Through a Notice of Inquiry (“Notice”)[1] approved at its January 19, 2021 open meeting, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) asked whether its Uniform System of Accounts (individually, an “Account,” and for more than one, “Accounts”) should be modified to better reflect the circumstances of non-hydro renewable assets that rely on heat, or motion, of the earth or sun, such as facilities that rely on solar, wind, biomass and geothermal sources.  The Notice describes how various Account categories currently do not readily correspond to renewable equipment. The Notice observes that certain types of renewable equipment (e.g., solar panels and photovoltaic (“PV”) inverters), and related maintenance expenditures (e.g., for solar panels, wind towers or their blades) do not fit well within existing descriptions of the Accounts.[2]
Continue Reading FERC Considers Whether to Modify Accounting System for Renewables

As Congress was completing final negotiations of the stimulus package dealing with the public health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, several key energy provisions made their way into the 5593-page omnibus spending bill passed by the House and Senate on December 21, 2020, particularly much needed extensions of several renewable energy and energy efficiency tax incentives. 
Continue Reading Congress Extends Renewable Energy Tax Credits in 2021 Omnibus Spending Bill

Momentum is growing quickly towards widespread construction of US offshore wind-powered electrical generation facilities. Several States along the northern part of the Atlantic coast have projects actively under development and RFPs for more projects to come.  Recent regulatory guidance has been issued clarifying Jones Act implementation. Here are six key trends and developments for market participants to be aware of.
Continue Reading Six Key Items to be Aware of Today in U.S. Offshore Wind (“OSW”)

The changes brought about by evolutions in renewable energy technologies, and in some cases aggravated by the impacts of COVID-19, are likely to up-end traditional relationships between different forms of energy and the customers that use them. These changes are significantly impacting not just competitors, but their contract counter-parties, the risks they face, their credit-worthiness and their customers.
Continue Reading How will Energy Market Participants Protect Themselves from Ongoing Shifts in the Sources of Energy?

On September 15, 2020, the Army Corps of Engineers published proposed revisions to a wide range of Nationwide Permits (NWP) issued under the Clean Water Act.  The revisions respond to Executive Order 13783, directing heads of federal agencies to review existing regulations that potentially burden development or use of domestically produced energy resources.  Accordingly, the proposed revisions affect NWPs commonly utilized by utility-scale wind and solar energy projects throughout the country.  The Corps will accept comments on the proposed revisions until November 16, 2020.  Here are highlights from the proposed revisions.
Continue Reading Army Corps of Engineers Proposes Revising Broad Range of Clean Water Act Nationwide Permits

On July 18, 2019, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued Order No. 860.  The order requires entities with or seeking market-based rate authority (sellers) to submit certain data related to FERC’s market power analyses, including its indicative screens and asset appendices, into a “relational database” maintained by FERC.  The order also requires the submission of information associated with long-term firm sales.  When changes occur to data previously submitted, the relational database must be updated monthly by sellers.  The database will be used to, among other things, develop asset appendices and indicative screens for FERC filings that require a market power analysis.  Finally, Order No. 860 altered the deadline for “change in status” filings.  Beginning on January 1, 2021, sellers will need to comply with the order by making a baseline submission and using the “relational database” to make future market-based applications.
Continue Reading FERC Order No. 860 Mandates New Market-Based Rate Filing and Reporting Requirements for Sellers of Electric Energy

On May 28, 2020, the IRS proposed long-awaited regulations that address key areas of uncertainty in existing guidance for Internal Revenue Code Section 45Q (45Q) carbon capture and sequestration tax credits. Although some questions remain unanswered, the regulations are a significant step towards reducing regulatory uncertainty and fostering a functional market for 45Q credits. This article will focus on the regulations’ key takeaways for transaction structuring, while also highlighting technical clarifications of significant import for this nascent industry.
Continue Reading IRS Proposes Key Section 45Q Carbon Capture and Sequestration Regulations

On May 1, 2020, President Trump issued Executive Order 13920 (“Executive Order”), which prohibited certain transactions involving bulk-power system electric equipment manufactured or supplied by persons owned by, controlled by, or subject to the jurisdiction of a foreign adversary that poses an undue risk of catastrophic effects on the security or resiliency of U.S. critical infrastructure or the national security of the U.S.  The Executive Order poses several potential problems for electric industry participants, particularly renewable generation owners, developers and investors, which will likely cause uncertainty in equipment procurement decisions.  The Executive Order and its potential issues are discussed below.
Continue Reading Securing the U.S. Bulk Power System: An Assessment of Executive Order 13920

Members of the Sheppard Mullin Energy, Infrastructure and Project Finance Team wrote an article published in the March 16, 2020 edition of Tax Notes Federal regarding the practical impacts on tax equity financing for renewable energy projects of a private letter ruling (“PLR”) published by the IRS in late 2019.  The PLR addressed normalization and loss disallowance rules applicable to public utilities.  These rules have posed significant challenges to public utilities that want to own renewable energy generation facilities, make efficient use of the tax benefits they provide (via the tax equity market) and recover their costs from ratepayers.

Continue Reading Walking the Path of Utilities’ Ownership of Wind and Solar

On February 19, 2020, the IRS published two guidance documents (links here and here) of significant legal and commercial importance to the nascent market for carbon capture and sequestration production tax credits set forth in Section 45Q of the Internal Revenue Code. Although there are certain differences, the guidance bears striking similarity to existing guidance relied upon by participants in the existing wind production tax credit (Wind PTC) tax equity market. Because of the highly developed state of the Wind PTC market, the similarities make it likely that existing Wind PTC deal structures could be adapted for the 45Q tax credits, thereby improving market adoption and transactional efficiencies. On the other hand, technical and economic differences exist between wind generation and carbon sequestration that need to be overcome in order for a robust 45Q tax credit market to develop. While we are continuing to review and consider this new guidance, we have some preliminary observations as to its practical implications on potential 45Q tax credit transactions.

Continue Reading New IRS Guidance on Section 45Q Carbon Capture and Sequestration Tax Credits: Key Preliminary Takeaways for Potential Market Participants

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) requested comments on a proposed rulemaking to revise its regulations under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (“PURPA”). The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NOPR”), among other things, would diminish benefits that have been afforded to Qualifying Facilities (“QFs”), including the availability and value of the “PURPA-put.” The proposed changes also could potentially block certain wind and solar projects that previously would have qualified as small power production facilities from receiving that designation. The NOPR presents uncertainty for renewable developers, as well as other non-utility generators. Adoption of the proposed changes may hinder the development of some renewable energy projects. Comments on the proposed rulemaking are due within 60 days of its publication in the Federal Register.
Continue Reading FERC Proposes Major Changes to PURPA Regulations Impacting Qualifying Facility Rates and Requirements; Throwing Roadblocks in the Path of Renewable Energy Development