Supreme Court Blocks President Obama's Clean Power Plan

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In an unprecedented move, the Supreme Court issued an order yesterday staying the Clean Power Plan, which is widely regarded as the centerpiece of the Obama Administration’s effort to address climate change. The order temporarily halts the U.S. EPA from implementing the rule while litigation over its legality plays out in federal court. The D.C. Circuit has issued an expedited briefing schedule, and is expected to rule on the merits of the Plan by the fall. If the case goes to the Supreme Court, it would not issue its final decision until well after the next President takes office.

Read more about the Supreme Court’s stay order here.

North Carolina Considers Additional Statewide Permitting Requirement for Solar Farms

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North Carolina has been a hotbed of activity for residential and utility scale solar developers. According to the Solar Energy Industry Association, the Tar Heel State ranks fourth in the country in terms of installed solar capacity (1,088 MW). However, the North Carolina Energy Policy Council (EPC)—an advisory body within the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)—is considering a new permitting requirement that could significantly impact the future pace of solar development in the state. The proposal comes on the heels of Congress’ decision to extend the investment tax credit for renewable energy projects, which will likely lead to a boom in solar project development.

At its January 27 meeting, the EPC considered a proposal that would require solar developers to obtain a permit from the state before constructing and operating a new solar farm. Although details are scant, it appears that this proposal would give the state siting authority over new solar installations. At this time, there is no information about the criteria the state would apply when deciding whether to issue a permit; however, this proposal could give the state substantial discretion over the development of new solar facilities.

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California Net Metering Ruling; Installations Greater than 1 MW Now Eligible

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In a closely watched hearing, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) voted 3-to-2 in favor of extending net metering in California. Eligible customers owning generation such as solar photovoltaic (PV) systems will continue to be able to net the electricity they produce against the electricity they consume.

The decision establishes a successor program to the current Net Energy Metering (NEM) program which continues the basic structure. The program will also be open to customer generation facilities larger than 1 MW. Such larger facilities will need to go through California’s “Rule 21” interconnection process and pay for any need studies or grid improvements required to accommodate the new generation. Certain Armed Forces bases and corrections facilities are included among those eligible to install such larger units.

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Just in Time for the Holidays: President Obama Signs ITC and PTC Extension Into Law

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On Friday, President Obama signed into law the bipartisan $1.1 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 and the $680 billion Protecting Americans From Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015, better known as the omnibus and tax reform bill and the tax-extenders bill, respectively.

As we discussed in detail in our prior blog post here, the omnibus and tax reform bill includes a multi-year extension of the section 48 investment tax credit (ITC) for solar energy property, section 25D residential energy efficient property credit for homeowners that install and own solar property, and section 45 renewable electricity production tax credit (PTC) for wind. The tax-extenders bill includes a 2-year extension for other renewable energy facilities eligible for the section 45 credit including geothermal, biomass, landfill gas and certain qualified hydropower and marine hydrokinetic energy projects. The tax-extenders bill also extends bonus depreciation 5 years.

These extensions are a huge boon to the renewable energy sector, as the tax credit and bonus depreciation reduce project financing costs and increase profit margins.

Breaking News: Congress Set to Vote On Spending Bill Including 5 Year Extension of ITC and PTC

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Congressional leaders reached a much anticipated bi-partisan agreement in an omnibus appropriations bill that includes an extension (with phasedowns) of the section 48 investment tax credit (ITC) for solar energy property and section 45 renewable electricity production tax credit (PTC) for wind. (The 2000+ page bill is available here.) A separate tax extenders bill (available here) negotiated in parallel with the omnibus appropriations bill includes a straight 2-year extension with no phase downs for other renewable energy facilities eligible for the section 45 credit including geothermal, biomass, landfill gas and certain qualified hydropower and marine hydrokinetic energy projects. The tax extenders bill also extends bonus depreciation for 5 years at 50% for the first 3 years and phased down to 40% in 2018 and 30% in 2019.

The tentative deal was brokered in exchange for lifting the ban on crude exports, a policy the oil and gas industry has been lobbying Congress to repeal ever since it was put in place in the 1970s. The bill is part of a roughly $1 trillion spending package to fund the government through September 2016, so there is plenty of momentum that this deal makes its way through Congress.

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