On October 14, 2022, the assigned Commissioner (Rechtschaffen) issued a proposed decision (PD) on Transportation Electrification Policy and Investment in the pending rulemaking (R.) 18-12-006 before the California Public Utilities Commission (Commission).  Commission approval of the PD would adopt a new Transportation Electrification Framework (TEF) to guide utility investments in electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure and would authorize $1 billion in ratepayer funding for the first five years of the TE program, known as Funding Cycle 1 (FC1).  In recognition of the rapidly evolving EV landscape, the PD proposes to cap spending during first three years of FC1, which is a five-year funding cycle, at $600 million, and access to the remaining $400 million budget is held until the Commission issues a “Mid-Cycle Assessment” decision to determine whether modifications to or termination of the program budget is warranted.  Notably, the Commission would prohibit Fortune 1000 companies from receiving any FC1 rebates, regardless of whether they propose to operate in a disadvantaged community. Continue Reading Commission Issues Long-Awaited Proposed Decision in Transportation Electrification (TE) Proceeding, Setting a Framework for California TE Policy and Investment

On September 30, 2022 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“Service”) published notice in the Federal Register of a proposed rule amending its regulations authorizing permits for eagle incidental take and eagle nest take. Although the proposed rule includes other proposed revisions, the most notable change is the Service’s proposal to create general permits for certain projects and activities. Under these general permits, applicants would register with the Service, pay the required fees, and certify compliance with general permit conditions. By making general permits available to certain activities and projects, the Service aims to remove administrative barriers, reduce costs, and make the process less confusing for applicants. For projects or activities that do not qualify for a general permit, individual or specific permits will remain available.

In the proposed rule, the Service proposes general permits for four types of qualifying projects or activities: wind energy generation projects, power line infrastructure, disturbance of breeding bald eagles, and bald eagle nest take. We discuss each proposed general permit in turn below.

Eagle Incidental Take Permit for Qualifying Wind Energy Projects. To encourage broader participation in the eagle permitting program by wind energy developers and operators, the Service is proposing a five-year general permit for certain qualifying wind energy projects. Eligibility is determined based on the relative eagle abundance in the project area. To be eligible, all turbines associated with the project must be located in an area with seasonal relative eagle abundance (based on eBird data) below the threshold amounts across five eagle “seasons.” The project must also be greater than 660 feet from a bald eagle nest and two miles from a golden nest to qualify under the general permit.

For existing wind energy projects, the proposed rules would allow project operators to request coverage under the wind energy general permit even when a portion of the project is within an area that does not fall below the applicable relative abundance thresholds. The Service anticipates “issuing a letter of authorization for most existing projects where only a small percentage of existing turbines do not qualify under the relative abundance thresholds or when an existing project has conducted and provides monitoring data demonstrating fatality rates consistent with those expected for general turbines.”

The proposed wind energy general permit requires permittees to monitor eagle take but allows project proponents to use onsite employees rather than relying on third-party monitors. If a project is covered by a general permit and has four eagle fatalities during the permit term, the project will be required to implement adaptive management measures and seek an individual permit at the expiration of the general permit.

The proposed application fee for the wind energy general permit is $500, and the proposed administrative fee is $525 per turbine per year or $2,625 per turbine for a five-year permit. Under the current proposal, wind energy general permits would be valid for five years.

Eagle Incidental Take Permit for Power Lines. The Service is also proposing a general permit option for power line infrastructure. To qualify for coverage under the power line general permit, the applicant must, in addition to meeting other general requirements: (1) ensure that new construction is electrocution-safe for bald and golden eagles; (2) implement a reactive retrofit strategy following all eagle electrocutions; (3) implement a proactive retrofit strategy to retrofit a portion of existing infrastructure during each general permit term; (4) implement an eagle collision response strategy; (5) incorporate information on eagles into project siting and design; and (6) implement an eagle shooting response strategy (aimed at addressing illegal shooting of eagles on power lines). The proposed application fee for the power line general permit is $500 and the proposed administration fee is $5,000 for each state for which the power-line entity is seeking authorization. Like the wind energy general permits, under the current proposal, power line general permits would be valid for five years.
Continue Reading U.S. Fish and Wildlife Proposes Revisions to Eagle Permit Rules, Including General Permits for Qualifying Wind Energy Projects, Power Lines, and Disturbance and Nest Take

On June 30, 2022, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 205 (“AB 205”), which, among various other things, expands the siting jurisdiction of the California Energy Commission (“CEC”) to include non-thermal generating facilities, such as solar and wind projects, with a capacity of 50 megawatts (MW) or more.  The CEC’s siting jurisdiction was previously

At its June 16, 2022, open meeting, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NOPR), Improvements to Generator Interconnection Procedures and Agreements, 179 FERC ¶ 61,194 (2022), proposing reforms to the Commission’s standard generator interconnection procedures and agreements.  The goal of the NOPR is to reduce queue

The California Energy Commission (CEC) hosted a workshop on Tuesday, June 14 to discuss its recently issued (June 10) proposal to deploy federal electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure funding under the NEVI Program authorized by President Biden’s federal infrastructure bill signed into law late last year.[1]

The CEC held the workshop in conjunction with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), which is jointly charged with implementing the state’s NEVI funding. After taking public comment on the draft plan (comments are due by June 28),[2] California will submit its final plan for approval with the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation (Joint Office) on August 1. Federal funding will be released to each state upon approval of the final deployment plans, which is expected by September 30, 2022. The CEC expects to develop the grant funding details later this summer/fall and to release the grant funding opportunity in the winter of 2022. This plan anticipates the first chargers under NEVI project funding should be operational in Q2 of 2025, with full buildout completed by 2030.Continue Reading California Releases Its Draft Deployment Plan for Federal Funding Under the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Program

On May 20, 2022, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC or Commission) issued a proposed decision (PD) that would, among other things, adopt Southern California Edison’s (SCE) 24-hour-slice proposal as the new resource adequacy (RA) framework applicable to load-serving entities (LSEs) under the CPUC’s jurisdiction.  Generally, the proposal would require each LSE to show that it has enough capacity to meet its specific gross-load profile, including a planning-reserve margin, or PRM, for all 24 hours for the “worst day” of each month.  The “worst day” would be defined as the day of the month that has the highest coincident-peak-load forecast.  This new RA framework would likely be implemented in 2025, with 2024 serving as a “test year” for the new framework.

The Commission initially began examining potential changes to its RA framework due to significant and ongoing changes in California’s generation-resource mix, with the increasing reliance on variable resources such as solar and wind, and use-limited resources, such as energy storage and demand response, as well as the retirement of older natural gas generation.  The Commission solicited proposals for a new RA framework starting in 2020, and in 2021 it tentatively adopted Pacific Gas and Electric’s (PG&E) slice-of-day proposal in decision 21-07-014.  The Commission ordered a series of workshops to further develop the proposal, culminating in a workshop report submitted March 1, 2022.  During the workshops, two alternate proposals were developed:  SCE’s 24-hour-slice proposal, and a two-slice proposal developed by Gridwell Consulting.  The parties generally favored one of the two alternate proposals, rather than the PG&E slice-of-day proposal.  The selection of SCE’s 24-hour-slice proposal will set the direction for further development of the new RA framework.
Continue Reading The California Public Utilities Commission Issues Proposed Decision on New Resource Adequacy Framework

On May 18, 2022, the California Energy Commission met to discuss its draft report to evaluate and quantify the maximum feasible capacity of offshore wind to achieve reliability, ratepayer, employment, and decarbonization benefits and establish megawatt offshore wind planning goals for 2030 and 2045. The report is the first of three interim work products that California AB 525 directs CEC to prepare. By the end of this year, the CEC must complete and submit a preliminary assessment of economic benefits as they relate to seaport investments and workforce development needs, and complete and submit a permitting roadmap. The ultimate requirement of AB 525 is to require, by June 30, 2023, the CEC, in coordination with federal, state, and local agencies and a wide variety of stakeholders, to develop a strategic plan for offshore wind energy developments installed off the California coast in federal waters and submit it to the California Natural Resources Agency and the Legislature.Continue Reading California Energy Commission Discusses Draft Report on Offshore Wind

In its first move since hitting “pause” on the California Public Utilities Commission’s (Commission) consideration of a controversial December 2021 proposed decision (Proposed Decision or PD) that would have overhauled the existing net energy metering (NEM) tariff for California’s solar customers, the presiding administrative law judge (ALJ) issued a ruling on May 9 to reopen the record and invite party comments on a limited scope of issues.

Background

The Commission adopted California’s existing solar tariff, known as NEM 2.0, on January 28, 2016 in Decision (D.) 16-01-044.  Customers opting into this tariff pay a one-time interconnection fee (less than $150 for systems under 1 MW and $800 for systems over 1 MW).  Customers taking service on the NEM tariff are automatically opted into a time-of-use rate plan and are subject to select non-bypassable charges (NBCs) that are used to fund general customer programs such as contributions to the wildfire fund, nuclear decommissioning, and the public purpose program, among others. NEM customers receive a bill credit for any excess generation produced by their system and exported to the electric grid, which credits may be used to offset customer energy costs. Under NEM 2.0, any excess generation credits are applied to the customer’s bill at the same retail rate (including generation, distribution and transmission charges) the customer would have paid for the energy consumption.
Continue Reading Commission Ruling Reopens the NEM 3.0 Record to Invite Comment on and Consider Limited Issues