California PUC Comissioner Michael Peevy to Step Down

Last Thursday, longtime California Public Utilities Comissioner and President Michael Peevy announced he would not seek reappointment at the end of this year, when his second six-year term with the CPUC expires. In making his announcement, Peevy issued the following statement:

I originally planned to make the following announcement at the CPUC’s regularly-scheduled Voting Meeting on October 16th, but instead I am moving the announcement to today to state that I will not seek reappointment to the CPUC when my term expires at the end of this year. Twelve years as President is enough. The Governor, of course, will make a decision as to my successor in due time.”

As Peevy notes, California Governor Jerry Brown will appoint his successor.

California’s New Streamlined #Solar Permitting Law Goes into Effect

Over the weekend, California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 2188, which is designed to streamline the permitting process for small rooftop solar systems. The new law seeks to give California’s Million Solar Roofs target a boost by establishing a state wide “modernized and standardized permitting process.” The new law amends Section 714 of the California Civil Code and Section 65850.5 of the California Government Code to provide for the following:

  • On or before September 30, 2015, every city and county is required to adopt an ordinances that “creates an expedited, streamlined permitting process for small residential rooftop solar energy systems.” Cal. Gov. Code § 65850.5(g)(1).
  • In connection with this process, every city and county must adopt “a checklist of all requirements with which small rooftop solar energy systems shall comply to be eligible for expedited review.” Id.
  • If the city or county determines that an application satisfies the information requirements of the checklist, then the application is deemed complete. Id.
  • Once the city or county confirms that an application is complete and meets the requirements of the checklist and the ordinance, the city or county must approve the application and issue all required permits. Id.
  • If a city or county deems an application incomplete, it must notify the applicant of any deficiencies. Id.
  • Every city and county must publish the checklist and required permitting documentation on the internet and allow for electronic submittal of applications and documentation, as well as electronic signatures. Cal. Gov. Code § 65850.5(g)(2).
  • For small residential rooftop systems (10 kW or less), “only one inspection shall be required, which shall be done in a timely manner and may include a consolidated inspection,” except a separate fire safety inspection may be allowed under certain circumstances.

These reforms are designed to eliminate inefficiencies in the permitting process and drive down soft costs of solar installations. Time will tell whether these soft cost savings will be realized and – if so – whether the savings will be passed on to solar customers.


Minnesota Community Solar Garden Program Approved, Set to Open

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission today issued its long-awaited Order approving (with modifications) Xcel Energy’s Community Solar Garden (CSG) Program - Solar Rewards*Community.  The Order starts the clock for the program to open no later than 90 days from issuance of the Order (mid-December) and officially plows the furrow for community solar projects in Minnesota.  It is not, however, clear that Xcel Energy will have the luxury of using the full 90 days for opening its CSG program- the Minnesota CSG Statute requires Xcel Energy to begin crediting subscriber accounts for each CSG within 180 days of the CSG plan’s approval. Stay tuned for additional details.

Our prior blogs provide more details on the program. We review the details of the Order below.

Application: Once applicants file their applications and deposits, Xcel has 30 days to confirm the application is complete and then another 60 days to accept or reject the application. Applicants initially need to include:

  • Contact information,
  • Garden information including system location and specifications,
  • Application fee ($1,200) and deposit ($100/kW)
  • Engineering documents, including one-line diagrams, site plan, and Interconnection Application

Applicants will have a full 24 months from Xcel’s completeness determination to complete the project and comply with several additional requirements including: proof of site control, adequate insurance, projection of subscriptions, and signed interconnection and CSG agreements. Continue Reading

SDG&E Issues Max 800 MW All-Source RFO, with caveat

We recently learned that San Diego Gas and Electric has issued a 2014 All Source Request for Offers (RFO).

The RFO requests offers for up to 800 MW from the following resources:

  1. Energy Efficiency (EE)
  2. Demand Response (DR)
  3. Renewables
  4. Combined Heat and Power (CHP)
  5. Energy Storage
  6. Conventional
  7. Distributed Generation (DG)


The RFO is authorized by CPUC Decision 14-03-004. The decision authorizes minimum and maximum procurement from each resource area.

There is an important caveat to note in the RFO. SDG&E mentions it has entered into a 600 MW bilateral contract with the Carlsbad Energy Center. If approved, 600 MWs of the RFO will be filled by that contract, leaving 200 MW for preferred resources, including at least 25 MW from energy storage.

Prebid conferences will take place on September 26, October 24 and November 10, 2014. Offers are due on January 5, 2015.

The official RFO page is here:

Good luck to all bidders. Let us know if you require assistance.


Breaking: EPA Extends Clean Power Plan Public Comment Period

Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, announced today that EPA’s comment period for its proposed Clean Power Plan will be extended 45 days from the mid-October deadline to December 1, 2014. EPA’s announcement comes a week after a group of bipartisan U.S. senators asked for additional time to weigh in on the plan. EPA claims the delay will not affect the rule’s anticipated June 2015 finalization date, but we expect the extension and extent of comments will slow EPA’s momentum.

MN PUC Affirms Path of Contentious Litigation for Externalities Value Determination

The MN PUC held a hearing on September 4, 2014, to address the impending investigation of social costs of pollutants under Minn. Stat. § 216B.2422 subd. 3 (known as externalities values).  First established in the late 1990s, the MN PUC re-opened the investigation in a February 2014 Order, focusing exclusively on PM2.5, SO2, NOx, and CO2.  But the MN PUC refrained from issuing a formal referral to the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) for contested case treatment in front of an Administrative Law Judge.  Instead, the MN PUC’s February 2014 Order directed the Minnesota Department of Commerce and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to convene a stakeholder meeting to discuss scope.  The Minnesota government agencies organized this meeting, which was held in April, and then reported their efforts and recommendation to the MN PUC in a comment filed in June.

One of the recommendations from the Minnesota government agencies in their June Comment was to forego a full contested case review of CO2.  The Minnesota government agencies believed the MN PUC could avoid this lengthy analysis by simply adopting the Federal Social Cost of Carbon (SCC).  A number of parties, including utilities, customers, and suppliers, objected to this recommendation.

Ultimately, the MN PUC affirmed its February 2014 Order, with a slight twist.  The MN PUC referred the appropriate calculation of the externality value for CO2 to the OAH for contested case treatment for the purpose of determining whether the SCC is a reasonable and best available measure for the CO2 externality cost and, if not, what measure is better supported by the evidence.  Other terms and details will be clearly set forth in the MN PUC’s written order reflecting its September 4 decision.

The Commission’s decision on CO2, as well as the values for PM2.5, SO2, and NOx, will be the subject of intense debate over the next 12-18 months.  The final result will undoubtedly impact future MN PUC decisions on utility integrated resource plans and other resource acquisition dockets.  Stay tuned.

Renewable + Law Blog Launches New Responsive Design and Enhanced Reader Features

Dear Renewable + Law Blog readers. Chances are you’ve noticed our new – and improved – appearance. We first launched our blog in 2008, pledging to keep you updated on major policy and legal developments impacting the renewable energy industry. That commitment hasn’t changed, but technology certainly has. It was still a desktop- and RSS-dominated world six years ago. Today, more and more of you are reading our posts on tablets and smartphones. As readers ourselves, we understand your need for news on-the-go and at your convenience.

So we are particularly excited to share with you not only a new blog design, but also a new feature set we think will enhance your content experience.

  • First, Renewable + Law Blog now uses a responsive design format. So no matter where – or on what device – you visit us, you can be assured of a consistent, clean and crisp reader experience.
  • Second, we’ve added new social sharing features to our posts. With easy-to-read social icons, sharing Renewable + Law blog posts with your social networks is now a snap.
  • Third, we’ve improved our content subscription options. We’ve expanded the number of RSS subscription feeds, optimized the look and feel of our email subscription service, and added links to our Twitter feed as an alternative content consumption option.

We hope you find these changes beneficial. We welcome your comments and feedback. Thanks again for visiting our blog and keeping us on your must-read bookmarks list.

Value-of-Solar is Delayed; Minnesota Community Solar Gardens Move Forward

Yesterday, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (“MPUC”) approved Xcel Energy’s first Minnesota-based Community Solar Garden (CSG) program. After Xcel’s initial program filing was rejected by the MPUC in April, Xcel filed a revised CSG tariff with the MPUC in June. In a related filing, Xcel also argued that a  value of solar (“VOS”) rate for CSG projects was not in the public interest and applicable retail rates should be used for the program instead. The MPUC approved Xcel’s basic program, with relatively minor modifications and at the applicable retail rates. As a result, Xcel customers will soon be able to invest in a solar project without having to own a home or the perfect roof for solar.

Many of the details were already prescribed by statute (Minn. Stat.§ 216B.1641): 

  • Subscribers to a CSG will purchase one or more 200-watt subscriptions up to 120 percent of their energy load
  • CSG projects must include at least 5 subscribers with no single subscriber amounting to more than 40% of the total CSG capacity
  • Each CSG is to be no more than 1MW in size, but the program as a whole remains uncapped

The statute also requires that Xcel Energy purchase all of the energy output of a CSG system at a VOS rate once it is approved by the MPUC. Many interested parties have invested considerable time and resources into developing a way to calculate the costs and benefits distributed solar deliver to a utility, its customers and society (more on that process here, here and here). Last spring, the MPUC approved a final methodology to calculate VOS rates – the culmination of that work. Xcel’s CSG tariff filing was then the first test of the methodology and the CSG program its intended first application. 

Ultimately, the MPUC approved the use of the applicable retail rates instead of a VOS rate as Xcel requested. With parties diverging on the VOS rate itself as well as what, if any, additional incentive may be needed to make the projects financeable, the MPUC opted to spend more time getting any future VOS rate and associated incentive right. As that work continues, the program will go forward with the rate for immediate CSG projects being the applicable retail rate and an additional 2-3 cent adder for associated solar renewable energy certificates transferred to the utility. This amounts to rates from approximately 11.5¢/kWh for larger systems subscribed by commercial and industrial customers to 15¢/kWh for smaller systems subscribed by residential customers. 

Will such rates “reasonably allow for the creation, financing, and accessibility” of CSG projects under Minnesota law? One of these days, perhaps before the Harvest Moon, we will see whether Minnesota solar gardens are ready to sprout.

For more information, please contact Drew Moratzka or Sara Bergan.

New Report Ranks Power Utilities by Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency Performance

In a first-of-its-kind report announced this morning, Ceres and Clean Edge ranked the nation’s largest electric utilities and local subsidiaries on their renewable energy sales and energy efficiency savings. The report focused on three clean energy indicators: renewable energy sales; cumulative annual energy efficiency; and incremental annual energy efficiency.

Continue Reading

Businesses and Policymakers Confirm Mexican Energy Reforms Are Gaining Momentum

Earlier this year, a group of Stoel Rives attorneys traveled to Mexico to assess existing opportunities and pending developments in the Mexican power markets.  Some of the reforms and key trends identified during that trip are now taking shape. See also my blog post “Let the Market Decide: The Third Wave of Energy Investment in Latin America and Caribbean.” 

Our work in Mexico included meetings with existing clients, senior partners of a major Mexican law firm, a briefing with a senior Mexican policymaker regarding implementation of the reforms and attendance at the Mexican International Renewable Energy Conference.  Here are some key "take-aways" from these meetings: 

  • A Mexican renewable energy market has been successfully launched, with more wind than solar developed to date.
  • A package of "secondary" laws implementing Mexico’s energy reform legislation are pending in the Mexican Congress.
  • The secondary laws will include some form of renewable portfolio standard (e.g., 30% by 2024) that relies on (among other elements) renewable energy certificates.
  • The secondary laws are also expected to launch a wholesale electricity market, a demand response market and other provisions designed to encourage distributed generation.
  • Solar module manufacturers and other stakeholders are concerned about the government’s decision to apply a 15% import tax on electrical "generators" to non-NAFTA solar modules. 

Continue Reading