Administrative Law Judge Recommends 4.7 Percent Increase for Xcel Energy's Minnesota Customers

On July 8, 2013, Xcel Energy Inc., submitted a filing with the SEC detailing an Administrative Law Judge’s decision in a pending electric rate case in Minnesota and calculating the decision’s impact on one of its subsidiaries. In November 2012, Northern States Power Company (NSP), a wholly owned subsidiary of Xcel Energy Inc., petitioned the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) for authority to increase electric rates by $285 million, or 10.7 %. This request was referred to the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings for review as a contested case. Government agencies, business and industry representatives, and low income advocates intervened in the case to contest NSP’s request. These intervenors raised a number of concerns with NSP’s request, including NSP’s proposed level of recovery for investments in nuclear facilities, depreciation expense, sales forecast, incentive compensation, property taxes, and rate of return. After reviewing multiple rounds of written testimony and overseeing an evidentiary hearing, the ALJ concluded in a written opinion dated July 3, 2013, that NSP’s request should be reduced, based largely on a lower return on equity of 9.83%, reduced recovery for nuclear plants, and increased sales forecast. According the SEC filing, the ALJ’s decision limits NSP’s request to $127 million, or 4.7%. This revised increase is based on an equity ratio of 52.56% and an electric rate base of $6.233 billion. The ALJ’s decision will be reviewed by the MPUC, which will reach a final decision in early September 2013.

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.

 

Tradable RECs Now Count Toward California's RPS

On Thursday March 11, 2010, the California Public Utility Commission (the "CPUC") created a market for tradable renewable energy credits ("TRECs") in the state.  That's big news.  In its 149-page decision, the CPUC stated that investor-owned utilities ("IOUs"), energy service providers, and community choice aggregators may now use TRECs to comply with California's ambitious renewable portfolio standard ("RPS").  These entities are now permitted to purchase a portion of their RPS compliance from generation sources other than those they own (e.g., distributed solar generation facilities within the state and certain out-of-state facilities).

 

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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).

Show me the Money: DOE Proposes Amendments to its Loan Guarantee Program

Today, the Department of Energy (DOE) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to amend 10 CFR Part 609, the rule regulating the loan guarantee program authorized by section 1703 of Title XVII of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.  The two principal goals of section 1703 of Title XVII are to encourage commercial use of new or significantly improved energy-related technologies and to achieve substantial environmental benefits.  (See these recent alerts regarding the DOE loan guarantee program and the related application process)

After reexamining Title XVII, the DOE has concluded that the statute does not require a first lien on all project assets.  DOE has discovered that its current requirement that it be in lien position is in conflict with the financing structure of many energy projects.  For example, many utility scale power plants are jointly owned by public power agencies, cooperative power systems and investor-owned utilities.  In these cases, it may not be commercially feasible to obtain a lien on all project assets or the credit of a sponsor may be sufficient to support a more modest pledge of assets.

Furthermore, DOE has found that other parties are interested in participating as co-lenders, co-guarantors, or insurers of Title XVII loans.  However, these other parties expect to share, on a pari passu basis, in any collateral securing such loans.

Consequently, DOE proposes two amendments to the current rules:

  1. Delete the requirement of a first priority lien on all project assets and leave to the Secretary (of DOE) the determination of an appropriate collateral package, as well as intercreditor arrangements; and
  2. Allow the Secretary (of DOE) to determine if pari passu lending is in the best interests of the United States

 

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$22 Million for Community Renewable Energy

The Department of Energy (DOE) announced this week that up to $22 million from the Recovery Act would be allotted to up to 4 eligible communities nationwide in order to encourage utility-scale renewable energy systems that provide clean, reliable, and affordable energy supplies for their communities, while creating jobs and new economic development opportunities. The projects will demonstrate how multiple renewable energy technologies, including solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal systems, can be deployed at scale to supply clean energy to communities.  Eligible applicants are local and state governments, Indian Tribes and Tribal Energy Resource Development Organizations or Groups.

Successful applicants will be awarded financial assistance to support the implementation of an integrated renewable energy deployment plan for a community, and the construction of renewable energy systems.  DOE expects each project to also have substantial private sector investment in addition to the funds from DOE.  Completed applications are due September 3, 2009 and the DOE will select awardees by the end of November 2009.

Nuclear Theory Research Funding Opportunity Announcement

   On June 29, 2009, the Office of Nuclear Physics, Office of Science, and Department of Energy (“DOE”) announced a Funding Opportunity Announcement (“FOA”) providing for $6 million for collaborative research projects between universities, non-profit organizations, and Federally Funded Research and Development Centers, including the DOE National Laboratories, to focus on theoretical research topics of nuclear physics.

  DOE intends on awarding two to three topical collaborations starting in Fiscal Year 2010. These topical collaborations will typically be supported at $300,000 to $500,000 per year, although applications with smaller funding requirements will be considered.   Each application should specifically address the following:

·       The opportunity afforded by the proposed research, its relevance to the Nuclear Science Advisory Committee (“NSAC”) Performance Measures, and opportunities identified in the NSAC long range plan;

·       The specific goals of the collaboration, as well as a timeline and milestones for reaching those goals;

·       The relevance and impact of this opportunity on experimental nuclear physics; and

·       The opportunities for training and placing permanent researchers in nuclear theory.

 

Applicants interested in this FOA must submit a formal application by September 1, 2009.   For more information on applying, go to http://www.science.doe.gov/grants/Colab.html.