Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) announced today that it expects to issue its 2012 Solar Photovoltaic PPA RFO (“PV PPA RFO”) in late March or April . PG&E's goal in this second round of the RFO is to procure 50 MW of new PV generation.
Two of the eligibility requirements of the PV PPA RFO are (1) that participants provide proof that an interconnection application has been filed, and (2) that participants must pursue Resource Adequacy for their projects. If you need to file an application, note that the current Cluster 5 window closes March 31, 2012. For program information, please visit PG&E’s 2012 PV PPA RFO website. Among other things, PG&E notes on the RFO website that it has developed an interactive, Google-based map of its service territory as a tool to help renewable energy developers identify potential project sites (although the map is not a guarantee that generators can interconnect at any particular time and place).
PG&E plans to conduct a Participants’ Webinar to discuss the 2012 PV PPA RFO shortly after its issuance. Registration for this event will be posted on the 2012 PV PPA RFO website at a later date.
On June 20, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion on American Electric Power Co., Inc., et al. v. Connecticut, et al.
This case is significant because it dismissed a lawsuit in which several states and environmental groups sought court orders requiring large electrical utilities (alleged to be “the five largest emitters of carbon dioxide in the United States”) to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions because the emissions were alleged to be a public nuisance. Plaintiffs alleged that the emissions violated federal common law (nuisance) or state tort law. The plaintiffs were thereby requesting a court decree setting a cap for C02 emissions to be reduced annually.
The Supreme Court in a fairly short opinion touched upon a number of significant issues. The Court first dealt with the issue of jurisdiction and then with the issue of whether there is a federal common law cause of action of nuisance. The Court split on the issue of whether the plaintiffs had Article III standing, i.e., whether there was sufficient specific injury to the plaintiffs such that the Article III Claims and Controversies requirement would be met, allowing the plaintiffs to avail themselves of the jurisdiction of the federal court system. Half of the Court believes that there was no standing, the other believes (assuming the prior cases are an indication) that some of the plaintiffs (the states) had sufficient standing that the case could be brought. This issue was addressed in the Massachusetts v. EPA case in which the Court held that greenhouse gases were regulated under the Clean Air Act. In that case the state of Massachusetts was found to have had sufficient standing to allow the case to be heard.
The Court held that the federal common law nuisance which had been recognized in several interstate environmental cases was displaced by the statute even absent the setting of emission standards (EPA’s CO2 regulations are due in May 2012.) The Court also indicated that the agency should be allowed to act first, before the judiciary, as the expert agency is better equipped to do the job then the judiciary who typically lack the economic technological resources to cope with these issues. Plaintiffs’ proposal to have federal judges determine these emission limits in the first instance could not be reconciled with the statute.
Finally, the Court did not reach the issue of the viability of the state nuisance claims because they had been dropped by the lower courts when they held that the federal common law governed over state law. Because there was no briefing on the state law preemption issue, the issue was left for consideration on remand. The Court did indicate that the issue of whether there was preemption of the federal common law by federal legislation, as in this case, did not require “the same sort of evidence of a clear and manifest (congressional) purpose” required for preemption of state law. (Citing City Milwaukee II 451 U.S. at 304, 317 (1981)).
This decision, while sending the case back to the lower courts, raises several unresolved issues. Will the courts continue to allow plaintiffs, particularly non-states such as the industry groups in the Massachusetts case, and the environmental groups in this case, Article III standing where there is an argument that no specific injuries have been pled? Will the courts find that state common law claims are also pre-empted by the federal Clean Air Act? Will this theory of agency primacy be applied at other levels? What happens if the EPA or Congress decides not to issue greenhouse gas regulations? We’ll be continuing to monitor the case as it works its way back through the lower courts—stay tuned for updates.
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:
- The use of and rate treatment for storage facilities, including when it is appropriate to classify a storage facility as a transmission asset.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.