claim the energy investment tax credit (ITC) under section 48 of the Code in lieu of PTC.

Under current law, an income tax credit is allowed for the production of electricity from qualified energy resources at qualified facilities (the PTC). Qualified energy resources include wind, biomass, municipal solid waste, and certain other identified alternative energy sources. Qualified facilities are, generally, facilities that generate electricity using qualified energy resources, provided the construction of the facility begins before January 1, 2014. Under current law, a taxpayer may make an irrevocable election to have certain property which is part of a qualified facility be eligible for a 30% investment tax credit (the ITC) in lieu of claiming the PTC. Continue reading this entry

The EPA's Golden Rule: No Good Neighbor Goes Unpunished

Have you ever wondered what all those additional charges are on your electric bill? This month my bill lists a “Customer Charge,” a “2013 Fuel Adjustment” and a “State-Wide Low-Income Assistance Fee,” which add up to about $10, or $120 a year. I’m a utility lawyer, and even I don’t know what all of these charges are or how they were calculated.

Soon the Environmental Protection Agency may be adding a new charge to your monthly bill, but it won’t be itemized. This one I’m very familiar with because I’ve spent the past two years challenging it in court. I call it the EPA’s “good-neighbor fee” since it comes from a part of the Clean Air Act called the good neighbor provision. It’s the amount that the EPA says you need to pay to clean up the pollution that blows from your state into neighboring states. Continue reading this entry

Xcel Announces RFP for 150 MW of Solar

Solar project developers and investors should mark their calendars for April 15, 2014, when Xcel Energy plans to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for up to 150 MW of solar generation. The RFP is needed because Minnesota enacted a Solar Energy Standard last year, which mandates that at least 1.5% of investor-owned utility total retail electric sales come from solar energy by 2020 (10% of the 1.5% requirement must be met with systems less than or equal to 20 kW). The goal is to increase this amount to 10% by 2030. Minnesota is one of the leading states in promoting renewable generation, and the Solar Energy Standard is not just a carve-out for solar within Minnesota’s existing renewable portfolio standard (RPS), but in addition to the RPS, which requires that at least 20% of electric sales originate from renewable energy sources by 2020, and 25% by 2025 (for Xcel Energy, these percentages are 25 and 30, respectively, due to its nuclear generation fleet). Continue reading this entry

SEIA Report Reveals 2013 as Another Boom Year for U.S. Solar Industry

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has released its annual report on the performance of the U.S. solar industry in 2013. As might be expected, the industry continued to set new milestones for growth in installed capacity. Highlights of the report include the following:

  • 4,751 MW of new solar PV capacity were installed in the U.S. in 2013, which represents a 41% increase over 2012.
  • Almost half of this growth occurred at the end of the year – 2,106 MW become operational in Q4 2013.
  • Not surprisingly, the majority (although not an overwhelming majority) of new PV  installations – 2,847 MW – were utility-scale projects.
  • 2013 also saw 410 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) come online (this figure does not include the 377 MW Ivanpah CSP project outside of Las Vegas that went operational in February 2014).
  • The report forecasts 6,000 MW of PV installations to come online in 2014, and 840 MW of CSP installations.
  • California continued to lead the way, with a whopping 2,621 MW of installed PV capacity in 2013.  Following California were Arizona (421 MW), North Carolina (335 MW), Massachusetts (237 MW), and New Jersey (236 MW).
  • Solar energy comprised 29% of all new U.S. electricity generating capacity in 2013, making solar the second largest source of new electricity in the country after natural gas.

New Renewable Power Financing and Investment Opportunities in New York as State Opens Billion Dollar Funding Initiative Through “NY Green Bank”

New York just recently opened the New York Green Bank (“NY Green Bank”), the largest of its kind in the nation. The NY Green Bank is a division of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and will have an initial capitalization of $210 million. This amount includes $165 million that was redirected from other clean-energy programs by the New York Public Service Commission from idle clean energy ratepayer funds, and an additional $50 million from emission allowance sales under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.  Continue reading this entry