Sarah Johnson Phillips

Sarah Johnson Phillips

Sarah Johnson Phillips is a partner in the firm’s Energy Development practice group, where she focuses on energy project development, buying, selling and financing energy projects, and energy regulatory matters. She advises large wind and solar project developers on permitting and real estate matters, including obtaining major project permits, negotiating leases and easements, and title work.  She also has particular experience working on distributed solar and community-shared solar projects, including negotiating offtake agreements, leases, financing arrangements, M&A transactions, interconnection agreements, and regulatory matters.   In addition, Sarah works with large energy consumers on a range of regulatory issues and proceedings affecting ratepayers and regularly appears before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

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Xcel Wins Approval to Transform Minnesota Generation Fleet

Today, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved Xcel Energy’s dramatic proposal to shift away from coal generation toward renewable energy.   In authorizing the company’s 2016-2030 Integrated Resource Plan (RP-15-21), the Commission directed Xcel to retire two large coal units capable of generating approximately 680 MW each, procure at least 1,ooo MW of wind by 2019, procure at … Continue Reading

MISO Proposes Interconnection Queue Reform To Address Continuing Delays

Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) is proposing another round of interconnection queue reform.  On December 31, 2015, MISO filed proposed revisions to its Open Access Transmission, Energy and Operating Reserve Markets Tariff with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The revisions, which amend MISO’s Generator Interconnection Procedures, would be MISO’s fourth significant set of queue … Continue Reading

Regulate vs. Replace: Hg Ct in MN Affirms State Commission’s Application of Mercury Emissions Reduction Statute

Last year, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved investor owned utility Minnesota Power’s mercury emissions reduction plan for the 585 MW Boswell Unit 4, its largest coal-fired power plant.  Minnesota’s Mercury Emissions Reduction Act (MERA) requires utilities to prepare plans to reduce mercury emissions for the state’s six largest coal power plants.  See Minn. Stat. … Continue Reading

Xcel Announces 150 MW Solar RFP

This morning, Xcel Energy announced plans to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for up to 150 MW of solar energy generation. Xcel included its RFP plans in a filing submitted to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (Commission) outlining its strategy for complying with Minnesota’s new solar energy standard. The standard requires that public utilities like Xcel … Continue Reading

7th Circuit Affirms FERC’s Decision on Multi-Value Projects, Relying Heavily on Policy of Promoting Wind Development

From my colleague, Andrew Moratzka: On June 7th, 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued an opinion in Illinois Commerce Commission, et al., v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, affirming the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s approval of the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc. (MISO) Multi-Value Project (MVP) tariff for financing new … Continue Reading

California Court Sides with Solar Project in Williamson Act Challenge

My California colleague Kristen Castaños has written an alert about a recent Fresno County Superior Court decision that denied a challenge to Fresno County’s cancellation of a Williamson Act contract to accommodate a solar generating project. The decision is the first time a court has considered the interplay between the Williamson Act, a California statute … Continue Reading

Renewables Account for All New U.S. Electricity Generating Capacity Added in September

In September 2012, all new electricity generation came from solar and wind projects, according to the Energy Infrastructure Update (PDF) issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Energy Projects. Five wind projects totaling 300MW and 18 solar projects totaling 133MW came online during the month. The Energy Infrastructure Update also noted that nearly … Continue Reading

SB 594 Signed into Law: Intended to Expand Virtual Net Metering in California

California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed a new law that could significantly expand virtual net energy metering in California. Since 1996, California utility customers owning renewable energy systems have been able to offset their electricity bills with credits earned by feeding power generated by their systems back to the utility. SB 594 amends California’s net metering law … Continue Reading

DC Circuit Upholds EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Rules

Our colleague Tom Wood has prepared a helpful summary of the DC Circuit opinion, released this morning, that upheld the EPA’s approach to regulating greenhouse gases under the major new source review program, the Title V program and the vehicle emission standards program. The lawsuit had challenged three separate rulemakings: (1) EPA’s “Endangerment Finding” in which … Continue Reading

FERC Conditionally Approves MISO Queue Reform

On Friday, March 30, 2012, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (the “Commission”) conditionally approved a proposal from the Midwest Independent System Operator (“MISO”) to change its generator interconnection queue procedures to address backlogs and late-state terminations of generation interconnection queue agreements (FERC Docket No. ER12-309-000).  The new procedures are effective January 1, 2012.  The reforms … Continue Reading

Wisconsin Wind Siting Rules Effective Today

After years of uncertainty, the Wisconsin legislature allowed statewide wind energy siting rules to go into effect today. The new rules (known as “PSC 128”) require wind turbines to be located at least 1,250 feet from the nearest residence and at a distance 1.1 times the height of the wind turbine from the nearest property line. Cities, … Continue Reading

Energy Storage in the MISO Footprint

Two new energy storage studies are getting underway this summer in the Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO) footprint: the Energy Storage Study and the Manitoba Hydro Wind Synergy Study. At MISO’s Energy Storage Workshop held on June 29, 2011, MISO explained that its goals are to explore the potential reliability, market, and planning benefits of energy storage … Continue Reading

Minnesota PUC clarifies that “other credits” include RECs

Last year, we reported on the resolution of a longstanding dispute between Xcel Energy and 46 renewable energy generators about the ownership of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) when the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) is silent. In an Order released September 9, 2010, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission decided that 1) generators own the RECs produced under … Continue Reading

Stoel Rives’ Mark Hanson and Greg Jenner to speak at Renewable Energy in the Midwest

Join Stoel Rives Partners Mark Hanson and Greg Jenner in Minneapolis, for Renewable Energy in the Midwest States: New Policy, Business and Legal Developments.  Here they will meet with leading renewable energy professionals, innovators and regulators to address opportunities and challenges for developers  and entrepreneurs in the Midwest renewable market and the developing Smart Grid … Continue Reading

Debate Heats Up over Minnesota Wind Energy Siting Standards and Setbacks

Late last week, an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) found that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (the “Commission”) is not obligated to consider or apply a county wind ordinance containing siting standards that are stricter than the Commission’s statewide standards. And even if the Commission were obligated to consider and apply the more stringent standards, the … Continue Reading

Renewable Energy Projects: Keys to Drafting Power Purchase Agreements

Renewable Energy Projects: Keys to Drafting Power Purchase Agreements Thursday, March 31, 2011 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. (Eastern) Join Stoel Rives Partner, Bill Holmes, as he presents this exclusive, 60-minute webinar on Thursday, March 31. The power purchase agreement (PPA) is the most critical component of a renewable energy project, and essential to project finance. … Continue Reading

Recommendations for Carbon Capture and Storage in California

The California Carbon Capture and Storage Review Panel released its final recommendations last week after nine months of fact-finding and deliberations. The Panel was sponsored by the California Energy Commission, the California Public Utilities Commission, and the California Air Resources Board (“CARB”), with participation from the California Department of Conservation and the California State Water … Continue Reading

New Community Solar Guide Available

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar American Communities program released a community solar guide late last week. The guide presents detailed information about three project models: utility-sponsored projects, special purpose projects formed for producing community solar power and non-profit sponsored projects. The guide outlines the legal and financial implications of each model, provides practical tools … Continue Reading

Renewable Energy Law Alert: The Upper Midwest Reopens to Renewable Energy Development

Yesterday, December 16, 2010, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) conditionally approved a proposal by the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator (MISO) that significantly changes how large transmission upgrades are funded across the MISO region. MISO’s proposal creates a new category of transmission projects called Multi-Value Projects (MVPs) for upgrades that are determined to enable … Continue Reading

FERC Decision Opens Door for New Wind Development in the Upper Midwest

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) opened the door today for new investment in transmission lines in the Upper Midwest that will deliver new wind energy to market.  By establishing a methodology for sharing the cost of new transmission lines, FERC’s decision could provide a significant boost to wind development in the region.  For more … Continue Reading

Minnesota Power Announces RFP for up to 100 MW of Wind

Minnesota Power has announced a request for proposals (RFP) seeking up to 100 MW of wind generation.   Proposals must be for wind generation that is deliverable to Minnesota Power’s service territory prior to the expiration of the Federal Production Tax Credit on December 31, 2012.  Minnesota Power serves northeastern Minnesota. Details about the RFP and a … Continue Reading

Report Identifies Transmission Corridors to Deliver 8,600 MW of New Wind in the Upper Midwest

The Upper Midwest Transmission Development Initiative (UMTDI) issued its final report last week on transmission planning and cost allocation issues associated with delivering renewable energy from wind-rich areas to the region’s customers. Through UMTDI, the governors of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin collaborated to identify six renewable transmission corridors that could serve as … Continue Reading
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