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Five Takeaways: Navigating President Trump’s Executive Order on US Bulk Power System Electric Equipment

President Trump’s May 1, 2020 Executive Order prohibiting certain transactions involving bulk-power system electric equipment developed, manufactured or supplied by a foreign adversary could have far-reaching implications for both the renewable and conventional power industries. It has also raised a high level of uncertainty and risk while the industry awaits the actual implementation of the Executive Order. This interim period, as well as the breadth of the Executive Order, raises key questions and concerns for sponsors and developers of energy projects, construction contractors and energy project investors. Read our latest On the Subject for more in-depth information. Yesterday, after the Department of Energy's stakeholder call, we hosted a webinar that addressed important considerations as to how the Executive Order may impact your business. In particular, our hosts provided a step-by-step framework on navigating the Executive Order based on their prior US...

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Six Takeaways: Shifting Market Dynamics in Corporate PPAs

On Thursday, May 7, McDermott Partners Ed Zaelke and Carl Fleming were joined by Christen Blum, head of the Renewable & Analytics Advisory practices at Edison Energy, to hear her thoughts on the current effects of COVID-19 on the corporate power purchase agreement (PPA) market. Below are six takeaways from this week’s webinar: 1. Despite COVID-19, there is still a strong appetite for corporate renewable procurement: market leaders (such as tech, pharma, and food and beverage companies) have been less impacted by COVID-19 and remain interested in renewable procurement. On the other hand, companies that have been hit the hardest by COVID-19 (such as services and hospitality businesses) have traditionally demonstrated limited interest in renewables; but industrial companies have seen the largest effect of COVID-19—they remain interested in renewables, but are delaying their procurement as they focus on their core business. 2. Although the trend for...

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Six Takeaways: How Utilities and IPPs Are Responding to COVID-19

On Thursday, April 30, McDermott was joined by Brett Kerr, vice president of external affairs at Calpine, Drew Murphy, senior vice president of strategy and corporate development at Edison International, and Andrew Campbell, director of regulatory support and planning at NiSource who shared their perspectives on how investor-owned utilities and independent power producers are managing the COVID-19 crisis. Below are six takeaways from this week’s webinar: 1. As businesses go back to work, it is essential that they carefully plan for a new normal, including consideration of travel restrictions, acquisition of personal protective equipment, maintaining social distancing of employees and contractors, and compliance with new rules and regulations. 2. Utilities have been and will continue to optimize their maintenance schedules to balance safety and reliability concerns considering the essential nature of electricity and risks potentially associated with deferred...

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Community Solar Meets Requirements of California Solar Mandate

The California Energy Commission (CEC) has approved the first community solar program as a means of complying with California’s solar mandate. Specifically, on February 20, 2020, following a three-hour hearing with many speakers on both sides of the issue, the CEC unanimously approved the Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s (SMUD) proposal to allow homebuilders to use a community solar alternative to the California solar mandate, which went into effect on January 1, 2020. SMUD’s community solar plan is called Neighborhood SolarShares. While the intention of the California solar mandate may have been to implement solar on every roof, the 2019 Building Efficiency Standards allowed for certain exceptions to these requirements. One such exception allowed for builders to build community solar projects, so long as these projects received approval from each of the CEC and the local utility. The 2019 standards provided the following six requirements for...

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IRS Releases Initial Section 45Q Carbon Sequestration Credit Guidance

Treasury and the IRS released initial guidance on the amended Section 45Q carbon oxide sequestration credit on February 19, 2020. Notice 2020-12 and Revenue Procedure 2020-12 provide guidance relating to the beginning of construction and tax equity partnership allocations. This is the first Section 45Q guidance since Treasury issued a request for comments in Notice 2019-32 last year. That Notice sought input on a number of issues raised by amendments to Section 45Q that expanded the scope and enhanced the amount of the Section 45Q credit pursuant to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, P.L. 115-123. The new guidance in Notice 2020-12 and Revenue Procedure 2020-12 is effective March 9, 2020. Notice 2020-12 closely follows the beginning of construction guidance for the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) in Notice 2018-59 and the Production Tax Credit (PTC) in Notice 2013-29 (as clarified and modified by subsequent notices). Like the ITC and PTC guidance, taxpayers can...

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Senate Passes Tax Extenders Deal That Includes Extension of Renewable Energy Incentives

The US Senate today passed a package of tax extenders as part of the year-end appropriations act that the US House of Representatives passed on December 17, 2019. President Trump is expected to sign the legislation before the end of the day tomorrow to avoid a government shutdown. The package includes a one-year extension of the production tax credit (PTC) under section 45 for wind and other technologies. It also includes limited extension of other energy tax incentives that were set to expire and a retroactive extension for some credits that had already expired in 2018. Most of the credits will now expire at the end of 2020, setting up the prospect of a broader tax extenders deal during lame duck session after the 2020 election.  The bill also included a one-year extension through 2020 of the new markets tax credit under Section 45D at $5 billion. Extension of Energy Tax Credits Many energy tax credits and incentives are scheduled to expire or begin to phase...

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House Passes PTC, NMTC Extension Bill

On December 17, 2019, the US House of Representatives passed a year-end fiscal year 2020 spending bill for the federal government that includes a one-year extension of the production tax credit under Section 45 (PTC) for wind and other technologies. The bill would extend the wind PTC for facilities the construction of which begins during 2020 at a rate of 60%. Under current law, the PTC is available at a rate of 100% for wind projects construction of which began before 2017, and the PTC phases down to 80% for projects that began construction during 2017, to 60% for projects that began construction during 2018, and 40% for projects that began construction during 2019. Curiously, the extender bill would leave in place the 40% rate for projects that began construction during 2019 and increase the rate back to 60% for projects that begin construction in 2020. If enacted in this form, this could potentially leave taxpayers in a frustrating position to the extent...

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Community Choice Aggregators on the Rise as an Alternative Electricity Provider

Community choice aggregators (CCAs) are growing in popularity as an alternative electricity provider for communities that want more local control over their energy mix. And so, financiers, CCAs and other business leaders must assess what this growth means for the electric grid, utility business models and project finance. While there’s a primary focus on California, increasing energy loads being served by CCAs and other non-utility suppliers have been trending across the country. The recent American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) Forum united dealmakers, policymakers and systems experts to confront the business opportunities, policy and regulatory issues, and technology challenges associated with integrating high-penetration renewable electricity on the grid. The goal of ACORE’s 2019 forum was to advance efforts for a modernized grid that values flexibility, reliability and resilience. One important session was Community Choice Aggregation: Impacts on...

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The BUILD Act Greenlights Equity Investments, Increasing Need for Legal Involvement

A little over a year ago, the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development (BUILD) Act was signed into federal law, aiming to reform and strengthen US development finance capabilities by creating a new federal agency to help address development challenges and foreign policy priorities of the United States. The US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) will be a modern, consolidated agency that brings together the capabilities of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and USAID’s Development Credit Authority, while introducing new and innovative financial products to better bring private capital to the developing world. Most importantly, the BUILD Act will allow this new DFC to make equity investments, which is unprecedented in the United States. At the Impact Investing Legal Working Group (IILWG) DC Chapter’s September session, panelists Stephanie Bagot (Senior Attorney, FINCA Impact Finance), Amy Bailey (Associate General...

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Court Rules That Wind Farm Did Not Provide Proof of Development Fee to Receive 1603 Cash Grant

On June 20, 2019, the United States Court of Federal Claims published its long-awaited opinion in California Ridge Wind Energy, LLC v. United States, No. 14-250 C. The opinion addressed how taxpayers engaging in related party transactions may appropriately determine the cost basis with respect to a wind energy project under the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). Central to the case was whether the taxpayer was allowed to include a $50 million development fee paid by a project entity to a related developer in the cost basis of a wind project for purposes of calculating the cash grant under Section 1603 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Tax Act of 2009 (Section 1603). Section 1603 allowed taxpayers to take a cash grant in lieu of the production tax credit of up to 30% of the eligible cost basis of a wind project. The eligible cost basis under Section 1603 is determined in the same manner as under Section 45 for purposes of the investment tax credit (ITC). The...

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