President Obama Unveils Climate Action Plan

Today President Obama released his Climate Action Plan and highlighted the key components of the Plan at a speech at Georgetown University. The Plan has three primary goals: (i) cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the U.S., (ii) preparing the United States for the effects of climate change, and (iii) leading international efforts to mitigate climate change. During his speech, President Obama listed three measures to address the first two goals: use more clean energy, waste less energy, and cut carbon emissions. The Plan includes some important new directives from the President, it incorporates some initiatives that are already underway and outlines some of the Administration’s intentions, without providing hard timelines or goals. 

The Climate Action Plan is limited to initiatives that the President can implement without Congressional approval.  Nevertheless, it has the potential to significantly affect a broad range of energy sector interests.  A summary of the Plan's key components follows. 

Using more clean energy:

  • The Interior Department is directed to support deployment of 10,000 MW of renewable energy on public lands by 2020. 
  • The Department of Defense (DoD) is directed to build 3,000 MW of renewable energy at military installations by 2025.
  • Federal agencies will aim to install 100 MW of rooftop solar on federally-subsidized housing by 2020.
  • The federal government commits to obtain 20% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
  • The Red Rock Hydroelectric Plant, on the Des Moines River in Iowa, will be placed on the federal Infrastructure "Permitting Dashboard" for high-priority projects.
  • Federal agencies will streamline the siting, permitting, and review process for transmission projects.
  • The U.S. will seek a global agreement in the World Trade Organization modeled after the 2011 agreement among 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation economies to reduce tariffs to 5% or less by 2015 on 54 environmental goods, including solar panels and wind turbines.
  • The FY2014 budget will include $7.9 billion for clean energy research and development.
  • The Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America program will provide renewable energy and energy efficiency grants and loan guarantees directly to agricultural producers and rural small business.
  • Natural gas will continue to be relied upon as a “transition fuel” while America works to develop an “even cleaner” energy economy.
Continue Reading...

Congress Passes Extension and Modification of Production Tax Credit

News reports have already alerted people to the fact that Congress has extended the Production Tax Credit ("PTC") for wind as part of its agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff. The bill - named the American Tax Relief Act of 2012 - extended the sunset date for wind through December 31, 2013. This extension gives wind parity with all other renewable resources covered by the PTC.

What hasn't been as widely reported, however, is that Congress also made a significant modification to the PTC as part of the same provision.

Previously, whether a facility qualified for the PTC depended on when the facility was placed in service for federal income tax purposes. That provision has now been changed so that a facility will qualify for the PTC if construction with respect to the facility begins on or before January 1, 2014. This change applies to all renewables (biomass, marine and hydrokinetic, landfill gas, trash, hydropower) to which the PTC applies (not just wind), with the exception of refined coal and Indian coal. In other words, there is no longer a placed in service deadline for purposes of the PTC if construction begins before January 1, 2014.

For those of you acquainted with the 1603 grant, this "begun construction" requirement will seem very familiar. However, caution is required. First, the 1603 grant was administered by Treasury Department whereas the PTC will be administered by the IRS. The Treasury Department was generally viewed as favorably disposed to 1603 applicants. Second, we do not yet know how the IRS will interpret the term "begun construction." There is no requirement that the IRS interpret it consistently with section 1603. We do know, however, that the IRS included a 10% safe harbor as part of the bonus depreciation regulations (Treas. Reg. 1.168(k)-1(b)(4)(iii)(B)(2)), so it is possible that they may provide a safe harbor for the PTC as well.

It is also important to note that, along with extension and modification of the PTC, the legislation extended for one year the ability of taxpayers to elect the ITC in lieu of the PTC.

The modification of the PTC will likely make 2013 an interesting year, particularly as developers attempt to meet the "begun construction" requirements (however that term is eventually defined). If the IRS gives developers a safe harbor of some sort, it will be essential that they avoid the last minute, year-end rush we experienced in 2011 as we worked to qualify projects (mostly solar) for the “begun construction” requirements of the 1603 grant. A key gating item may well be the extent to which utilities seek to procure wind and other renewable energy is Qs1-2, 2013.

We will keep you apprised of further developments and insights.

In the meantime, should you have any questions, please contact Kevin Pearson, Adam Kobos, Carl Lewis, Greg Jenner or any other Stoel Rives attorney.

Upcoming Webinar: How to Sell Clean Tech Products in China - A Case Study

Join Stoel Rives partner, Michael Mangelson, co-presenter, for a free webinar organized by the US China Clean Tech Center (UCCTC) and the San Francisco US Commercial Services. Learn how GE and Honeywell launched their Smart Grid project in China with our partner, TEDA ECO Center, and how you can do it too. Hear real case studies from US company executives successful in exporting their clean tech products to China.

December 12, 2012
12:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. PST

Space is limited - REGISTER today!

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Upcoming Energy Efficiency Conference in Portland

The Citizens Utility Board (CUB), in partnership with the Univeristy of Oregon School of Law, will be presenting its 2nd Annual Policy conference on Energy Efficiency: The Next Generation on Friday, October 26, 2012, at the University of Oregon's White Stag Block (70 NW Couch Street). 

The all-day conference will focus on energy efficiency in the Pacific Northwest and its impact on the regional economy.  Featured speakers include Congressman Earl Blumenauer.  For more information, please visit the CUB Policy Center web site.

 

TerraPass Issues California Renewable Energy RFI

TerraPass Inc., recently issued a Request for Information (RFI) on behalf of a client that is interested in ownership, investment and/or long-term bundled renewable energy offtake opportunities within PG&E territory.  The RFI seeks information from firms with renewable energy projects that are currently under development or construction in California and have projected online dates in 2014 or 2015. TerraPass' client will consider a project or portfolio of projects with expected generating capacity of up to 230 million kilowatt-hours per year.  

TerraPass' contact for this RFI is Erin Craig, who can be reached at 415-644-578.  We understand that the deadline for the RFI response is October 26.

PNWER Energy Storage Conference, Pivotal Leaders Event--Portland, October 8

The Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER) Energy Storage Coaliation (ESC) will be holding an important energy storage conference at the Portland Convention Center on October 8, 2012.  ESC has worked with the Oregon and Washington public utility commissions to bring together a diverse mix of developers, utilities and regulators to share their perspectives on opportunities and barriers to deploying energy storage in the Pacific Northwest.  You can find the draft agenda for the event here and register for the conference here.

Following the PNWER event, Pivotal Leaders will hold an Energy Storage Panel from 4-6 PM at the Portland offices of Perkins Coie, 1120 NW Couch Avenue, 10th Floor.  I will be joinging the panel with Dave Curry of Demand Energy, Praveen Kathpal of AES Corporation, and Lee Kosla of SAFT .  Guests are welcome, but an RSVP is required.  Contact ashley@pivotal-leaders.com.  I hope to see you at both of these events.

For those interested in energy storage, I regularly follow the topic on Twitter, @BillHolmesStoel.  The PNWER Energy Storage Coalition can also be found on Twitter, @PNWERESC.  Finally, www.stationarystoragenews.com is an excellent energy storage news aggregator that offers daily news and a weekly newsletter on the topic.

Pivotal Leaders: Networking Program for Pacific Northwest Cleantech Executives

A quick plug for the Pivotal Leaders program. Established in 2010 by venture capital firm Pivotal Investment, it seeks to promote networking among leading Pacific Northwest cleantech executives and encourage innovation and economic growth in the region. My colleague Dave Benson was recently named a 2012 Pivotal Leader in Cleantech. The annual Pivotal Leaders list honors executives and individuals for demonstrated leadership in cleantech.

To learn more about Pivotal Leaders, visit http://pivotal-leaders.com/

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Enterprise Forum Northwest Seminar: Energy Storage for the Grid - May 8, 2012

Stoel Rives is pleased to sponsor this Enterprise Forum Northwest energy seminar. Moderated by our own Bill Holmes, the seminar’s panel of industry experts will address the where, how, why and at what scale questions regarding large-scale energy storage today. Topics covered in the event will include:

  • The most promising energy storage strategies
  • How the different storage methods could work together with the grid in the Northwest and nationally
  • How entrepreneurs, the changing energy marketplace, grid operators, and utilities are responding to the call to build the foundation for clean energy

For more information and to register, please visit http://www.mitwa.org/events/enterprise-forum-program/energy-storage-grid-watchful-waiting-or-perfect-storm
 

What: Energy Storage for the Grid: Watchful Waiting or the Perfect Storm?
When: Tuesday, May 8, 2012
5:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Where: MOHAI, 2700 24th Avenue East, Seattle WA

Upcoming Webinar on Order No. 755 (Frequency Regulation) and Energy Storage

 

In October 2011, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued Order No. 755, which requires regional transmission organizations (RTOs) and independent system operators (ISOs) to pay for frequency regulation services based on the actual amount of service provided in response to actual or expected frequency deviations or interchange power imbalances.  The order directs RTOs and ISOs to implement a two-part payment for frequency regulation services consisting of (1) a capacity payment that includes the marginal unit's opportunity costs, and (2) a performance  payment that reflects the quantity of frequency regulation service that a resource provides when it is accurately following the dispatch signal. In February 2012, FERC issued Order 755-A, denying a motion for rehearing filed by Southern California Edison. 

On Tuesday April 10, 2012, 11 am to 12:30 pm Eastern time (8 am to 9:30 am Pacific), I'll be moderating a Webinar produced by that Infocast to discuss the implications and effect of Order No. 755.  We'll review the Order itself, the process that is underway in the RTOs and ISOs to implement the Order, and the Order's implications for energy storage, demand response and other aspects of the frequency regulation market. 

Infocast has assembled an excellent panel for this Webinar.    Jacqueline DeRosa, Director of Regulatory Affairs, California, Customized Energy Solutions and Rahul Walawalkar, PhD, CEM, CDSM, Vice President,  Emerging Technologies Markets, Customized Energy Solutions,  will jointly provide a cross-market overview of the current approaches and proposed responses to Order No. 755 in key ISOs and RTOs (i.e., PJM, NYISO and CAISO) .   Eric Hsieh, Regulatory Affairs Manager, A123 Systems, Inc., (which participated actively in the Order No. 755 docket) will offer a technology provider's perspective on the order and the ongoing process.   Praveen Kathpal, Director of Marketing and Regulatory Affairs, The AES Corporation, will provide the perspective of a technology-neutral independent energy storage developer.

You can register for the Order No. 755 conference here.  Use the Stoel Rives discount code (128505”) to reduce the tuition to $150.

In the meantime, for those who are following energy storage, I'm "tweeting" regularly on that topic at @BillHolmesStoel (#energystorage)

Gov. Kitzhaber Names Margi Hoffman as Oregon's Energy Policy Advisor

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber announced today that he has named Margi Hoffman to serve as his Energy Policy Advisor.  She will join the Governor's office on April 2.

Ms. Hoffman has served as Senior Vice President and Director of Oregon Operations with Strategies360, a strategic consulting firm, and has also worked closely with Renewable Northwest Project (RNP) .  The news release from the Governor's office can be found here.

Congratulations, Margi!

Upcoming Event: Energy Storage for the Grid: Watchful Waiting or the Perfect Storm?

I'll be moderating Energy Storage for the Grid: Watchful Waiting or the Perfect Storm? at the MIT Enterprise Forum Northwest's May 8, 2012 program at Seattle's Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) , 2700 24th Ave East.  The event, which includes a networking reception, will be held from 5:00 to 8:30 pm. 

The evening's panelists will be:

  • Terry Oliver, Chief Technology Innovations Officer, Bonneville Power
    Administration
  • Alexander H. Slocum, Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Chris Wheaton, Chief Operating & Financial Officer, EnerG2
  • Nathan Adams, Manager of Development and Emerging Technologies, Puget Sound Energy

Among other topics, the panel will address:

  • The most promising energy storage strategies
  • How different storage methods could work together with the grid in the Northwest and nationally
  • How entrepreneurs, the changing energy marketplace, grid operators, and utilities are responding to the call to build the foundation for a clean energy economy 

For more information about this event, visit MITEF Northwest's web site

I hope to see you there!  In the meantime, for those who are following energy storage, I'm "tweeting" regularly on that topic as well as Department of Defense renewables procurement  at @BillHolmesStoel (#energystorage)

 

CUB Policy Center and UO Hold Inaugural Smart Grid Conference in Portland

The CUB Policy Center, in partnership with the University of Oregon School of Law,  will be holding its inaugural policy conference: Smart Grid: Today's Regulation and Tomorrow's Technology, on Friday, October 21, 2011, at the University of Oregon White Stag Block (70 NW Couch St., Portland, OR 97209).  The luncheon keynote speaker will be former FERC Commissioner Nora Mead Brownell, who is the co-founder of ESPY Energy Solutions.

The conference is designed to educate utility analysts, policy analysts, attorneys, industry professionals, stakeholders and others on the current regulatory environment in Oregon and the region and to provide a forum for investigating the opportunities and challenges of integrating the Smart Grid into that environment. The CUB Policy Center notes that space for this conference, which promises to be well attended, is limited and encourages attendees to register early.   

I'll be participating in the Closing Panel to recap and discuss lessons learned during the day, and I hope to see you there.

New Resources for Electric Energy Storage

For those who like to pay close attention to developments in the energy storage industry, take a look at Stationary Electricity Storage, which collects and presents articles about storage industry news, noteworthy projects, and other topics.  It's well organized (with articles filtered by category, storage provider, organization and location), offers a free daily newsletter and looks like a good way to stay on top of developments in this expanding sector.  (Thanks to Greg DelSesto for introducing me to this new site.)

On a related note, I'll be chairing Infocast's Developing Grid Storage Projects in Dallas from October 5 through October 6.  Stoel Rives partner John Thompson will be speaking on "Intellectual Property Protection for Grid Storage," and Dave Hattery, a partner in our Seattle office, will be speaking on "Negotiating the Terms and Navigating the Risk of a Procurement Contract and Other Financial Documents."  The conference features an impressive list of speakers who are very active in the energy storage industry, and I hope to see you there!

Joint Agency Effort to deploy $510 Million to Support Drop-In Aviation and Marine Biofuels

Yesterday, President Obama announced that the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (“USDA”), Energy (“DOE”), and Navy (“USN”, and together with the USDA and DOE, the “Agencies”) will invest up to $510 million over the course of the next three years to support advanced drop-in aviation and marine biofuels to power military and commercial transportation. This is a follow up to President Obama’s Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future (the “Blueprint”).  In the Blueprint, the President expressed a desire to begin construction on at least four commercial-scale cellulosic or advanced bio-refineries over the next two years and challenged the Agencies to work together to spur the development of competitively priced substitutes for diesel and jet fuel.

The USDA, DOE and USN responded to the Blueprint by signing a Memorandum of Understanding  (the “MOU”). The MOU outlines a plan for the Agencies to partner with the private sector to construct or retrofit several drop-in biofuel plants and refineries. The agencies have stated goals of limiting our nation’s dependence on foreign oil for national, providing tactical and strategic advantages for our military and creating economic opportunities in rural communities. We expect that the USDA will take the lead on addressing feedstocks, the DOE will take the lead on technology, and the USN will be the initial primary consumer of the advanced biofuels.

 

Each of the Agencies have committed to spending $170 million over the next three years and an Executive Steering Group (the “ESG”) will be established to coordinate the programs. It is expected that the ESG will work with the Agencies to develop and release solicitations to industry beginning in December 2011. The solicitations will be issued in accordance with the Defense Production Act (50 U.S.C. App. 2061 et seq), the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act (15 U.S.C. 714 et seq), the Economy Act (31 U.S.C. 1535) and other appropriate authorities. Consequently, rights in inventions made as a consequence of, or in direct relation, of these solicitations will be administered in accordance with the applicable Agency’s governing laws and policies.

PSU's Hatfield School of Government Offers "Summer Series on the New Energy Economy"

This summer, the Center for Public Service at the Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University will be offering a series of short, 2-3 day classes under an umbrella called the "Summer Series on the New Energy Economy."  These are non-credit courses, specifically designed for energy industry leaders, a wide range of professionals, and other community members with an interest in learning more about key energy topics.The series is being coordinated by Jeff Hammarlund, one of PSU’s adjunct faculty, who in recent years has taught a series of popular classes on various aspects of the Smart Grid.

The summer series will kick off with the first class on July 11-12. Entitled  "Dissolving Complex Problems in the New Energy Economy," this course will bring a systems science focus to core energy structure, regulation, and policy questions. Other classes, which will run in July, August, and September, include

     * Green Inc: Business Models for the New Energy Economy (July 13-15);

     * Comprehending the Climate Conundrum (July 25-27);

     * Riding the Waves of Change: Project Management and the New Energy Economy (August 10-12); and

     * The Smart Grid and Sustainable Energy Systems (September 14-16);

Additional information and registration instructions can be found here. If you have specific questions, contact Christine Hanolsy at PSU at 503-725-5114 or hanolsy@pdx.edu.

 

Coming Very Soon: CPUC Energy Storage Workshop

On Tuesday, June 28, 2011, the CPUC will hold an “Electric Energy Storage Workshop” as part of its R10-12-007 proceeding for AB 2514, which defines the process by which the CPUC will consider electric energy storage standards for California’s investor owned utilities. The workshop will be held at in the Golden Gate Room at CPUC’s headquarters from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm.

According to a draft agenda circulated by the CPUC, the theme of the workshop will be addressing barriers to entry facing Electric Energy Storage (EES). The workshops goals are to identify actions that the CPUC should consider, as well as whether and how it should participate in other forums.

The morning will feature presentations from several different perspectives, with each presentation to be followed by Q&A:

 

  • Presentation from UC Berkeley and California Energy Commission (CEC) team on “2020 Vision Project”
  •  

  • Presentation from CAISO about recent storage-related activities at the Independent System Operator, including findings from recent studies.
  •  

  • Presentation from Southern California Edison (SCE) discussing a white paper entitled Moving Energy Storage from Concept to Reality.
  •  

  • Presentation from California Energy Storage Alliance about developer’s perspectives

The afternoon will feature a facilitated presentation about a staff straw proposal concerning potential CPUC actions. The CPUC will allow parties to provide post-workshop comments on both the presentations and the staff straw proposal.

The CPUC is willing to accommodate short presentations (five minutes or less) or share prepared material pertinent to the workshop. Any party who wishes to do so may contact Michael Colvin at michael.colvin@cpuc.ca.gov. For reference (or inspiration), a series of energy storage presentations made to the CPUC as part of its 2011 IEPR process can be found here.

Stoel Rives attorneys Seth Hilton and Janet Jacobs will be attending the workshop.

Energy Storage Industry Expresses Optimism at Energy Storage Association Annual Meeting

This week I attended the 21st Annual Meeting of the Energy Storage Association in San Jose, California. The meeting broke its attendance record by attracting over 420 attendees, including representatives from electric energy storage (“EES”) technology companies, utilities, venture capital funds, consultancies and government agencies. Key note speakers included Dr. Imre Gyuk of the U.S. Department of Energy, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner of the California Assembly, Fan Wong of Pacific Gas & Electric, and Vinod Khosla of Khosla Ventures. Over 50 other distinguished speakers presented lectures and materials on various topics including flow battery applications, advanced storage technologies, smart grid interface, lithium ion battery applications, economics and policy, and venture capital markets. 

The record attendance at the meeting and reports of successful pilot projects were strong indicators that the EES industry has matured over the past years. The general sense at the meeting was that the EES industry is poised to emerge from the product development stage and move into the commercialization and deployment stage. In order to successfully make that leap, the EES industry must first overcome several hurdles.

Prospective EES customers, including utility representatives, contended that, except for pumped hydro, EES applications are not yet cost competitive and that EES systems must achieve significant price reductions before they can be competitive. Various utility representatives encouraged the EES industry to continue to bring down costs with the goal of becoming cost competitive with gas peaker plants. 

Project developers and technology companies acknowledged this reality, but stressed that when comparing EES applications to gas peakers, it is imperative that the market recognize the broad range of combined value streams and utility benefits that EES applications offer. These benefits include:

  • Ancillary services and frequency regulation
  • Reactive power, voltage, and power quality
  • Renewable integration and smoothing
  • Multiple hour peak shifting
  • Demand response
  • Islanding
  • Deferred T/D upgrades
  • Minimizing spinning reserves

In addition to these benefits, various speakers emphasized the siting and permitting advantages EES enjoys over gas plants. From a land use perspective, EES applications are relatively low impact. Many EES projects can obtain required permits based on a negative declaration and thereby avoid the lengthy siting proceedings that can drag on for years for some thermal generation projects. These siting and permitting advantages that EES applications enjoy translate into reduced costs and quicker development timelines and give EES a distinct advantage over gas peakers. 

The future of EES will in part hinge on the development of supportive federal and state regulations. Accordingly, ongoing proceedings at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission are critical to the future of EES.

Further, EES system providers will face challenges in structuring transactions to finance and build EES projects. Consultants and legal advisors, including Stoel Rives attorneys, are currently wrestling with various options to solve these challenges.

The EES industry will meet again in San Diego for Infocast’s Storage Week  on July 11-14, and several Stoel Rives attorneys will be presenting and attending.

Unused ARRA Grant Funds Related to Electric Vehicles, Alternative Fuel Vehicles and Infrastructure Projects

Puget Sound Clean Cities Coalition has announced that it has roughly $400,000 in unused ARRA grant funds available for alternative fuel vehicle and infrastructure projects. 

Examples of eligible vehicles include:

  • Vehicles using alternative fuels recognized by the Energy Policy Act (complete list here: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/vehiclesandfuels/epact/about/epact_fuels.html);
  • Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles;
  • Electric Hybrid Vehicles (including certain Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles);
  • Hydraulic Hybrid Vehicles;
  • Neighborhood Electric Vehicles; and
  • Certain Bio-Diesel Vehicles (if replacing gasoline powered vehicles). 

Infrastructure projects must be related to the storage, distribution, dispensing of advanced fuels or electric vehicle supply equipment. Examples of eligible infrastructure projects include:

  • New dispensing facilities, or additional equipment or upgrades to existing refueling sites;
  • Facility upgrades or building modifications necessary to accommodate alternative fuels for fleet garages and other maintenance centers;
  •  Solar charging systems dedicated to providing on-site vehicle motive electrification

Funding requests must be between $100,000 and $400,000 with a minimum 10% non-federal match. Precise requirements of this grant are located at http://www.pugetsoundcleancities.org/documents/CleanCitiesFY09FOAModification007.pdf

LexisNexis Selects Renewable + Law Blog to its Top 50 Environmental Law Blogs List

Having first reported to our readers in February that LexisNexis had nominated the Stoel Rives Renewable + Law Blog for its Top 50 Environmental Law & Climate Change Blogs for 2011 award, we are pleased to announce we made the list of winners! In publishing its Top 50 list, LexisNexis declared that our Renewable + Law bloggers’ “avowed passion for solar energy, wind energy, biofuels, ocean and hydrokinetic energy, biomass, waste-to-energy, geothermal and other clean technologies is evident in the care they take with this blog-the posts are frequent, the topics are interesting and cutting edge, and the writing is top notch.”

 

Thanks again to all our readers who make regular use of Renewable + Law Blog and those who wrote in to support us for this award. We're honored and inspired, and we plan to keep those Blogs and letters coming.

 

RFI for Substation-Size Li-ion Energy Storage System Demonstration Project

Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Technology Transition Corporation recently issued a request for information (RFI) to prepare for multiple demonstrations and the market introduction of 1MW / 2MWh lithium ion battery energy storage systems (ESS) for electric utility grid management solutions.  EPRI and TTC have assembled a utility team for this project, and they encourage manufacturers of Li-ion systems and energy storage system integrators to respond to the RFI. The utility team will evaluate the responses to determine which ESS suppliers should be invited to a 2-day utility-manufacturer workshop to be held in June 2011 to discuss the project’s technical specification and demonstration plans.  The responses to the RFI will also influence the forthcoming Request for Proposals and the technical specification for approximately three demonstrations scheduled for 2012.

To be considered for participation in the proposed ESS project, including receipt of the resulting RFP in Q3 2011, responses must be received electronically, by 8 pm (20:00) Eastern Time, Monday, May 2, at storagespec@ttcorp.com.  A detailed description of the RFI process and the RFI response form can be found on the Technology Transition Corporation's website, here

Thanks to Emanuel Wagner, Project Coordinator for TTC, for bringing this RFI to my attention.  According to Emanuel, this would be the first Li-ion storage project of this size in the US, if not the world.  

Legislature Passes SBX1-2 to Increase California RPS to 33%

Legal News Alert from Stoel Rives Renewable Energy Law Group

The California Legislature has passed Senate Bill (“SB”) X1-2, which requires California’s electric utilities to increase their renewable generation to 33% by 2020. Passage of the legislation is the culmination of years of effort to increase California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (“RPS”) from its current 20%. In 2009, the Legislature passed SB 14, which also would have increased California’s RPS to 33%, but the bill was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger on the ground that it imposed too many restrictions on the use of out-of-state generation to meet California’s RPS requirement. Governor Schwarzenegger then issued an executive order directing the California Air Resources Board to develop its own 33% Renewable Energy Standard under the Board’s authority pursuant to Assembly Bill 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. Last year, the Legislature again tried to pass another 33% RPS bill, SB 722, but the session expired before the legislation could reach a final vote. Two bills were introduced in this session: SB 23 and SBX1-2. SBX1-2 was identical to SB 23, but it was introduced in special session in an attempt to speed passage of the legislation. SBX1-2 now goes to Governor Brown for signature, and he is expected to sign the legislation into law.

For more background and information on the decision and its implications, click here.

California Court Enjoins Implementation of Cap-and-Trade

Legal News Alert from Stoel Rives Environmental Law Group

 

March 23, 2011

San Francisco Superior Court has issued a final decision in Association of Irritated Residents v. California Air Resources Board.  For the moment, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is enjoined from further rulemaking to implement the California Global Warming Solutions Act (A.B. 32), including for the cap-and-trade program.  The Court upheld the validity of CARB’s Scoping Plan for implementation of A.B. 32, saving CARB from having to revise the Plan.  But, the Court found flaws with CARB’s environmental review of the Scoping Plan under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), in particular its analysis of alternatives to the Plan’s recommended greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction measures, such as cap and trade.  CARB is enjoined from further rulemaking until the agency has come into compliance with CEQA by amending its environmental review of the Scoping Plan. 

For entities facing regulation under A.B. 32, this decision has important implications.  Scoping Plan GHG reduction measures that have already made their way through the rulemaking process appear unaffected.  But CARB’s cap-and-trade program never made it out of the formal rulemaking process. While the Board members of CARB approved the cap-and-trade program in December 2010, it left it to the Executive Officer to take final action to adopt the proposed regulation (or bring it back to the Board) after more details were finalized.  CARB had a packed schedule this year to finalize cap and trade prior to its January 1, 2012 start date.  Under the Court’s final decision, these activities will have to be shelved if they fall within the rubric of further rulemaking or implementation.  Regulated entities may thus have a temporary reprieve from the onset of cap and trade in 2012.  But continued uncertainty over the details of CARB’s planned GHG regulation of stationary sources is a less than ideal situation for regulated sources.

For more background and information on the decision and its implications, click here.

If you currently subscribe to Stoel Rives legal updates, click here to update your contact information and preferences. To join the Stoel Rives mailing list and ensure direct delivery of future alerts, click here to subscribe. To unsubscribe, send an email to unsubscribe@stoel.com.

California Court Enjoins Implementation of Cap-and-Trade

Legal News Alert from Stoel Rives Environmental Law Group

 

March 23, 2011

San Francisco Superior Court has issued a final decision in Association of Irritated Residents v. California Air Resources Board.  For the moment, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is enjoined from further rulemaking to implement the California Global Warming Solutions Act (A.B. 32), including for the cap-and-trade program.  The Court upheld the validity of CARB’s Scoping Plan for implementation of A.B. 32, saving CARB from having to revise the Plan.  But, the Court found flaws with CARB’s environmental review of the Scoping Plan under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), in particular its analysis of alternatives to the Plan’s recommended greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction measures, such as cap and trade.  CARB is enjoined from further rulemaking until the agency has come into compliance with CEQA by amending its environmental review of the Scoping Plan. 

For entities facing regulation under A.B. 32, this decision has important implications.  Scoping Plan GHG reduction measures that have already made their way through the rulemaking process appear unaffected.  But CARB’s cap-and-trade program never made it out of the formal rulemaking process. While the Board members of CARB approved the cap-and-trade program in December 2010, it left it to the Executive Officer to take final action to adopt the proposed regulation (or bring it back to the Board) after more details were finalized.  CARB had a packed schedule this year to finalize cap and trade prior to its January 1, 2012 start date.  Under the Court’s final decision, these activities will have to be shelved if they fall within the rubric of further rulemaking or implementation.  Regulated entities may thus have a temporary reprieve from the onset of cap and trade in 2012.  But continued uncertainty over the details of CARB’s planned GHG regulation of stationary sources is a less than ideal situation for regulated sources.

For more background and information on the decision and its implications, click here.

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Stoel Rives Helps Launch Solar Industry's First EPC Contract Template

SolarTech, a non-profit private/public consortium, recently announced the solar industry’s first engineering procurement and construction (EPC) contract template for solar financing. Whereas a PPA (power purchase agreement), loan agreement or operating lease agreement handle the front-end financing relationship, the EPC agreement handles the execution phase of the project. The template was developed by the SolarTech Finance committee, with the support of my colleague Howard Susman, and is projected to reduce contract negotiations by 50 to 75 percent.

In SolarTech’s announcement, Howard said that “our guiding principles in developing this form were, first, to achieve sufficient balance in the allocation of risks that both contractor and owner would feel comfortable with the terms, and second, to include provisions typically acceptable to the financial community, without whose acceptance, there would be no projects at all.”

 

You can download a copy of the EPC contract template here (free for SolarTech members; $395 for non-members).

$184 Million for Advanced Vehicle Research and Development

Today, the Department of Energy (“DOE”) announced that it is accepting applications for up to $184 million over three to five years to accelerate the development and deployment of new efficient vehicle technologies that will reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, save drivers money, and limit carbon pollution. Projects will span the broad spectrum of technology approaches, including advanced materials, combustion research, hybrid electric systems, fleet efficiency, and fuels technology.

The Funding Opportunity Announcement (Reference Number: DE-FOA-0000239) addresses the development of key technologies required to achieve large scale adoption of competitive, cost-effficient, advanced vehicles such as plug-in electric hybrids (PHEVs) and electric vehicles (EVs).

The FOA released today focuses on several approaches to improving vehicle efficiency, including:

  • Advanced fuels and lubricants
  • Use of lighter weight materials
  • Advanced cells and design technology for electric drive batteries.
  • Advanced power electronics and electric motor technology
  • Efficient and emission-reducing engine technology.

The FOA can be found by entering the FOA reference number on the FedConnect Web site: https://www.fedconnect.net/FedConnect/PublicPages/PublicSearch/Public_Opportunities.aspx

 

Applications for the solicitation are due February 28, 2011. Applications must be submitted through Grants.gov to be considered for awards. The DOE expects to announce the awards by summer 2011

 

Incentives for Natural Gas Vehicles Stalled by Recent Elections

The Promoting Natural Gas and Electric Vehicles Act of 2010 (S. 3815) was introduced by Senator Harry Reid on September 22, 2010 and placed on the Congressional calendar.  The Bill, however, has questionable chances of passing.  This is likely due in part to the politics of a lame duck session and the recent elections.  And at least some commentators believe that even if the bill did come up for a vote, it would fail by a wide margin.

Content of the Proposed Promoting Natural Gas and Electric Vehicles Act of 2010

The Promoting Natural Gas and Electric Vehicles Act of 2010 (S. 3815) is designed to reduce oil consumption and improve energy security by amending the Internal Revenue Code to provide incentives related to natural gas and plug-in electric vehicles.  With respect to natural gas vehicles (NGV), the Bill provides rebates to qualified owners of vehicles that are powered completely or in part by natural gas, and provides grants and loans for the development of infrastructure and manufacturing related to NGVs.  The Bill would allocate at least $6.3B in incentives and includes a provision to increase the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund financing rate from 9 to 21 cents per barrel.

Rebates for Vehicles

The Bill states that the Secretary shall establish a rebate program for qualified owners who convert or repower a conventionally fueled vehicle to operate in part or completely on natural gas, although details of the rebate program are not provided in the Bill.  The Bill also provides for rebates of $8,000 to $64,000 for NGV’s, based on vehicle weight ranging from under 8,500 pounds to over $26,000.  There are lower incentives for vehicles that are powered only partially by natural gas.

Other Benefits in the Bill

The Bill also provides grants to encourage the development of infrastructure and manufacturing, including grants up to $50,000 for qualified refuelers for the installation of natural gas refueling properties placed in service between 2011 and 2015.  Another aspect is a direct loan program that could be used to pay up to 80 percent of the cost of reequipping, expanding, or establishing a facility in the United States that will be used for the purpose of producing any new qualifed alternative fuel vehicles or any eligible component.

For more information, see the full text of the Bill.

REMINDER: Applications for SBIR and STTR Phase I Grants Due November 15th

Don't forget that the deadline for Phase I grant applications under the U.S. Department of Energy's ("DOE") Small Business Innovation Research ("SBIR") and Small Business Technology Transfer ("STTR") programs is 8:00 p.m. Eastern, November 15, 2010.  Qualified small businesses with strong research capabilities in science or engineering in any of the research areas identified in the September 28, 2010 Funding Opportunity Announcement are encouraged to apply.  Phase I grants of up to $150,000 will be awarded in FY 2011 under the SBIR; and grants of up to $100,000 will be awarded under the STTR. 

The Phase I Technical Topics document lists several areas of particular interest for the renewable energy industry.  Note that the following is not an exhaustive list.  The full list and descriptions can be found in the Phase I Technical Topics document.

  • Advanced Cooling and Waste Heat Recovery: Advanced Cooling; Advanced Waste Heat Recovery; Geoexchange heat pump (GHP) component R&D; Innovative GHP System/Loop Designs.
  • Production of Bioenergy and Biofuels from Cellulosic and Non-Food Biomass:  Biomass Feedstock Stabilization and Drying; Biomass Torrefaction; Sugar Catalysis to Advanced Biofuels and Chemical Intermediates; Pyrolytic Thermal Depolymerization.
  • Hydrogen and Fuel Cells:  Reducing the Cost of High Pressure Hydrogen Storage Tanks; Fuel Cell Balance-of-Plant; Demonstration of Alternative-Fuel Fuel CElls as Range Extenders.
  • Innovative Solar Power:  High Efficiency, Low Cost Thin Film Photovoltaics; Low Cost Building Integrated Photovoltaics; Static Module PV Concentrators; Solar-Powered Water Desalination; Distributed Concentrating Solar Power ("CSP").
  • Advanced Water Power Technologies: Pumped Storage Hydropower; Advanced Hydropower Systems; Wave and Current Energy Technologies; Advanced Component Design for Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Systems.
  • Wind Energy Technologies: Transportation and Assembly of Extremely Large Wind Turbine Components for Land-Based Wind Turbines; Wind Energy Capture in Non-Conventional Wind Resources; Offshore Grid Infrastructure Hardware Development; Offshore Mooring and Anchoring Technology.

Detailed descriptions of each subtopic are included in the Phase I Technical Topics document.

Smart Grid Oregon Announces Its First Policy Conference--November 9, 2010

Following on the heels of a September 2010 report by GTM Research forecasting that the smart grid market in the U.S. will grow more than 70%, from $5.6 billion in 2010 to $9.6 billion by 2015, Smart Grid Oregon today announced the new organization’s first conference to be held on November 9, 2010 at the World Trade Center in downtown Portland.

The conference will feature keynoters Kurt Yeager, Executive Director of the Galvin Electricity Initiative and President and Chief Executive Officer of the Electric Power Research Institute; and Roy Hemmingway, past Chair of the Oregon Public Utility Commission and also past Chair of the New Zealand Electricity Commission.

 

Smart Grid Oregon is a trade association that was launched in June 2009 and is dedicated to making Oregon a leader in the implementation of Smart Grid technologies and in supporting companies that build and market Smart Grid products and services.  The aim of the first Smart Grid Oregon Public Policy Conference is to help public and utility officials, regulators, legislators, city and county governments and other stakeholders in Oregon and the region gain a better understanding of the Smart Grid and policy decisions that will need to be addressed in the coming years.

 

Stoel Rives is a member of Smart Grid Oregon, and we are a sponsor of the November 9 conference.  See you there!

To learn more, go to www.smartgridoregon.org or contact Ashley Henry at Ashley@smartgridoregon.org or 503-866-9191.

Good News and Bad News for DOE's Loan Guarantee Program

There has been a wave of good and bad news this past week regarding the DOE's Loan Guarantee Program.  On the positive side, Secretary Chu announced on Friday that the Department would be adding an additional compliance period for the Innovative Solicitation.  The current deadline for the Part I application under the program is August 24th.  Secretary Chu announced the applications would be accepted until October 5th thus providing six more weeks of time to applicants.  Secretary Chu did not extend the Part II deadline and cannot extend the September 30, 2011 start construction deadline as that deadline was established by the Stimulus Bill itself.  Still, the extension was generally viewed as a respite and perhaps an indication of a willingness to further extend the program.

On the bad news side, the Senate approved the FMAP state aid bill to avert teacher layoffs and pay for Medicaid which is to be funded in part by taking $1.5 billion in funds that the Stimulus Bill appropriated to the DOE Loan Guarantee program.  Clearly driven by Pay-Go requirements, this is a reminder of the $2.0 billion fleecing that the Loan Guarantee Program suffered when Cash for Clunkers program was passed.  While it has been promised that the funds will be restored, the fact that the Cash for Clunkers funding has not yet been restored raises concern about whether the restoration will occur. 

FERC Comments on Electric Storage Technologies Due August 9

Just a friendly reminder that the deadline to submit comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) on electric storage technologies is just around the corner. In its Request for Comments Regarding Rates, Accounting and Financial Reporting for New Electric Storage Technologies, FERC’s Office of Energy Policy and Innovation seeks comments on the following issues: 

  1. The use of and rate treatment for storage facilities, including when it is appropriate to classify a storage facility as a transmission asset.
  1. The mechanisms by which a storage project that is used for multiple purposes may be compensated. Specifically, FERC seeks comment on whether a storage project may be compensated as transmission (e.g. for supporting unbundled transmission service by supplying reactive power) and also be compensated for providing ancillary services or for enhancing the value of merchant generation (e.g. by shifting output from an off-peak period to an on-peak period).
  1. The possibility of creating a stand-alone contract storage service and whether the storage provider would provide the service of electricity storage, enabling its customers to determine how to use their contracted share of the storage.
  1. Whether new accounting and reporting requirements should be created in order to facilitate cost of service or other rate policies for new storage technologies, such as chemical batteries and flywheels.

In addition to the issues outlined above and other specific questions posed by FERC in its Request for Comments, FERC invites comments on other related aspects of the storage issues not specifically addressed by FERC in the above-referenced document.  Comments are due on Monday, August 9, 2010 and should reference Docket No. AD10-13-000.     

Senators Propose Making Energy Storage Property Eligible for ITC & CREBs

Last week, Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), introduced legislation that would add grid-connected energy storage property to the list of technologies eligible for the federal investment tax credit (the "ITC").  Under the Storage Technology for Renewable and Green Energy Act of 2010 (the "STORAGE 2010 Act"), eligible energy storage property would include hydroelectric pumped storage and compressed air energy storage, regenerative fuel cells, batteries, superconducting magnetic energy storage, flywheels, thermal energy storage systems and hydrogen storage.  Systems that can sustain a power rating of at least one megawatt for a minimum of one hour would be eligible for a 20% tax credit under the ITC program.  Should the bill become law, the tax credit would provide significant assistance to intermittent energy resource developers that are seeking new ways to shape and firm their projects' output.

The STORAGE 2010 Act would limit the available credits to $1.5 billion, and no single project may be allocated more than $30 million.

Importantly, the bill creates special extended deadlines for hydroelectric pumped storage facilities.  Whereas the majority of energy storage property considered under the bill would be required to be placed in service within two years of the date the ITC was allocated, pumped storage facilities would have three years to secure required licenses and permits, five years to begin construction, and eight years to be placed in service.

Compressed air energy storage systems would enjoy similar extended deadlines- i.e., would be reqired to begin construction within three years and be placed in service within five years.

The bill would also allow grid-connected energy storage property to qualify for Clean Renewable Energy Bonds under section 54C of the Internal Revenue Code.  The full text of the bill can be viewed here.

Minnesota Angel Investment Tax Credit

Governor Tim Pawlenty signed into law the Small Business Investment Tax Credit, also known as the “Angel Tax Credit,” on April 1, 2010.   The Angel Tax Credit is expected to stimulate investment in Minnesota businesses utilizing or developing new technologies, including those related to renewable energy and energy efficiency and conservation. Qualified investors are eligible for a 25 percent individual tax credit (maximum of $125,000 per year per individual or $250,000 per year for those married and filing jointly) for an investment made in a qualified small business. A total of $11 million in credits is currently allocated for 2010. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), which will administer the program, recently made available the application requirements and certification forms on its website. 

Qualified Investors

The following is a general list of criteria for investors to consider in whether they may qualify for certification under the Angel Tax Credit program:

  • Be a natural person.
  • Meet the requirements of an accredited investor under Regulation D.
  • If not an accredited investor, be a non-accredited investor investing in exempt filings per Minn. Stat. 80A.46 (13) or (14) or Minn. Stat. 80A.50 (b).
  • Not receive more than 50 percent of their annual gross income from the business.
  • Be certified by DEED before investment is made. Non-accredited investors making exempt transactions may file for certification within 30 days of making investment. There is a certification filing fee of $350.
  • Make a minimum qualifying investment of $10,000. Three or more investors may join to create a fund. Funds have a minimum investment of $30,000, which may be divided among investors as the fund wishes.

Qualified Businesses

A qualified business must be engaged in technological innovation in Minnesota through the use or research and development of proprietary technology in specified “qualified high technology fields” which include aerospace, agricultural processing, renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation, environmental engineering, food technology, cellulosic ethanol, information technology, materials science technology, nanotechnology, telecommunications, biotechnology, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, diagnostics, biologicals, chemistry, or veterinary science. The following is a general list of criteria for businesses to consider in whether they may qualify for certification under the Angel Tax Credit program:

  • Be headquartered in Minnesota.
  • Have a minimum of 51 percent of employees and 51 percent of payroll in Minnesota.
  • Have fewer than 25 employees.
  • Pay employees annual wages of at least 175 percent of poverty level, currently $18.55 per hour. Does not apply to business’ executives, officers, board members, 20 percent-plus owners.
  • Not have been in operation for more than 10 years.
  • Not previously have received private equity investments of more than $2 million.
  • Not have been disqualified from investment under Minn. Stat. 80 A.50 (b)(3) Small corporation offering registration disqualifications.
  • Not have generated more than $4 million in investments that have received an Angel Tax Credit. The Angel Tax Credit is capped at $1 million per business.
  • Be certified by DEED before investment is made. The certification filing fee is $150.

For more information on the Minnesota Angel Investment Tax Credit, please visit the Angel Tax Credit section of the DEED website.

New Tool for Renewable Energy Investors, Entrepreneurs, and Companies

On June 30, 2010, the U.S. Department of Energy ("DOE") launched its Technology Commercialization Portal (the "Portal").  The Portal is an online resource that provides a mechanism for investors, entrepreneurs and companies to identify new technologies coming out of DOE laboratories and other participating research institutions.  Relevant technologies include:

  • Advanced Materials
  • Biomass and Biofuels
  • Building Energy Efficiency
  • Electricity Transmission and Distribution
  • Energy Analysis Models, Tools and Software
  • Energy Storage
  • Geothermal
  • Hydrogen and Fuel Cell
  • Hydropower, Wave and Tidal
  • Industrial Technologies
  • Solar Photovoltaic
  • Solar Thermal
  • Vehicles and Fuels
  • Wind Energy

The Portal contains marketing summaries about the various DOE technologies that are available for licensing.  Each marketing summary describes a technology's applications, advantages, benefits and state of development.  Further, the Portal also provides access to information on patents and patent applications that have been created using DOE funding since 1992.

The Portal is located at http://techportal.eere.energy.gov/

Discussion on Kerry Lieberman and EPA with William Brent


Here is a Q&A I did with William Brent, the head of Weber Shandwick’s cleantech practice and blogger at www.mrcleantech.com:

WB: I asked my friend Graham Noyes of law firm Stoel Rives who focuses his practice on bioenergy projects, federal energy incentives and carbon monetization for his thoughts on the Kerry Lieberman bill.

Q (WB): What was your main takeaway from the bill?

A (GN): Some context first. There’s a massive potential hammer out there on GHG emitters in terms of the risk of regulation under the Clean Air Act (CAA) by the EPA, which has already issued an endangerment finding that found GHGs to be a danger to public health and welfare, thereby making the EPA obligated to regulate GHG's under the CAA. So the wheels are turning forward at the EPA to regulate GHG. That’s what the EPA will do if nothing else happens. So it’s really surprising that Kerry Lieberman imposes what I think to be much stricter limitations on the EPA than the status quo.

In that sense the bill is very favorable to those industries that have the most to lose from GHG regulation, because it essentially weakens the regulatory landscape for GHG intensive industry when compared to what the EPA is likely to do. That’s why we have the strong industry support lined up for the bill. What’s odd is that we have universal Republication opposition (from a party known for its pro-business stance), and near universal Democratic support (from a party known to support more environmental protections). That is a fundamental disconnect.

The 800 lb gorilla in the room is the EPA's ability to utilize the CAA if the Kerry-Lieberman bill stalls. That’s a really interesting regulatory and political landscape for this thing to play out.

Q: Can you be more specific on how Kerry Lieberman is easier on emitters?

A: We don’t know what the EPA will do precisely in order to get its targets in the endangerment finding. Emissions levels, cost implications for regulated industries – we don’t know. But it’s easy to imagine a scenario in which the EPA ratchets down harder and harder on these emissions to get the problem under control, specifically the PPM concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.. By contrast, Kerry Lieberman has a slow front-end phase-in (with only some industries included in the first years), price collars and very substantial offset programs to lower the economic impact, none of which the EPA would necessarily do. Most people expect the EPA would be more onerous than Kerry Lieberman.

Q: Is legislation or regulation better at the end of the day?

A: The Clean Air Act was not designed for GHGs, but for what we usually think of as pollutants- emissions that are directly unhealthy. CO2 is not something people worry about breathing, it’s the indirect risk of global warming caused by the escalating CO2 levels that triggerred the finding. CO2 is also more ubiquitous than other pollutants hence the tailoring rule actually reduces scope of CAA enforcement.

The EPA would regulate by mandate, not by consensus. If we can’t get legislation passed and the EPA begins enforcement, there will be a lot of criticism about over-reaching and strangling industry. EPA would take a lot of heat for this.

Q: Some argue that EPA will take much longer to regulate than legislation.

A: I don’t necessarily think so. This legislation requires extensive rule-making that will take a long time to happen, consider the RFS2 delay. And the EPA won’t build in phase-in limits like Kerry Lieberman. If EPA moves ahead on its present course, I think it would have a faster impact on emissions than the bill.

Ultimately, I think this landscape will spur a deal with a surprising alliance.

What are the top three ramifications on business from this bill?

The bill would establish a long-term value to CO2e reductions. This will benefit all renewable energy projects and support US offset projects in methane capture, agriculture and forestry that make good GHG sense. 
 

Stoel Rives Clients Receive Huge Tax Credit Awards

Stoel Rives would like to congratulate REC Silicon and SolarWorld on their awards of tax credits by the IRS and DOE. These two companies, combined, received over 10 percent of all the tax credits awarded nationwide under section 48C of the tax code.

On Friday, January 8, the Department of Energy awarded to 183 companies $2.3 billion in tax credits for projects designed to expand, re-equip or establish manufacturing facilities for the production of equipment used to produce renewable and other green energy. The $2.3 billion was the full amount authorized by Congress in the stimulus bill as part of new section 48C of the tax code.

Applications for the credit far exceeded the dollar amount of credits available. Stoel Rives is proud to have been directly involved with these companies in preparing the complex applications for the credit. REC Silicon received the largest award of any company -- $154.8 million. SolarWorld received the seventh largest award -- $82.2 million. These credits will provide these companies with a dollar-for-dollar offset against their federal income tax liability.

There is considerable discussion in Congress regarding adding additional funds to the section 48C program, which will permit another round of awards. Please contact your favorite Stoel Rives attorney if you have any questions about these awards or extension of the section 48C credit.

Secretary Chu Announces $80M for Biofuels

DOE Secretary Chu's announcement today regarding $80 million of ARRA funding for biofuels is potentially a positive development for the long-term development of the biofuels industry.  What is worrisome from a practical perspective  is the division of funding.  The National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts, centered in St. Louis, received $44 million to develop a systems approach for the sustainable commercialization of algal biofuel and bioproducts.  The National Advanced Biofuels Consortium, based here in the Pacific Northwest, received up to $34 million to develop infrastructure compatible biomass-based fuels.  Meanwhile eight infrastructure projects received up to $1.6 million to support expanded fueling infrastructure for ethanol blends. While the Administration is ahead of the curve in recognizing the importance of long-term support for the development of advanced biofuels, it is overlooking the increasingly challenging environment in first generation biofuels.  Simply put- and purely in my opinion- there will be no second generation of biofuels if the first generation does not again thrive.  The ethanol industry has hit a blend wall that the EPA has not been willing to help them overcome in the short term.  Adding $1.6 million in E-85 infrastructure is but a chip in that wall when one considers the massive costs involved in building a national infrastructure.  On the biodiesel side, the current industry has not yet received an extension of its tax credit and was already facing severe challenges.  The investors who supported the expansion of the first generation biofuels industry are still tracking their investments and the policy support for the industry.  While government funding will further the development of the science of advanced biofuels, private sector involvement will be essential to the ultimate commercialization of these fuels.  To accomplish its ultimate goals, the Administration will need to begin to address these issues in a systematic manner.

Zino Green Investment Forum

The ZINO Society, a Seattle-based angel investment group, announced last week that its annual “ZINO Green Investment Forum” would be held on March 4, 2010, at the McKinstry Innovation Center in Seattle.   Up to fifteen early-stage companies in “green tech, clean tech, and sustainable products or services” will be selected by the ZINO Green screening board to present their businesses to angel investors and business leaders attending the investment forum. Finalists will be selected to compete for a $50,000 award from ZINO’s investment fund.

Last year’s winner of ZINO Society’s $50,000 GreenFund award was Hydrovolts, the developer of a hydrokinetic turbine.  After winning the award last year, Burt Hamner, CEO of Hydrovolts, stated that “Our new technology makes it possible to generate renewable energy from fast water currents that could not be tapped before, using a really novel turbine design.  It’s a challenge to explain [our technology] quickly and the presentation, coaching and business model feedback we received from ZINO Society members was incredibly helpful.” Hydrovolts went on to win the  2009 Clean Tech Open National Sustainability Award.

Stoel Rives has been a proud sponsor of The Zino Society since its inception.

The application to apply to present at ZINO Green may be found at https://angelsoft.net/angel-group/zino-society. More information about the event is available at ZINO’s website http://www.zinosociety.com/calendar/1143/ or by contacting Rob Brown at r.brown@zinosociety.com or 206-621-0466.

Stoel Rives is Pleased to Support the Efforts of the Evergreen Team

The goal of the award-winning Evergreen production team is to document, promote and present the clean technology story to audiences of decision makers, regulators, citizens and students in Washington State, the Pacific Northwest and international markets.

In December 2009, the Evergreen team traveled to Copenhagen to document the efforts of the Washington delegation at the United Nations Climate Conference. Videos from this trip, including a report from the Summit for Mayors, conference updates, interviews and "Voices on the Street, are available at http://evergreenfilm.org/home.html.

Stoel Rives is pleased to support Evergreen's effort to promote Washington State as an international leader in clean technology and behavioral change. Learn more about Evergreen at http://evergreenfilm.org.
 

USPTO Announces Pilot Program to Speed Up Green Tech Patents

An update on intellectual property issues from my colleague, John Rafter:

On December 7, 2009 the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO") announced the launch of a pilot program to accelerate the examination of certain green technology patent applications.

Under the Green Technology Pilot Program, patent applications pertaining to environmental quality, energy conservation, development of renewable energy, or greenhouse gas emissions reduction will be advanced out of turn for examination without meeting all of the current requirements of the accelerated examination program (e.g., examination support document). The catch: the USPTO will accept only the first 3,000 petitions to make special, and the petitions must be filed before December 8, 2010 (unless the program is extended). For further details click here.
 

Come Visit Us at E3, The Midwest's Premier Energy, Economic and Environmental Conference, on Nov. 17, 2009

As a proud Exhibit Hall sponsor of E3, the Midwest’s premier energy, economic and environmental conference, Stoel Rives LLP would like to encourage you to attend this annual event. Hosted by the University of Minnesota’s Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment, E3 will focus this year on the intersection of innovative technologies and policies, environmental benefits and emerging market opportunities across the renewable energy spectrum.

Stoel Rives attorneys Mark Hanson, Bill Holmes and Greg Jenner are part of the event faculty. Mark will moderate a panel presentation on the challenges and opportunities of converting carbon dioxide to fuels. Bill will moderate a panel discussing exactly how sophisticated smart power grids need to be in order to scale up renewables as a major U.S. energy contributor. Greg, meanwhile, will participate in a panel discussion on the most efficient and effective strategies for financing renewable energy projects.

 

For more information and to register, please visit the following link: http://bit.ly/XUUjJ. We hope to see you there, and encourage you to visit our booth (#24). In addition to our presenters, Debra Frimerman, Kevin Johnson, Kevin Prohaska, Katie Roek, Mary Sennes, Joe Thompson and Vicki Twogood will be available to discuss any questions you may have. Don’t forget to pick up complimentary copies of our Law of Series handbooks, including The Law of Solar, The Law of Wind, The Law of Biofuels, The Law of Building Green, Lava Law,and our most recent additions The Law of Algae and Show Me the Money: The Law of the Stimulus (2d ed).

Minnesota Renewable Energy Projects RFP

The State of Minnesota’s Office of Energy Security (OES) is requesting proposals from organizations that are engaged in or will engage in the manufacture of renewable energy systems or fuels, energy storage systems, geothermal energy systems for heating and cooling, components of these systems, or equipment for the manufacture of these systems or components.

The maximum award is $1 million. Up to a total of $2 million is available to all recipients. OES anticipates that two to six projects will be selected for awards under this solicitation.

All work to be performed within a proposed scope of work must be completed no later than June 30, 2011.  An applicant must provide at least 40 percent of the total cost of the proposed scope of work. Applicant’s match may be cash or in-kind. 

Each applicant must submit a notice of intent no later than December 4, 2009 to be eligible. Final proposals are due on December 18, 2009. OES anticipates provisional notification of successful applicants no later than January 29, 2010. Final selection will be contingent on determination by U.S. Department of Energy of compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act.    

For more information and to download a copy of the RFP, please visit www.energy.mn.gov and click on Active Request for Proposal (RFP).

USPTO Rescinds Controversial Patent Regulations Package Proposed by Previous Administration

 

An update on intellectual property issues from my colleague, John Rafter:

 

Having previously moved to stay proceedings in the Tafas v. Doll case pending the induction of David Kappos as the new Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”), the USPTO announced on October 8, 2009 that it will join with plaintiff GlaxoSmithKline to file a motion dismiss the lawsuit related to regulations affecting the ability to secure patent protection for inventions.

 

The USPTO attempted to institute these new regulations to reduce the backlog of pending patent applications by lessening the USPTO’s prosecution burden and improving prosecution speed of patent applications. The rules attempted to shift some of the prosecution burden to patent applicants and also attempted to limit the number of patent claims and continuation applications that an applicant could file.

 

For technology companies, provided the case is dismissed as expected, this announcement means that the prosecution of patents at the USPTO will proceed as usual.  However, the new USPTO Director Kappos still has the task of how to get the pendency of patents under control; it now takes at least 2-3 years to get a patent from filing to issue, and that time frame is getting longer.  For more information, see http://www.stoel.com/showalert.aspx?Show=5928.

 

$13 Million Awarded from the Rural Energy for America Program

In an earlier blog, my colleagues, Debra Frimerman and Janet Jacobs reported about the Rural Energy for America Program (“REAP”), in general and specifically in regards to small wind projects.  REAP is a Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) program that provides grants and loan guarantees to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to purchase renewable energy systems, make energy efficiency improvements and conduct feasibility studies for renewable energy systems.  Eligible renewable energy systems include those that generate heat, electricity or fuels from wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, hydro power, and hydrogen based feed stocks.

The USDA has announced that it has awarded more than $13 million in REAP funds for 233 renewable energy projects in 38 states. Examples of the awards include a $1.8 million guaranteed loan and $500,000 grant for Milford Wind Energy, LLC; a $435,271 guaranteed loan and $435,271 grant for Unaka Forest Products, Inc.; and a $15,000 grant to Pacifica Marine, Inc.

 

 

Continue Reading...

November 17: Energy, Economics and Environment (E3) Conference

The University of Minnesota’s annual conference on Energy, Economics and the Environment – E3 – will be held in St. Paul on November 17. Hosted annually by the University of Minnesota’s Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE), this year’s conference will explore current technologies, environmental benefits and market opportunities in renewable energy.

Stoel Rives will be a sponsor of the E3 conference and will, as usual, host a booth at the event. Minneapolis tax partner Greg Jenner will join a panel to discuss “What’s the most efficient and effective strategy for financing renewable energy projects?” To review the agenda and register for the conference, click here.

Free Webinar on Loan Guarantee Program Hosted by DOE

The U.S. Department of Energy is hosting a free webinar on "How to Build a Strong Application" for the DOE Loan Guarantee Program on Tuesday, September 8, 2009 from 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM EST.  The webinar is intended to explain the loan guarantee program and help lenders and applicants navigate the application process.  DOE will also be providing suggestions on how to create a strong loan guarantee application

DOE recently released two solicitations under the program for innovative energy efficiency, renewable energy and advanced transmission and distribution technologies and transmission infrastructure investment projects.  DOE is particularly interested in wind, closed-loop biomass, open-loop biomass, geothermal, landfill gas, trash-to-energy, hydropower and solar projects that are able to commence construction before September 30, 2011. 

DOE will be hosting a series of free webinars on the application process over the next few months. 

Friday Webinar on Commercialization of Advanced Biofuels (Algae)

On Friday August 28, Eric Lindeman of The Energy Daily will be moderating a webinar about "Advanced Biofuels: What Are the Commercial Possibilities?  Why All the Interest in Algae?"  My partner, the always-entertaining John Eustermann, will be speaking at the Webinar along with Connie Lausten (VP, Regulatory and Legislative Affairs, New Generation Biofuels (NGBF)) and Glenn Johnston (VP, Regulatory Affairs, GEVO, Inc.).  You can sign up for the Webinar at http://www.theenergydaily.com/events/bio_fuels_webinar/

Stoel Rives recently published its new "Law of Algae", a guide to the business and legal issues affecting the development of a commercial scale algae biofuels facility. We've introduced The Law of Algae in an on-line “wiki” format because the processes, technologies, and issues are changing rapidly with the commercialization of algae.  The wiki format enables us to update the book frequently to bring you the most current information, so feel free to stop by often! 

Washington Technology Center Provides No-Cost Access to MEMS Fabrication Equipment

Today, the Washington Technology Center announced the launch of its Microfabrication Laboratory Access Program.  The new program provides access to sophisticated micro-electromechanical systems ("MEMS") fabrication equipment to small companies in Washington State.  The goal of the program is to stimulate innovative technologies.

The new Microfabrication Laboratory is one of three state funded programs in Washington.  The facility is 15,000 square feet and small businesses with less than 100 employees can apply for up to three months of free lab access (valued at up to $12,300).  Eligible projects include, but are not limited to proof of concept, prototyping, testing, process development, and small-scale production.  A more complete description of the program is available here.

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Show me the Money: Green Jobs Grants

Recently, the U.S. Department of Labor has issued $500 million for green job training.  This money is being released through a series of competitive grants.

If you are an organization within Washington State, the Governor's Office requests that you submit a brief information form to the Governor's Evergreen Jobs Leadership Team.  The Team is compiling a list of potential applicants which will be posted on a public website.  The information on this list will be available for stakeholders to find grant partners and leverage resources.

A copy of the form is available here: http://www.wtb.wa.gov/documents/clearinghousegrantform.doc

 

Show me the Money: Applications Available for the Washington State Energy Program

Washington previously received $60.9 million in Recovery Act funding for its State Energy Program (“SEP”). The Washington Legislature later provided $38.5 million to the Washington State Community, Trade and Economic Development (“CTED”) agency to administer a loan and grant program for eligible projects in the areas of energy efficiency, renewable energy and clean energy innovation (see our earlier blog entry here for more details). The deadline for submitting a notice of intent to apply is July 27, 2009 at 5:00 p.m. Pacific time, and the application is due August 17, 2009 at 5:00 p.m. Pacific time.

I attended an informational meeting held by CTED on July 13, 2009. The meeting provided an overview of the loan and grant program, as well as funding details, eligibility guidelines and evaluation criteria. Eligible projects can receive between $500,000 to $2 million in loans and grants in the first round, with the requirement that applicants provide other sources of funding at least equal to the amount of the loan or grant request. The non-SEP funding may include amounts spent or committed to the project since January 1, 2009. Projects will be evaluated based on the feasibility and quality of the project plan, the experience and qualifications of the project team, the ratio of matching funds to SEP funds, job creation, and energy savings/production. CTED intends to announce award decisions in September 2009.

Show me the Money: Applications Available now for Washington's State Energy Program

On July 1, 2009, Washington State’s Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development (“CTED”) issued application guidelines and forms for its State Energy Program (“SEP”) (available by clicking here). The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the “Recovery Act”) provided $60.9 million in new funding for Washington’s SEP. Subsequently, the Washington Legislature allocated $38.5 million to CTED to administer a loan and grant program for energy efficiency and renewable energy program (see our client alert, available here, regarding the legislative action). 

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Show me the Money: $7.5 Million Available to Develop Commercial Energy Efficiency Training Programs

On June 26, 2009, the Department of Energy ("DOE") released a funding opportunity announcement ("FOA") to deploy $7.5 million in Recovery Act funds to further its goals of reducing energy consumption and achieving net zero-energy buildings (defined as buildings that produce as much energy as they consume).  In order to reach these goals, DOE recognizes that a workforce must be created to help existing buildings reach, and new buildings keep, their full energy efficiency potential.

This specific FOA provides ten to thirty individual awards from $250,000, to $750,000 to develop training programs for three specific sets of commercial building specialists:

  1. Equipment technicians,
  2. Operators, and
  3. Energy commissioning agents/auditors

Entities involved with energy efficiency, professional development associations, trade training/development associations, universities, community colleges, technical trade schools, and apprenticeship programs are encouraged to apply.

Applications must be submitted by September 1, 2009 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time

Stoel Rives Expands Its San Diego Office

 

We welcome energy attorneys Morten Lund and David Quinby to the firm’s San Diego office as members of the Energy and Telecommunications group. They join attorneys Howard Susman and Brian Nese. The San Diego office has relocated to a larger space at 12265 El Camino Real, Suite 303, to accommodate further expansion (new contact information below).

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Morten Lund, formerly a partner with Foley & Lardner LLP in Milwaukee, has experience in a broad variety of financing transactions, with particular focus on the development and financing of wind and solar energy projects. Morten is a frequent presenter and author on renewable energy topics. He earned his law degree from Yale University in 1995 and obtained his A.B. at Augustana College in 1992. He is admitted to practice law in the state of Wisconsin and is pending bar admission to the state of California.

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David Quinby is the current office managing partner of the firm’s Minneapolis office, and will now split his practice between California and Minneapolis. He concentrates his practice on corporate, securities, finance, and merger and acquisition matters, with a particular focus on renewable energy clients and their project development efforts. David is admitted to practice law in the state of Minnesota and is pending bar admission to the state of California.

The California energy team's capabilities also include real estate, land use and permitting, equipment procurement and construction, state and federal regulation, environmental matters, and dispute resolution.

Stoel Rives has received a national ranking for its Renewables and Alternative Energy practice from Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business (2009), rating among the top law firms in this category. The firm has been at the forefront of growth in renewables in recent years and represents many of the industry leaders in solar, wind energy, geothermal, biomass, hydroelectric, ocean, combined-cycle natural gas, carbon sequestration and biofuels project development in California, the United States, Canada and abroad.

For more information about the Stoel Rives Renewable Energy Group, visit www.stoel.com/renewableenergy or contact:

Howard Susman at  (8... or hesusman@stoel.com
David Quinby at  (8... or dtquinby@stoel.com
Morten Lund at  (8... or malund@stoel.com
Brian Nese at  (8... or bjnese@stoel.com

 

Show me the Money: $12.9 million available for Geologic Sequestration Training and Research

The Department of Energy ("DOE") has released $12.93 million to fund geologic sequestration training and research. $7.93 million is available for awards to all universities, colleges, and college-affiliated research institutes and $5 million is available for awards to historically black colleges and universities or other minority institutes listed on the Office of Civil Rights's accredited post secondary minorities institution list. 

Individual awards will be made across five areas of interest:

  1. Simulation and Risk Assessment
  2. Monitoring, Verification, and Accounting
  3. Well Completion, stimulation, and Integrity
  4. Capture and Transport- including pipeline transport and pre-combustion capture
  5. Post-Combustion capture- including oxy-combustion capture

DOE anticipates awarding 42 awards ranging from $100,000 to $300,000 to fund research projects involving field projects for hands-on training opportunities. 

 

Green Trademarks and Eco-Friendly Claims

Jere Webb, a partner in our Trademarks and Intellecutal Property Group, recently wrote the following interesting piece about green marketing claims:

It is evident that virtually every business now is trying to position itself as being “green”. For a discussion of restrictions on “green advertising”, particularly the FTC’s green ad guidelines (the “Green Guides”), and similar efforts at the state level, see “Green Claims Advertising – What You Can Say and What You Can’t”. The FTC is reviewing the Green Guides and likely will amend them in the near future. For comments submitted in the review process and additional information, see Green Guides.

 

            The newer arena is green trademarks. The United States Patent and Trademark Office is now routinely rejecting, based on descriptiveness, multiword trademarks, that start with or contain the word GREEN. An example is the mark GREEN JOURNEY for hybrid cars. But in the same application, the applicant sought to register for clothing, and the Trademark Office accepted the mark, but with a disclaimer of the word GREEN. It found that the two word mark was merely “suggestive” of clothing, not “descriptive”. See "Green" Trademarks Face Hostile Climate in USPTO.    

 

            For an example of a green mark that passed muster, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) recently reversed an examining attorney’s descriptiveness refusal for the mark GREEN INDIGO for clothing, finding it to be an “incongruous” term for clothing and therefore merely suggestive and not descriptive. The case is In re Jones Investment, Inc.  (TTAB Jan. 21, 2009.) 

 

            The lesson is: If you want to include the word “GREEN” in a trademark, some careful review and advice from a trademark lawyer is in order.

 

            Want to read more? See “Eco-Friendly Claims Go Unchecked” (USA Today June 22, 2009).   The FTC’s brochure “Sorting Out Green Advertising Claims” can be found here:  http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/general/gen02.pdf

 

 

Show me the Money: Florida, Idaho, and Kansas State Energy Programs Received $77.1 Million from the Recovery Act

On June 24, 2009, the Department of Energy (“DOE”) announced more than $204 million in Recovery Act funding to ten states for their State Energy Programs ("SEPs"). 

Here is a summary of how the monies will be used in Florida, Idaho, and Kansas:

Florida's SEP will fund energy efficiency, renewable energy, and alternative fuels projects in the state.  Florida will deploy these funds through several loan and grant programs to promote the commercialization of new clean technologies.  Florida was awarded $50.4 million, and will receive an additional $63 million after demonstrating successful implementation of its SEP.

Idaho's SEP will launch a set up new programs, including the Renewable Energy Business Development Program, to further renewable energy development in the state while creating new jobs and stimulating the economy.  Further, new zoning regulations will be created to attract renewable energy developers and projects.  Idaho received $11.4 million and will receive more than $14 million in additional funding after demonstrating successful implementation of its SEP.

Kansas's SEP will launch several initiatives to boost energy efficiency in commercial buildings, increase financial options for renewable energy, and increase cost savings for individual homeowners in its state.  A portion of the money will also be deployed to create a new utility rate price plan and to fund an energy audit rebate plan.  Kansas received $15.3 million and expects to receive an additional $19 million after demonstrating successful implementation of its SEP.

 My colleagues are blogging on the other states that received funds. 

Show me the Money: Conneticut and Utah State Energy Programs

Today, the Department of Energy (“DOE”) announced more than $204 million in Recovery Act funding to ten states for their State Energy Programs ("SEPs"). 

Here is a summary of how the monies will be used in Connecticut and Utah:

Connecticut will use its SEP funding to further a variety of programs. Examples include the deployment of alternative-fuel vehicles and in-home energy audits. In-home energy audits involve a specialist performing an energy assessment, weatherizing the home, and installing energy conservation devices. After demonstrating successful implementation of its plan, the state will receive an additional $19 million, for a total of $38 million.

Utah will use its SEP funding to collect data about potential renewable energy resources in the state and to improve energy efficiency. The energy efficiency program will provide financial incentives to upgrade residential, commercial, public education, and government buildings. New construction developments will also qualify for rebates if they meet specific energy efficiency goals. After demonstrating successful implementation of its plan, the state will receive an additional $17 million, for a total of $35 million.

My colleagues are blogging on the other 8 states that received funds today. 

 

Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program Update

 

June 23, 2009: the Obama Administration announced $8 billion in conditional loan commitments for Ford, Nissan and Tesla to support the development of innovative, advanced vehicle technologies. Ford Motor Company received a commitment of $5.9 billion to retool several  to produce more fuel efficient models; Nissan received a commitment of $1.6 billion to retool their Tennessee factory to build advanced electric automobiles and an advanced battery manufacturing facility; and a commitment of $465 million was made to Tesla Motors to manufacture electric drive trains and electric vehicles in California. 

These are the first conditional loan commitments reached as part of the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program. The Department plans to make additional loans under this program over the next several months to large and small auto manufacturers and parts suppliers up and down the production chain with fuel-efficient technologies 

Show me the Money: $10 million for Climate Showcase Communities

On June 16, 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") issued a request for applications ("RFA") for its Climate Showcase Communities Grant Program.  The RFA provides $10 million for programs to help lower green house gas ("GHG") emissions through energy and resource management.

Eligible activities are those that reduce GHG emissions in the following priority areas:

  • Use or supply of green power products, on-site renewables, and other clean energy supply options;
  • Energy performance in municipal operations (including municipal energy, water, and waste-water utilities);
  • Energy performance in residential, commercial, agricultural, aqua-culture, and/or industrial buildings;
  • Land use, transportation, or community master planning;
  • Reduction of vehicle miles traveled;
  • Solid waste management;
  • Agricultural, aqua-cultural, and natural resource management;
  • Heat island management;
  • Removal of barriers for greenhouse gas management, through the development of effective programs, policies, or outreach; or
  • Other innovative activities which generate measurable reductions of greenhouse gases

The EPA expects to award up to 30 cooperative agreements.  Individual awards can be as high as $500,000, but most awards will range in value from $300,000 to $500,000.  Eligible entities include local governments, Indian tribes, and intertribal consortiums.

Applicants must submit an informal notice of Intent to Apply by July 1, 2009 and full applications are due July 22, 2009 at 4:00 p.m. EDT.

Show me the Money: Net-Zero Energy Commercial Building

The Department of Energy ("DOE") expects to establish net-zero energy performance for all U.S. commercial buildings by 2050. DOE  has issued a funding opportunity announcement ("FOA") to support this goal.  $1 million will be awarded to fund the collection of information on technologies for individual components and systems to support this goal.

 

 

DOE Funds Seven Advanced Battery Projects for Electric Drive Vehicles

On June 16, 2009, the Department of Energy ("DOE") announced the funding of seven research projects for the development of advanced batteries for electric drive vehicles.  The projects focus on improving performance and decreasing the cost of batteries for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles ("PHEVs").  PHEVs are designed to be driven in electric-only mode and can be recharged from a standard electric outlet.

These research projects were selected under a Funding Opportunity Announcement ("FOA") released on February 29, 2008.  So far, a total of ten projects have been awarded under this FOA.  The most recent awardees include:

Company Award Project Description
A123Systems, Inc. $1.1 million High throughput electrode fabrication process for lithium ion battery technology
Angstron Materials LLC, K2 Energy Solutions, General Motors Corp., and HST Auto up to $3.2 million Hybrid nano carbon fiber/graphene platelet-based high-capacity anodes for lithium batteries
 EnerDel Inc.  up to $3.3 million Chemical shuttle agent that will eliminate the danger of overcharging lithium ion batteries
 MaxPower Inc.  up to $500,000 Adapt MaxPower's present battery management systems for lithium-ion batteries to recognize the imminent appearance of an internal short circuit
 North Carolina State University and American Lithium Energy LLC  up to $1.35 million High-energy composite nanofiber anodes for materials for lithium ion batteries
 SION Power Corp  up to $800,000 Lithium sulfur (Li-S) rechargeable battery chemistry
 TIAX LLC  up to $2.36 million Understanding and preventing internal short circuits in lithium ion cells

 

Show me the Money: Seminar for Identifying Funding for Renewable Energy Projects

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides almost $94 billion dollars in direct and indirect spending to clean energy company and projects. See Show me the Money: A Guide to Sources of Funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

On June 17, 2009, I will be speaking in Cle Elum, Washington about how to get your project "shovel ready" for Stimulus Funding.  The seminar will also include sessions on identifying sources of funding and application mechanics.

Please click here for event information

Commercial Scale Carbon Sequestration

On June 12, 2009, the Department of Energy ("DOE") announced that an agreement has been entered to develop the nation's first commercial scale, fully integrated, carbon capture and sequestration project in the country. 

The Project will be constructed by the FutureGen Alliance and will serve as a flagship facility to demonstrate commercial scale carbon capture and storage.  DOE will issue a Record of Decision on the project by the middle of July.  Funding will be phased and conditioned based on completion of NEPA review.

The Project will receive funding from the following sources:

  • $1 billion from Recovery Act funds for carbon capture and storage research
  • $73 million from other federal funding
  • $400-600 million cost share from the FutureGen Alliance (based on 20 member companies contributing $20-30 million each over a four to six year period)

 

 

Show me the Money: $256 Million Investment to Improve Energy Efficiency

On June 1, 2009, the Department of Energy ("DOE") announced plans to deploy $256 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act ("Recovery Act") to be used to improve the energy efficiency of the American economy. Three recent DOE Funding Opportunity Announcements ("FOAs") have been issued in conjunction with this Recovery Act announcement. Additionally, a related FOA has been announced using funds appropriated outside of the Recovery Act. The recently announced funding will support projects in three areas: (1) sustainable energy infrastructure and energy efficient industrial technologies, (2) improved energy efficiency for information and communication technology and (3) advanced materials in support of clean energy technologies and energy-intensive processes.

Click here for more complete details.

 

 

Show Me the Money: Renewable Energy Financing in the Farm Bill

In an earlier blog, my colleague, Debra Frimerman reported about the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).  REAP provides grants and loan guarantees to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to purchase renewable energy systems, make energy efficiency improvements and conduct feasibility studies for renewable energy systems.

REAP is a program under the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (the "2008 Farm Bill").  The 2008 Farm Bill also includes numerous other programs to help develop renewable energy in rural areas and promote the production of sustainable feedstocks for renewable energy production.  Please see this recent alert for specifics.

 

LLC Law Monitor

Renewable energy developers often use limited liability companies (LLCs) as project companies and to form entities for other purposes.  My partner Doug Batey has started a new law blog that will likely be helpful to those charged with setting up, understand and maintaining these LLCs.  Here's today's announcement: 

Stoel Rives LLP is pleased to introduce its new LLC law blog, LLC Law Monitor, at www.llclawmonitor.com

The LLC Law Monitor focuses on the rapidly developing laws affecting limited liability companies. LLCs are a popular form of business entity and are a relatively new development in the law. LLC statutes vary from state to state, and cases of first impression are being decided by state courts every month.

In light of this new and evolving legal environment, Stoel Rives has launched LLC Law Monitor to provide business executives, attorneys, accountants and other professionals engaged in or working with LLCs with timely updates and insights on the new and developing laws shaping this burgeoning business sector.

LLC Law Monitorauthor Douglas L. Batey has nearly 30 years of experience advising executives on corporate and business legal matters. His experience includes counseling clients in a wide range of industries on company formation, mergers and acquisitions, and general corporate governance matters.

We hope that you will find the LLC Law Monitor helpful.

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Douglas L. Batey
Stoel Rives Corporate Attorney

Washington's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Comprehensive Application

On May 11, the Washington Department of Community, Trade, and Economic Development (“CTED”) filed an application with the United States Department of Energy to receive American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (“ARRA”) funds for Washington’s State Energy Program (“SEP”). The application contains funding for renewable energy, energy efficiency, and farm energy assessments. Once the SEP is approved, funding will commence through CTED with advice from the Clean Energy Leadership Council.

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"Show Me The Money"

 

We announce the publication of a guide to federal clean energy funding opportunities under the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (“ARRA”). Titled “Show Me The Money,” the guide reviews the various programs and potential sources of federal funding for clean energy companies and projects. The guide addresses funding opportunities under the ARRA for each of the following energy industry areas: wind, solar, biofuels, biomass, smart grid, transmission, geothermal, marine and hydrokinetic, green building, energy efficiency, advanced battery and fuel cell technology, clean energy equipment manufacturing, green vehicles and clean coal. The guide also contains information about some of the funding opportunities and updates at the federal and state level which we will continue to track closely.

$150 Million to Fund ARPA-E Transformation Energy R&D Projects

On April 27, 2009, the first Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) under the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) was announced offering up to $150 million to fund transformation energy research and development projects. These funds are part of the $400 million appropriated to ARPA-E under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. Individual awards of $500,000 to $20 million are available to eligible projects. This FOA is aimed at projects that have a well-formed R&D plan that can make a significant contribution towards enhancing the economic and energy security of the United States by reducing imported energy, reducing energy-related gases, including GHG, and improving energy efficiency.

To be eligible, an interested applicant must submit a concept paper to ARPA-E that briefly outlines the technical concept for its project between May 12 and June 2.  Early submission is strongly encouraged. Successful applicants will then be asked to submit full applications. More information on this FOA is available at www.grants.gov.  

Clean Energy Projects To Become Eligible for Washington State's Energy Freedom Program

Washington State's legislature has passed a bill expanding the Energy Freedom Program and the uses to which the Energy Freedom Account can be put.  Previously, funds from the Energy Freedom Account could be applied to biofuels projects only, and appropriations from the Energy Freedom Account to a separate account - the Green Energy Incentive Account - could be used solely to develop alternative fuels fueling stations and related projects.  The bill extends the Program to clean energy projects, energy efficiency and energy technologies and establishes a Energy Recovery Account as another means of funding innovative renewable energy projects through loans or grants.  A more detailed Client Alert will be issued once Governor Gregoire signs the bill.

President Obama Clamps Down on Lobbyists and First Amendment

On March 20th, President Obama issued a directive to the heads of executive branch departments and agencies.  The directive is aimed at achieving the laudable goal of ensuring merit based decision-making for grants and other forms of stimulus funds provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (usually referred to as the Stimulus Bill).  It seems that while candidate Obama promised repeatedly during his campaign to limit the influence of lobbyists in Washington DC, the passage of the Stimulus Bill has sent record numbers of lobbyists to D.C. to scramble for federal dollars.

In apparent response to this, President Obama has singled out registered lobbyists and regulated their contacts with the executive branch.  His directive provides that “executive department or agency officials shall not consider the view of a lobbyist registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, concerning particular projects, applications, or applicants for funding under the Recovery Act unless such views are in writing.”  Officials are directed to inquire regarding the possible presence of registered lobbyists both upon the scheduling and commencement of phone calls and in-person conversations “with any person or entity concerning particular projects, applications, or applicants for funding under the Recovery Act.”  If any registered lobbyists are detected, the directive forbids them from attending the meeting or participating in the phone call.

Not surprisingly, the American League of Lobbyists (ALL) has objected to the Obama Administrations restrictions.  In a demonstration that politics does indeed sometimes make strange bedfellow, ALL has been joined by the ACLU and the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).  In a letter to the President released Tuesday, these three groups requested that President Obama rescind the constitutionally offensive provisions of the directive immediately.   

As tempting a political target as they may be, registered lobbyists have a place in our political system and rights under our Constitution.  The President should heed the groups’ advice and tailor his directive to enable transparency while not muzzling any voices--including those paid to advocate.

Stoel Teams with EUCI to Present Law of Renewable Energy Webinars

Stoel Rives LLP is teaming up with EUCI to present a series of webinar’s based on our series of “Law of” books about renewable energy. The Law of Renewable Energy web conferences will address the major legal issues associated with the development of renewable energy projects.  The web conferences will include the following topics:

Tax and Project Finance Structuring Issues for Renewable Energy Projects
April 27, 2009

Real Estate and Site Rights for Renewable Energy Projects
May 11, 2009

PPAs for Renewable Energy Projects
May 18, 2009

Siting and Permitting for Renewable Energy Projects
June 1, 2009

EPC, Major Component, Construction and Balance of Plant Contracts for Renewable Energy Projects
June 8, 2009

Regulatory and Transmission Issues for Renewable Energy Projects
June 15, 2009


Please sign up here if you’d like to get your own copy of any book in our “Law of” series. We update the “Law of” books regularly, and we'll have copies of the Law of Wind (5th edition) at Booth No. 3148 at the AWEA conference in Chicago on May 4-7, 2009. In addition, please sign up here if you’d like to receive our Stoel Rives Energy Law Alerts and other periodic updates.
 

Stimulus Bill Funding for Data Center and Telecom Technology Energy Efficiency, Smart Grid, Enhanced Geothermal Systems, and More

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, also known as the “Stimulus Bill,” allocated billions of dollars in funding for renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy storage, and other projects under the energy and climate change umbrella. Of the vast sums of money available for such projects, $16.8 billion goes to the U.S. Department of Energy’s (“DOE”) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (“EERE”). Another $4.5 billion in direct spending on smart grid demonstration projects will be overseen by DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability. 

On March 5th, DOE’s EERE Industrial Technologies Program (“ITP”) released a Notice of Intent to issue funding for technologies that increase the energy efficiency of server-based information and communication technology (“ICT”) systems housed in data centers and telecommunications central offices. The solicitation seeks proposals for projects that would increase the efficiency of IT equipment, software, power systems, and cooling systems. The solicitation also extends to the demonstration and field-testing of pre-commercial technologies in these areas, as well as in distributed generation or alternative power technologies used to power ICT systems. ITP intends to release the solicitation sometime this month. 

DOE also recently announced its intention to issue a Funding Opportunity Announcement (“FOA”) for smart grid demonstrations. In addition, DOE issued two FOAs for enhanced geothermal systems (“EGS”). The EGS FOAs offer up to $84 million over six years, including $20 million for the 2009 fiscal year. Check out our recent Energy Law Alert for more information on DOE funding for smart grid demonstrations and enhanced geothermal systems.   

Because of the relatively short window for responding to FOAs, DOE recommends that prospective applicants complete several one-time pre-application steps. Information on submitting applications is available at www.grants.gov.

 

Utah Governor Urged to Withdraw from Western Climate Initiative

On February 13, the Utah Public Utilities and Technology Committee voted to favorably recommend a House Resolution urging Governor Huntsman to withdraw Utah from the Western Climate Initiative. The resolution, 1st Sub. H.R. 3, contains recitals referring to “Utah’s abundant and clean burning coal,” the lack of balance in the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Council on Climate Change, the absence of economic analysis of the costs and benefits associated with carbon reduction mandates, and other concerns regarding the economic impact of a cap and trade mandate. The resolution is among a number of proposed resolutions and bills addressing energy issues, including H.J.R 9, Joint Resolution on Cost-Effective Energy Efficiency and Utility Demand-Side Management, H.J.R. 12, Joint Resolution Supporting Hydrogen Power From Advanced Coal and Carbon Capture and Sequestration Technology, and House Bill 412, Energy Policy Amendments.

Governor Schwarzenegger Strikes Again: 33% RPS by 2020 and Streamlined Renewable Energy Permitting in California

Governor Schwarzenegger’s been keeping busy on California’s big-ticket environmental issues. Yesterday the Governor’s office issued Executive Order S-14-08, with the laudable goal of accelerating the development of renewable energy resources . . . not to mention bolstering California’s economy with clean-tech jobs. Governor Schwarzenegger announced the Order at what will be the largest solar panel manufacturing facility in North America. The Governor’s remarks on his Executive Order highlighted that investing in renewable energy projects will help us fight climate change, “while driving the state’s green economy.”

Executive Order S-14-08 calls for California to get 33% of our electric energy from renewable sources by 2020. The current Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), instituted in SB 107 in 2006, requires that 20% of California’s power come from renewable sources by 2010. Unlike the current RPS, the Governor's new target applies to both investor-owned utilities and public utilities.  A recent ballot initiative in California, which would have applied California's RPS to public utilities, failed on November 7th, after being opposed by a broad coalition of environmental groups and renewable energy industry groups.  The Governor says he will propose legislation that will codify the 33% RPS for all retail sellers of electricity.

The Order also implements an MOU signed yesterday by the California Energy Commission (CEC), the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Starting in February 2009, renewable energy projects should enjoy a streamlined project approval process before a special joint unit of DFG and CEC. But exactly how will these two agencies “immediately create,” as the Order directs, a one-stop process for permitting renewable energy generation power plants? For thermal power plants over 50 MW, including geothermal and solar thermal facilities, the CEC already is, supposedly, the one-stop shop

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Congress Extends PTC and ITC--More Analysis to Follow

In an email alert that we just sent out, my colleagues in the Stoel Rives Tax Section report:

Today the House passed, and President Bush signed into law, H.R. 1424, which includes the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008 (the Act). The Act contains the much-anticipated extension of the production tax credit (PTC) and investment tax credit (ITC) sunset dates.

The Act extends the PTC placed-in-service sunset date for certain wind and refined coal facilities until December 31, 2009, and extends the PTC placed-in-service sunset date for certain other qualifying facilities until December 31, 2010. The Act also expands the PTC to include certain marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy facilities placed in service on or before December 31, 2011.

The Act extends the ITC placed-in-service sunset date for solar, fuel cell and microturbine property until December 31, 2016 and expands the ITC to include combined heat and power system property, qualified small wind energy property, and geothermal heat pump system property.

In addition, H.R. 1424 contains a variety of other renewable energy tax provisions, including provisions allowing the energy credit to offset alternative minimum tax liability; increasing the amount of the biodiesel and renewable diesel fuel credits and extending the sunset dates until December 31, 2009; authorizing new clean renewable energy bonds and qualified energy conservation bonds; and extending the energy efficient commercial buildings deduction and the new energy efficient home credit.

Our Tax Section is working on preparing a more detailed analysis of the tax aspects of HR 1424.  If you'd like to receive updates concerning H.R. 1424 and other renewable energy and clean tech issues, please subscribe to our Renewable Energy Mailing List.

 

Ocean Energy Makes Waves Again

For those who are following the development of ocean and wave energy on the West Coast of the United States and Canada, The Oregonian published an interesting article by Gail Kinsey-Hill entitled Off Oregon's Coast, Wave Energy Makes a SplashThe article provides a good overview of the latest Oregon developments in ocean and wave energy, describing the big payoffs, the challenges, the concerns of crabbers and fishermen, and the competing technologies (including Ocean Power Technologies' buoy-like "point absorbers" and Pelamis' sausage-like sea snake).

As The Oregonian's article suggests, those interested in learning more about cutting edge ocean technology should consider attending Oregon's Third Annual Ocean Renewable Energy Conference at the Mill Convention Center in Coos Bay.  The two day conference will be held this Thursday and Friday (September 25-26).  The event is hosted by Oregon Wave Energy Trust, and you can learn more about the conference and register for it at oregonwave.org

My partner Cherise Oram, one of the nation's leading legal experts on ocean, tidal and other forms of hydrokinetic energy, will be speaking on a panel discussing how wave projects are developed from concept to commercialization.  She'll have on hand plenty of complimentary copies of the new second edition of Stoel Rives' Law of Ocean and Tidal Energy , or you can download your own today.

Algae Takes Wing

The August 16-22, 2008 issue of NewScientist features a very interesting article called "A tank of the green stuff" (pages 34-37).  Airlines are facing volatile and rising fuel costs, plus the risk of fuel shortages.   Unlike land transport, which it least in theory can be converted to run entirely on electricity, air travel depends on energy-dense kerosene.  As if that weren't bad enough, the aviation industry is a significant source of carbon dioxide emissions that will come under increasing scrutiny as countries try to manage and eventually reduce their emissions.

So the airlines are looking seriously at turning biofuels into aviation fuel.  The problem with first generation biofuels (apart from an unfortunate but solvable tendency to clog in high-altitude cold conditions) is that they require large amounts of feedstock to produce.  When Virgin Atlantic airlines test-flew a 747 from London to Amsterdam earlier this year, it used a biofuel made from coconut and babssu oil produced by Imperium Renewables of Seattle.  But according to NewScientist, that flight alone would have consumed 3 million coconuts had it been run entirely on biofuels.  That's why Virgin and its partners stressed that the flight was "proof of concept."  Because of the large volumes involved, NewScientist estimates that biofuels derived from Jatropha and even biomass (e.g., waste timber) would use up huge swathes of land (much larger than France and Germany, respectively) .

Enter algae.  Biofuel from algae could be produced, in theory, at 36 tonnes per hectare.  To satisfy the 2007 consumption of jet fuel, that would require commiting 66,000 square kilometers to algae produce--an area about the size of Ireland.  That certianly sounds a bit more manageable!

There are many technical hurdles between now and commercial production of algae, but the airlines may provide an important catalyst for the development of this new technology.  Related stories on the topic can be found in The Minneapolis Star-Tribune and Biodiesel Magazine.

Recognizing that algae is likely to be among the most important next generation of biofuels, Stoel Rives is in the process of preparing the new Law of Algae, which will be our eighth "Law of" book (unless, of course, we can come up with a catchier title between now and the publication date),  Stay tuned--the new book should be available in October.  Please subscribe to our Renewable Energy Mailing List if you'd like to receive notice when the Law of Algae is published.

More Good News for Solar!

Coming on the heels of the Oregon PUC's decision in the Honeywell case (see Steve Hall's blog below), scientists at MIT announced today that  they had discovered a cheap way to separate oxygen from hydrogen using techniques learned from studying plant photosynthesis.  Once separated, the hydrogen and oxygen can be used to power a fuel cell.  During the daytime, a home would run on solar power--at night, it would draw energy stored in the fuel cell.

Could this development be a game changer?  The full story is to be published in Science today--in the meantime, check out ScienceDaily.

 

 

The New (2nd) Edition of the "Law of Biofuels"

Stoel Rives has now published seven original Law of books covering various topics in the renewable energy industry.  To write these books, our attorney-authors draw on over 20 years of legal and business experience in wind, geothermal, biofuels, and other renewable energy resources.  The books are intended to provide a succinct but thorough overview of industry segments in a way that is practical, business-oriented and not overly legalistic.

Of course, the renewable energy world is changing constantly.  This Renewable + LawSM Blog is our effort to stay on top of these issues as quickly as they emerge.  But at least once each year, we also update our Law of books.  The update process helps us develop a deep and immediate understanding of complex issues, and it's a great way to build a proficient team of lawyers who know how to work efficiently together. 

The Law of Biofuels (2d Ed) will be making its debut at the Stoel Rives booth (No. 718) at The American Coaliton for Ethanol (ACE) conference on August 12-14 at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Nebraska .  You can also order it or download it online.  The new book includes a chapters on Next Gen Biofuels, technology and licensing, financing, tax, siting and permitting, construction, commercial contracts, and real estate.  Biofuels attorneys from all of Stoel Rives' contributed their insights to this book

At the ACE conference, my partner David Quinby, an old hand at biofuels and energy M&A,  will be speaking on a panel addressing "Ethanol Today & Tomorrow: Growing and Selling Considerations,"  in which he will explain how biofuels plants can grow, diversify, recapitalize or sell in today's world of narrow margins and volatile markets.  Dave promises an exciting presentation, a little like "The Dark Knight" but with more humor.