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Senate Democrats Propose Overhaul of Clean Energy Incentives

US Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced the Clean Energy for America Act (the Act), along with two dozen Democratic co-sponsors, on April 21, 2021. The Act will likely be a starting point for the Biden administration tax proposals intended to limit carbon emissions. The Act would change the current system for incentives for the renewable energy industry to a technology-neutral approach for generation that is carbon free or has net negative carbon emissions. The Act would also provide tax incentives for qualifying improvements in transmission assets and stand-alone energy storage with the aim of improving reliability of the transmission grid. Instead of requiring that taxpayers who qualify for the clean energy incentives have current or prior tax liabilities, the Act would create a new direct pay option allowing for refunds of the tax credits.

The Act would replace the current renewable energy incentives with a new clean electricity production and investment credit, which would allow taxpayers to choose between a 30% investment tax credit (ITC) or a production tax credit (PTC) equal to 2.5 cents per kilowatt hour. The credit would apply to new construction of and certain improvements to existing facilities with zero or net negative carbon emissions placed in service after December 31, 2022. The Act would phase out the current system of credits for specific technologies. To provide time for transition relief and for coordination between the US Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Act extends current expiring clean energy provisions through December 31, 2022.

The Secretary of Treasury, in consultation with the Administrator of the EPA shall establish greenhouse gas emissions rates for types or categories of facilities which qualify for the credits. To incentivize additional emissions reductions from existing fossil fuel power plants and industrial sources, the Section 45Q tax credit would be extended until the power and industrial sectors meet emissions goals. The Act would modify the qualifying capture thresholds to require that a minimum percentage of emissions are captured. Once certain emissions targets are met—namely, a reduction in emissions for the electric power sector to 75% below 2021 levels—the incentives will phase out over five years.

Qualifying transmission grid improvements are also eligible for the 30% ITC including standalone energy storage property. Storage technologies are not required to be co-located with power plants and include any technologies that can receive, store and provide electricity or energy for conversion to electricity. Transmission property includes transmission lines of 275 kilovolts (kv) or higher, plus any necessary ancillary equipment. Regulated utilities have the option to opt-out of tax normalization requirements for purposes of the grid improvement credit. However, the Act does not include a similar option to opt-out of the tax normalization provisions for other types of qualifying facilities, such as solar or wind projects.

Under the Act, investments qualifying for the clean emission investment credit, grid credit or energy storage property in qualifying low-income areas qualify for higher credit rates. The Act also includes new provisions requiring [...]

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Key Takeaways: SPACs and How to Plug into the Opportunities They Present in Renewable Energy and Green Infrastructure

On April 14, McDermott Will & Emery partners Tom Conaghan and Carl Fleming and Nicole Neeman Brady, CEO and director of the renewable energy SPAC, Sustainable Development Acquisition I Corp, discussed the rise of special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), the opportunities they present in renewable energy and in the transition to green infrastructure and the complex legal and business challenges these vehicles present.

Below are key takeaways from the webinar:

  1. There has been an increase in SPAC activities in recent years, and this presents an opportunity for sponsors, investors and private companies. Each stakeholder has distinct advantages for entering into a SPAC transaction.
  2. Sponsors are able to take advantage of the industry experience they already have, including in the capital markets sector and the specific industry sector of the target company. Investors have downside protection with the money they invest, which may be refunded at a later date. Investors are also eligible to purchase warrants in connection with SPAC initial public offerings (IPOs), offering additional protection. Private companies are offered access to capital markets without having to undergo a traditional IPO, which is a burdensome process in complying with various regulations and underwriter requirements.
  3. Various SPACs consider different factors in making investments. Sustainable Development Acquisition I Corp, for example, looks for sustainability goals that balance profit and purpose as a B Corp. and prioritizes companies that have expertise and goals that are consistent with sustainable growth.
  4. Private companies that are hoping to do a SPAC transaction should prepare in advance to make sure it is ready to comply with public company laws and regulations. These rules are complex and will require long lead times before the company is in a position to be regulated as a public company. In particular, preparation of financial statements can be challenging to prepare. As there is an 18- to 24-month deadline for SPACs, private companies would benefit from getting a head start in preparation.
  5. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has recently been more involved with IPOs conducted through SPACs, including publishing a primer on SPAC transactions and a statement on whether warrants should be treated as equity or liability for accounting purposes. In light of such recent developments from the SEC, all stakeholders should exercise more caution in performing SPAC transactions and avoid cutting corners.

To access past webinars in this series and to begin receiving Energy updates, including invitations to the webinar series, please click here.




The Energy Market in 2021: From Crisis to Opportunity | Tax Credit for Carbon Capture Products

The energy market has undergone significant change in the past 12 months, with even more on the horizon. Our webinar series explores how these changes have shaped—and will continue to impact—the energy industry, including discussions of what’s to come.

Our latest webinar featured FTI Consulting’s Ken Ditzel, Senior Managing Director and Fengrong Li, Managing Director, who are both in the Economic and Financial Consulting Practice.


Below are key takeaways from the webinar:

  1. The carbon capture and sequestration tax credit under section 45Q is an important source of predictable revenue for carbon capture projects. The section 45Q credit was substantially expanded in 2018 and is worth up to $50 per metric ton for carbon permanently sequestered and up to $35 per metric ton for carbon used as a tertiary injectant in connection with an enhanced oil or natural gas recovery project. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance released last year and final regulations promulgated in January have provided more certainty for the market to move forward with carbon capture projects and claim the enhanced section 45Q credit.
  2. There are currently about 32 strong contender carbon capture projects in the US market. About half of the carbon capture projects are traditional power generation and another third of projects are ethanol projects. Deep saline formations represent almost 90% of carbon sequestration storage capacity with enhanced oil recovery representing most of the remaining storage capacity.
  3. Tax equity investors—including banks, financial institutions and energy companies—are closely monitoring and have expressed interest in carbon capture projects. To date, there are no closed transactions that include tax equity structures. Rather, project sponsors have claimed the section 45Q credit against their own tax liabilities. The recapture lookback period was reduced from five to three years in the final section 45Q regulations, which may encourage tax equity investments.

To access past webinars in this series and to begin receiving Energy updates, including invitations to the webinar series, please click here.




US Senate Committee Introduces Clean Vehicle Charging Legislation

Earlier this week, a group of cross-party US senators introduced the Securing America’s Clean Fuels Infrastructure Act (the Act) to promote investments in clean vehicle infrastructure. The types of infrastructure supported by the legislation include electric vehicle charging stations and hydrogen refueling stations for fuel cell vehicles.

The Act would enlarge the benefits of the existing Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property Investment Tax Credit (ITC) (found in Section 30C of the Internal Revenue Code), diminishing costs associated with clean vehicle infrastructure development. The legislation targets American automobile owners, as electric and clean energy vehicles supplant traditional gasoline power vehicles.

The new legislation encourages increased private investment by providing incentives to build the much-needed infrastructure to support the wide adoption of clean energy vehicles. According to its sponsors, the Act would accomplish three goals:

  1. Clearly state the 30C ITC can be applied to each item of refueling property (i.e., each charger) rather than per location.
  2. Increase the 30C ITC cap for business investments from $30,000 to $200,000 for each item of refueling property.
  3. Extend the 30C ITC tax credit for eight more years from the December 31, 2021, expiration date, which means the 30C ITC would apply to refueling property that is placed in service by December 31, 2029.

Nonprofit environmental groups, transportation associations, energy companies and major automakers all support the proposed cross-party bill. If passed, the bill will bring increased activity in the renewable energy market for developers, investors and lenders.




The Energy Market in 2021: From Crisis to Opportunity | Reenergizing after the Storm

The energy market has undergone significant change in the past 12 months, with even more on the horizon. Our webinar series explores how these changes have shaped—and will continue to impact—the energy industry, including discussions of what’s to come.

Our latest webinar featured FTI Consulting’s Chris LeWand, Global Power & Renewables Leader and RJ Arsenault, Managing Director in the Clean Energy Industry Practice.

Below are key takeaways from the webinar:

  1. Project valuations will be impacted in both the short- and medium-term, but how much they are impacted depends on which side of the table they are on. Larger sponsors with the balance sheet to handle this issue will likely play this out and address these issues via the existing waterfall. However, smaller sponsors without the balance sheet will have to soon deal with hedge providers, debt and tax equity, each of which now find themselves in new positions within the capital stack.
  2. The lack of utility Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) are both at the front and back of this. The lack of PPAs in Texas resulted in many developers going out and securing these hedge products in the merchant market at a high price. While effective at the time, we now see the downside of that pervasive structure in extreme weather events. So, we may see a rethinking of the PPA market in Texas as a result of this event and new means of securing offtake going forward.
  3. As far as how the market in Texas will react, things are temporarily slowing down or hitting the pause button when it comes to development, debt and tax equity. There is now a lot going on in Texas in terms of litigation, resignations and political oversight in addition to standard course project development and financing. While due diligence has always been heavy for these types of transactions, it will now get even heavier. Projects will take longer and be a little more costly to transact upon. This is not insurmountable, as most debt and tax equity providers are always evolving in their diligence requirements, and this can be viewed as a natural progression in a way to find solutions.

To access past webinars in this series and to begin receiving Energy updates, including invitations to the webinar series, please click here.




Biden Administration Takes Aim at Advancing Gender Equity and Equality – Complementing Several Renewable Energy Private Sector Initiatives

On International Women’s Day, US President Joe Biden signed an Executive Order establishing the White House Gender Policy Council. The council, which was formerly called the White House Council on Women and Girls under the Obama administration, seeks to advance the equality of opportunity while simultaneously combating systematic biases and discrimination against women. The council plans to do this by coordinating federal government efforts to increase economic support, promote gender equity in leadership, prevent all forms of gender-based violence and bolster initiatives to empower women, both domestically and internationally. Although the election of Kamala Harris as the first female vice president in American history disrupted gender norms, the revival of this council serves as a salient reminder that there is still much to do to combat systemic biases and advance gender equality.

The federal government is not alone in its endeavor to combating gender inequity. Renewable energy has proven to be an industry where there is significant potential to break institutional biases. The renewable energy workforce, for example, comprises 32% women, whereas the larger energy sector workforce only employs 22% women. Although this is a notable start, these numbers illustrate that there is still progress to be made in achieving gender equality across industries and that these goals should be prioritized moving forward.

The renewable energy industry has several initiatives prioritizing gender equality that should continue to be lauded and supported. One such program is the Women of Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy (WRISE) program, which supports the educational, professional development and advancement of women in the renewable energy sector with the aspiration of combating systemic inequities. The Women in Renewable Energy (WIRE) Network is a network of women working in renewable energy and combating existing structural gender inequities that could be exacerbated by the consequences of climate change. The Clean Energy Council’s Women in Renewables initiative serves as a platform to champion women working in renewable energy as they advance to become leaders of industry. Other notable programs and initiatives include:

  • Powered by Women, which consults with renewable energy companies on how they can sustainably build growth and close gender gaps at their respective organizations.
  • The Clean Energy Trust, a nonprofit supporting female or minority-owned startups aspiring to innovate in the realm of clean energy and sustainability.
  • The American Solar Energy Society, which is recognizing women who have contributed extraordinary developments to the technological developments or wide-spread advancement of solar energy.
  • The Department of Energy, which has sought to recruit more women into the clean energy field and recognize accomplished women for their contributions and leadership through the US Clean Energy Education & Empowerment (C3E) Initiative.
  • The Solar Energy Industries Association, which has developed the Diversity Best Practices Guide for the Solar Industry, aims to build a diverse workforce by providing guidance to companies as they navigate diversity and inclusion efforts.

The establishment of the Gender Policy Council displays a commitment by the United States to ensure that [...]

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Biden Administration Continues to Shift National Infrastructure and Transportation Networks to Pave the Way for Electric Vehicles

On Tuesday, US National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy publicly underscored President Joe Biden’s commitment to supporting the electric vehicle (EV) industry and other industries aimed at tackling the climate crisis. She noted the administration’s goal is to build more than 500,000 EV chargers. The electric vehicle charging station market size is projected to surpass around USD $39.2 billion by 2027 and witness a compound annual growth rate of 40.7% from 2020 to 2027.

McCarthy made her comments during a meeting with key stakeholders and influential policymakers in the EV and EV charging industries, including senior staff of the Department of Transportation, chief executive officers of companies producing electric vehicle charging infrastructures, the National Economic Council and the Council of Environmental Quality.

This is a further demonstration by the administration that it will rely upon the insight of renewable energy leaders to produce, navigate and accelerate the production of national renewable energy infrastructure. The administration also sees the modification of our national renewable energy infrastructure as a means to strengthen American manufacturing, create new employment opportunities and speed economic recovery through the pandemic crisis.

McCarthy’s remarks are part of a growing trend to find executive and legislative avenues to addressing the climate crisis. Democrats in the US House of Representatives have introduced legislation that aims to reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050. This emphasis has similarly carried over into the realm of domestic infrastructure. The CLEAN Future Act aims to require all retail electric providers to generate 100% of their power from zero-emissions resources by 2035, and 80% by 2030.

The federal government is not the only actor racing to find ways to meet the anticipated demand for electric vehicles and the subsequent infrastructural changes that will be required. A conglomerate of utilities has committed to cooperating to create a “seamless network” of charging stations along major highways.

These efforts across industries and branches of government indicate the inevitability of growth in the renewable energy industry and that the desire for opportunities for electric vehicles across the country will continue to be fueled.




Granholm Confirmed as Energy Secretary

Today, Jennifer Granholm was confirmed as secretary of energy, winning US Senate approval by a 64–35 vote. Granholm’s confirmation serves as another boost to President Joe Biden’s plan to tackle climate change and develop clean energy across the United States. Granholm, who is an advocate for electric vehicles and other low-carbon technologies, will join Pete Buttigieg, the secretary of transportation, as a member of President Biden’s cabinet selected to further a green economy and green infrastructure.

Granholm, who served two terms as the governor of Michigan, worked with the automotive industry during her term to obtain more than $1 billion in federal funding for Michigan companies to manufacture electric vehicles and batteries. Under Granholm’s leadership, Michigan also adopted standards requiring utilities to utilize renewable energy sources. Granholm promoted the use of wind and solar technology during her confirmation hearing by telling senators, “We can buy electric car batteries from Asia or we can make them in America. We can install wind turbines from Denmark or we can make them in America.” She believes investing in renewable energy technologies will create more American jobs and boost the US economy.

Granholm’s confirmation will likely serve as encouragement for developers, lenders and investors in the renewable energy industry, as this will create more opportunities for renewable energy projects across the country and amplify the need for clean energy.




Buttigieg Confirmation Signals Increased Investment in Renewable Energy Infrastructure and Electric Vehicles

Today, Pete Buttigieg was sworn in as secretary of transportation after his nomination passed the US Senate 86-13. His confirmation means a likely boon for investment in US infrastructure, particularly for those investing in renewable energy infrastructure, electric vehicle infrastructure and electric vehicles. In an email distributed to his staff today, he advised them that “…we will break new ground: in ensuring that our economy recovers and rebuilds, in rising to the climate challenge and in making sure transportation is an engine for equity in this country.”

US President Joe Biden has made similar pledges about infrastructure. Last week he signed an Executive Order that took bold steps to combat the climate crisis both at home and throughout the world, creating a number of opportunities for developers, lenders and investors in the renewable energy space.

Buttigieg’s confirmation is noteworthy since it is another concrete step by the Biden-Harris administration to implement its climate change agenda. For instance, the Biden-Harris administration has committed to replacing all government cars and trucks, including the fleet of United States Postal Service vehicles, with clean zero-emission electric vehicles. This would require replacing more than 645,000 vehicles, which reflects the most recent amount of government vehicles reported by the General Services Administration in 2019.

Buttigieg will now be responsible for overseeing the nation’s transportation system and creating safer roadways. The 86-13 vote signals that rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure will receive cross-party support. Buttigieg’s former experience as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, will likely aid him in impacting the local levels.




$40 Billion Available through Biden’s Department of Energy’s Loan Program Office for Innovative Technologies

With Democrats taking over the White House and the Senate, many eyes are on climate change and the role that the federal government can take to combat it. A variety of proposals have been floated about the best way for Congress to enact legislation to help in the fight against climate change, but certain actions can be taken immediately. One such action is to deploy $40 billion in loan capacity that was previously allocated to the Department of Energy as part of the 2009 stimulus package. This money is already available to the Department of Energy’s Loan Program Office (the LPO”) to spend at any time as a loan or a loan guarantee for qualified projects.

Any new loans would follow $30 billion of loans and loan guarantees previously provided by the LPO under these same programs (most notably under the Obama administration and one large loan associated with a nuclear reactor project under the Trump administration). Under the Biden administration, there is strong optimism that the unallocated funds may be more readily available for qualifying projects. The LPO, recognizing some of the challenges with government credit support programs, has taken steps to better engage interested parties, including providing no-commitment preconsultations to walk potential applicants through the process to ensure that the LPO and the project will each be prepared when the LPO application process begins in earnest. Additionally, in light of the innovative projects that exist in 2021, the LPO is examining the opportunities for offshore wind and the offshore wind value chain as well as looking at vehicle solutions that might qualify under the LPO’s programs.

The $40 billion in loan capacity, including $4.5 billion for renewables alone, is available for applicants seeking financing for innovative fossil energy projects, nuclear energy projects or renewable energy and energy efficiency projects; for fuel-efficient, advanced technology vehicle manufacturers; or for Tribal energy development projects.

To qualify for the renewable energy or energy efficiency loans or loan guarantees, under Title XVII of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, a project must meet all of the following requirements:

  • Employ new or significantly improved technologies as compared to commercial technologies in service in the United States at the time the guarantee is issued.
  • Avoid, reduce or sequester anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases.
  • Be located in the United States (foreign ownership or sponsorship of the projects is permissible as long as the projects are located in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia or a US territory).
  • Provide a reasonable prospect of repayment.

Interested applicants should be aware that the timeline for LPO loan origination is typically longer than in the commercial financing market—roughly 90 days should be added to a typical project financing timeline for the LPO to diligence program eligibility and obtain internal approvals. However, for innovative projects that meet the other LPO eligibility requirements, the loans or loan guarantees available through the LPO may be a viable option. For instance, for offshore wind projects, long-duration energy storage, green [...]

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