An entry from our colleague Jake Storms:
While wineries and vineyards have long been moving toward being “green,” several have taken the next step by installing renewable energy generation onsite. One of the most recent is August Cellars, just outside Newberg, Oregon. The winery recently installed a 150-foot-tall, 50-kilowatt wind turbine. August Cellars maneuvered around the somewhat prohibitive cost of the project (between $70,000 and $100,000) by not actually owning the turbine, but instead leases the turbine from a third party with an option to buy.
August Cellars is following in the footsteps of such giants as Constellation Wines, which, in September 2010, announced it would increase its solar photovoltaic (PV) usage to nearly 4MW with new installations at its Estancia, Ravenswood, and Clos du Bois wineries in California. These systems would expand on the company’s already existing use of solar PV at its Gonzales winery. Constellation will own the systems and take advantage of the tax credits. Once completed, the installations will cover nearly 100% of the energy needs of Estancia and Ravenswood, 75% of Clos du Bois, and 60% of Gonzales and is projected to save the wine giant nearly $1 million annually from reduced energy costs.
The move by wineries toward renewables is not merely a “West Coast thing” either. Red Caboose Winery, a 10,000-case rural winery located in Meridian, Texas, recently released a statement that it would be using a USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant of $15,617 to help install a solar PV system. According to the owners, the new system will allow the winery to have a net annual energy consumption of zero.
If structured properly, installation of renewables can make economic sense for a winery/vineyard, creating significant financial savings from reduced energy costs. In addition, for a wine business, there is substantial public relations value to going “green.” When combined with other energy efficiencies, installing renewables can substantially reduce a winery/vineyard’s carbon footprint. This can, in turn, generate substantial brand goodwill from a public that is becoming increasingly aware of environmental consequences. This is especially true among the wine-drinking demographic.
Wineries and vineyards looking to install renewable energy often encounter a host of obstacles. Two of the largest are variability and cost.
Simply put, the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. Nor does power always cost the same or do governmental entities offer the same incentives. A winery or vineyard contemplating installation of a wind turbine or solar array should look closely at the available resource. This may mean paying for ancillary costs, such as scientific studies. It will assuredly mean a closer look at long-term planning to establish acceptable rates of return given the attendant risk and variability.
In 2009 and the first part of 2010, installation of a commercial solar PV system in the United States with a capacity of 250-500kWDC averaged around $7.10 per installed watt before incentives and tax credits (click here for a more in-depth look). That price can drop to $4.00 per watt or lower after incentives and tax credits, with some larger projects (>2MW) seeing prices as little as $2.50 per watt. While this cost is projected to decline further, it still creates a significant initial capital outlay that may require many years to recoup. It therefore becomes important to view renewable installation in the long term.
With this in mind, wineries and vineyards have several ways of making the use of renewables cost-effective and attractive. These include using tax credits and grants, third-party ownership as in the August Cellars example, and taking advantage of such programs as Net Metering or Feed In Tariffs, where such programs are available.
- Net Metering – This uses a special metering system that credits you for the excess power you generate. Net Metering allows a winery to avoid the full retail cost of electricity and pay only for its “net” use in each billing or truing up period.
- Feed In Tariff (FIT) – A Feed In Tariff allows smaller renewable generators to sell their generation at set rates back to the utility. FIT contracts can be very restrictive and often run from five to 20 years. They also have modest, yet very predictable, rates of return. However, installations being used under a FIT program are generally not eligible for other programs, such as Net Metering.
While the obstacles can be daunting, installing renewable energy at your winery or vineyard can have substantial economic and marketing benefits. An owner contemplating installing a renewable energy system would best be served by having a good understanding of the local resources and looking into all avenues of funding. With proper planning, renewable energy can make your “reds” and “whites” feel green.
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.
President Obama met today with a bipartisan group of governors from around the country and announced a series of steps the administration is taking to boost biofuels production in the United States. The President’s Biofuels Interagency Working Group released a report spelling out ways to promote the development of the biofuels industry in the United States in connection with the long-term renewable fuels standard of 36 billion gallons per year by 2022. The report, Growing America’s Fuel, focuses on government strategies to achieve the renewable fuels standard and the target for 100 million gallons of cellulosic biofuels in 2010. The strategies include supporting the development of first and second generation biofuels with the additional focus on accelerating third generation biofuels development and supporting feedstock research and demonstration. The report addresses the use of regional supply chain systems to ensure all fuels produced are compatible with the U.S. transportation fuel infrastructure.
President Obama also announced the creation of an Interagency Task Force on Carbon Capture and Storage. Representatives from the DOE and the EPA will co-chair the task force which will develop a plan for affordable carbon capture and storage technology in the next ten years, with a goal of bringing five to ten commercial demonstration projects on line by 2016.
Stoel Rives partner Tom Wood reports:
Minutes ago EPA announced its long awaited “endangerment” and “cause or contribute” findings in relation to six key greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride. While technically this announcement is of limited significance (applying only to motor vehicle emissions), the policy import of these determinations is tremendous.
In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court held that greenhouse gases are air pollutants covered by the Clean Air Act in the Massachusetts v. EPA decision. This case arose in relation to EPA’s choice not to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from new motor vehicles. The Court held that EPA must determine whether or not emissions of greenhouse gases from new motor vehicles cause or contribute to air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare, or whether the science is too uncertain to make a reasoned decision.
Earlier this year EPA proposed to issue the two part finding required to commence regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles. This required first a finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare and a second finding that emissions from new motor vehicle engines cause or contribute to greenhouse gas air pollution. The comment period for these proposed findings ended June 23, 2009 and EPA received over 380,000 public comments. Today, Lisa Jackson (EPA Administrator) signed final findings that greenhouse gases endanger both the public health and the public welfare of current and future generations and that the combined emissions of these greenhouse gases from new motor vehicles and new motor vehicle engines contribute to the greenhouse gas air pollution that endangers public health and welfare.
As a legal matter, today’s findings relate only to vehicle emissions. However, the precedent that they create will almost certainly result in substantial regulation for other source categories. It is no coincidence that this finding was announced on the first day of the Copenhagen talks on climate change. The Obama administration both wanted to show that some progress was being made in the U.S. and it wants to leverage this progress into further statutory or regulatory requirements.
Towards this goal, one of the more interesting things to come out of the determinations is the formal establishment of the new pollutant: “Well-Mixed Greenhouse Gases.” This term is now officially entered into EPA’s regulatory lexicon as a pollutant to be regulated. Well-Mixed Greenhouse Gases consists of the 6 Kyoto gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride) but introduces the grouping now as a regulatory unit. It is noteworthy that vehicles are not material sources of all of these greenhouse gases and so the use of this term should be seen as setting the stage for future regulation.
Also of interest is an EPA restatement in a footnote that at this time it does not consider greenhouse gases to be a regulated air pollutant. This is of tremendous significance to stationary sources of greenhouse gases as the moment that greenhouse gases become regulated, there is the potential argument that they are subject to Title V and major new source review permitting. At the risk of understating the issue, that would be a mess of biblical proportions.
For those wishing to read all 284 pages of the findings document, it can be found at: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/endangerment/downloads/FinalFindings.pdf
The findings are not valid until 30 days after they are published in the Federal Register. Expect publication to occur later this month.
Last week, the US EPA extended the rulemaking period on RFS 2 until September 25, 2009. This extends the period by 60 days. While this rulemaking is highly complicated and contentious, it is unclear that extending the comment period will improve this situation. In addition, the effective date of the regulations continues to be delayed. This could undermine Congress' intentions in passing the Energy Independence and Security Act that established RFS 2. Let's hope EPA is able to move quickly and efficiently in finalizing and implementing the regulations.