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Key Takeaways | Legislative Update on Renewable Energy Tax Incentives

On November 17, McDermott Partners Philip Tingle and Heather Cooper were joined by Bill Parsons, COO of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), for a discussion on recent legislative activity regarding renewable energy tax incentives and how it will affect current tax credits as well as those in the center of the renewables space.

Below are key takeaways from the webinar:

1. Negotiations surrounding the Build Back Better Act and progress regarding the substance of the bill have been moving at a rapid pace. Despite some uncertainties, the hope is that something will be passed before year-end—and the tax credits component is likely to look very similar to the current proposal.

2. A shift in thinking has taken place in US Congress, specifically, the clean energy tax regime is now seen as a credible driver in achieving the Biden administration’s decarbonization and climate goals.

3. Industry participants are assessing whether the direct pay component of the Build Back Better Act will dramatically change the tax equity market. Several factors will determine how direct pay will affect said market, including the timing of payments, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) scrutiny, availability of depreciation and tax basis step-ups, permissiveness of waivers, congressional oversight and the proposed minimum book tax.

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




Key Takeaways | The Latest Merger Control Developments under the Biden Administration

The Biden administration has placed an emphasis on antitrust enforcement that will create meaningful implications for future transactions, as well as those already consummated. In this webinar, hosted by McDermott Will & Emery partners Kevin Brophy and Lesli Esposito and associate Matt Evola, learn who the new leaders at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and US Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust Division are and how their approach to antitrust enforcement is already changing merger review process.

Below are key takeaways from the webinar: 1. Antitrust Agency Personnel Changes. The FTC and the DOJ Antitrust Division have recently seen leadership changes. At the FTC, US President Joe Biden appointed Lina Khan to chair, and she’s already making headlines for her efforts to “modernize” merger assessments. Chairwoman Khan has indicated that she wants the FTC to focus on addressing the “rampant consolidation” that has resulted in dominant firms across markets. She has also advocated for a holistic approach to identifying harms, a focus on power asymmetries and a need for the agency to be forward-looking. The changes she has implemented have significantly impacted merger review. At the DOJ, President Biden appointed Jonathan Kanter, who has not yet taken office but is also expected to take an aggressive approach to enforcement, to lead the Antitrust Division. 2. President Biden’s Executive Order on Antitrust. In a July executive order, President Biden indicated that antitrust enforcement would be a top priority for his administration. The order calls for a whole-of-government approach, encompassing 72 initiatives directed at more than 12 separate agencies. The order directed the FTC and the DOJ to vigorously enforce the antitrust laws by toughening the review of future mergers and revisiting anticompetitive mergers that went unchallenged. 3. Policy Changes with Practical Implications. The FTC has been especially active in announcing new policies and procedures that will likely extend the merger review timeline and open previously consummated transactions to further scrutiny. Among these changes are:

  • The suspension of early termination for the 30-day Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976 (HSR Act) waiting period: Early termination has always been discretionary, but the FTC’s Premerger Notification Office has suspended early termination in 2021 with no resumption in sight.
  • Warning letters sent at the conclusion of the HSR Act waiting period: These “close at your own risk” letters indicate that while the waiting period has concluded, the agencies may challenge the transaction post-closing.
  • Increased requests for “pull-and-refiles”: This process restarts the HSR Act waiting period, granting agencies an additional 30 days to review a transaction, and are being requested at an increasing rate.
  • Procedural and timing changes aligning the FTC with the DOJ: Changes made at the FTC are bringing the agencies into alignment on certain procedures for second requests, and these changes are likely to extend the timeline required for responding to second requests.

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Key Takeaways | How Solar Industry Leaders are Addressing and Overcoming the US–China Trade War

The US-China trade war has caused a significant impact on the solar industry, and that impact is expected to grow. In this webinar, learn how solar industry leaders are handling the effects of the US–China trade war and how they are preparing for the future.

Our first webinar of this series featured McDermott Will & Emery partner Carl Fleming, Pine Gate Renewables Director of Regulatory Affairs Brett White, Vice President of Construction James Froelicher and Assistant General Counsel Jess Cheney.

Below are key takeaways from the webinar:

1. Withholding Release Order. The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a withholding release order (WRO) against Hoshine Silicon Industry Co. Ltd., a company located in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region wherein all silica-based products made by Hoshine and its subsidiaries are to be detained at all US ports of entry. Because of this WRO, manufacturers have been moving outside of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in order to avoid being subject to it.

There have been numerous detentions of silica-based products at multiple ports across the United States, and it is expected that the detention of materials will continue. In order to combat this, suppliers and industry leaders are presenting documentation to show that the materials are not being produced from forced labor or Hoshine and its subsidiaries.

Although the WRO was expected to cause significant disruption, it is not having as large of an impact as feared because many suppliers had already left the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

2. Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Petition. Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Petitions filed in August 2021 requested that the US Department of Commerce (DOC) include additional tariffs against solar panel imports from Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. The petitioners requested additional tariffs ranging from 50% – 250%. The DOC has yet to decide whether to investigate based on the petition, however, the impacts of the petition are already being felt with disruptions to the supply chain. If the DOC were to investigate, the solar industry would likely see a severe slowing of projects in 2022 and 2023 as neither suppliers nor developers are willing to bear the economic risk of the potential tariffs.

3. The DOC and the Biden Administration. The DOC and the Biden administration are expected to make decisions regarding tariffs, as well as anti-dumping and countervailing duties, that will directly affect the solar materials supply chain.

The Biden administration hopes to increase the domestic supply of solar materials, however, domestic manufacturers currently only produce approximately 25% of the overall demand for solar materials. As a result, the solar industry cannot immediately divert to purchasing solar materials from domestic manufacturers as the supply simply is not available. As an incentive to increase domestic manufacturing, solar industry leaders hope tax credits can be offered to companies that manufacture solar materials.

The Biden administration is expected to decide whether the 18% tariff on imported solar panels that [...]

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Carbon Capture, Utilization and Sequestration – An Industry Primed for Explosive Growth? A Summary of the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s Report

On June 30, 2021, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) delivered a Carbon Capture, Utilization and Sequestration (CCUS) report to Congress in accordance with the Utilizing Significant Emissions with Innovative Technologies (USE IT) Act passed in December 2020. The CEQ report highlights an inventory of existing permitting requirements for CCUS deployment and identifies best practices for advancing the efficient, orderly and responsible development of CCUS projects at an increased rate.

The Biden Administration is “committed to accelerating the responsible development and deployment of CCUS to make it a widely available, increasing cost-effective, and rapidly scalable climate solution across all industry sectors.” CEQ Chair Brenda Mallory recognized that in order “[t]o avoid the worst impacts of climate change and reach President Biden’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, we need to safely develop and deploy technologies that keep carbon pollution from entering the air and remove pollution from the air…The report … outlines a framework for how the U.S. can accelerate carbon capture technologies and projects in a way that benefits all communities.” Development of CCUS projects and related infrastructure will be encouraged and favorably looked upon by the Biden Administration as a demonstrable example of how it’s seeking to combat climate change.

CCUS – OPPORTUNITY OF THE FUTURE FOR MIDSTREAM COMPANIES?

CCUS refers to a set of technologies that remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the emissions of point sources or the atmosphere and permanently sequesters them. In addition to removing CO2, carbon capture technology has the potential to remove other types of pollution, such as sulfur oxides. According to leading scientists and experts, removal of CO2 from the air is essential to addressing the climate crisis and alleviating the most severe impacts of climate change. Beyond the impact carbon capture technology will have on the climate crisis, CCUS will continue to have a valuable role in the US economy as the technology continues to evolve.

The CEQ report makes it extremely clear that any effective nationwide rollout of CCUS is heavily dependent on a massive buildout of pipelines for CO2 transportation infrastructure. Currently, there are approximately 45 CCUS facilities in operation or in development and 5,200 miles of dedicated CO2 pipelines. The number of CCUS facilities and the breadth of dedicated CO2 pipelines will need to expand at a rapid rate if CCUS is to become an effective tool for meeting net-zero emission by 2050.

Establishing CCUS at scale is going to be heavily dependent on—and presents a great opportunity for—midstream pipeline developers. Despite the 5,200 miles of CO2 pipelines and the potential to employ “orphaned” pipeline networks previously used by the oil and gas industry once remediated, there is no current network of CO2 pipelines at a scale large enough for permanent carbon sequestration across all industrial sectors. Thus, to achieve climate goals set by the Biden Administration, a significant amount of CO2 pipelines will need to be developed. According to the CEQ report, expansion of CO2 pipeline infrastructure in “the near term is [...]

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IRS Provides Relief on Begin Construction Continuity Requirements

Yesterday, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued Notice 2021-41 (the Notice), providing relief for continuity requirements for the investment tax credit (ITC) under Section 48 and the production tax credit (PTC) under Section 45.

The applicable tax rate for the ITC and PTC is based on the year a project “begins construction.” Under existing IRS guidance, projects are treated as having begun construction by either satisfying the Physical Work Test or the Five Percent Safe Harbor. Both methods require a taxpayer to make continuous progress toward completion of the facility once construction has begun (Continuity Requirement). The IRS previously provided a Continuity Safe Harbor, whereby the Continuity Requirement will be deemed met if the project is placed in service within a certain number of years from beginning construction. For most projects, the Continuity Safe Harbor was previously four years and was extended to five years last year for projects that otherwise began construction in 2016 or 2017. Under the existing guidance, if the Continuity Safe Harbor is not met, a taxpayer can satisfy the Continuity Requirement by meeting the Continuous Construction Test (in the case of the Physical Work Test) or the Continuous Efforts Test (in the case of the Five Percent Safe Harbor). The Continuous Construction Test and Continuous Efforts Test are both demonstrated through facts and circumstances.

In the Notice, the IRS further extended the Continuity Safe Harbor to six years for projects that otherwise began construction in 2016 through 2019 and to five years for projects that otherwise began construction in 2020. In other words, the Continuity Safe Harbor will be satisfied if a taxpayer places the project in service by the end of a calendar year that is no more than five or six years (as applicable) after the calendar year during which construction of the project otherwise began.

The Notice further provides that for a project that does not satisfy the Continuity Safe Harbor, the taxpayer can satisfy either the Continuous Efforts Test or Continuous Construction Test (regardless of whether the taxpayer is relying on the Physical Work Test or the Five Percent Safe Harbor). Under previous guidance, a taxpayer relying on the Physical Work Test was all but certain to fail the Continuous Construction Test, which seems to require regular physical work from the time construction begins. The Continuous Efforts Test appears to encompass more activities than the Continuous Construction Test and may be easier to satisfy for some taxpayers.

The Notice clarifies that the relief was in response to the fact that “regional, national, or global circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic have continued to cause delays in the development of certain facilities eligible for the PTC and the ITC. These extraordinary delays have adversely affected the ability of many taxpayers to place facilities in service in time to meet the Continuity Safe Harbor.”

The Notice will be welcome relief to many taxpayers who have struggled with project delays in recent years.




Key Takeaways | The Energy Market in 2021: Legislative Update on Renewable Energy Tax Incentive

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 McDermott partners Philip Tingle and Heather Cooper and Carol Wuerffel, Senior Director, Tax at Ameren.

Below are key takeaways from the webinar:

  1. Tech Neutral Credit. The Clean Energy for America Act introduced by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) would replace existing renewable energy incentives with technology-neutral tax investment and production credits for facilities with zero net or net negative carbon emissions. In coordination with the Environmental Protection Agency, the US Department of the Treasury would be responsible for promulgating regulations specifying qualifying technologies. The credit would be provided to partnerships and not individual partners for renewable investments made by pass-through entities.
  2. Direct Pay. In early 2021, House Democrats reintroduced the Growing Renewable Energy and Efficiency Now (GREEN) Act. In addition to extending and expanding the existing investment tax credit (ITC) and production tax credit (PTC), the GREEN Act would permit taxpayers to elect to claim 85% of the expanded ITC and PTC amounts as a refundable credit, even if they do not have sufficient tax liabilities to otherwise use the credits. The Wyden bill likewise would offer a direct pay election but without any discount against the tax credit. The timing of payments under the refundable credit may impact whether developers will shift from current tax-equity structures. If a developer must file a return and wait to resolve any examinations or other ongoing proceedings to receive the benefit, the refundability could be of limited value.
  3. Net Zero 2050. US President Joe Biden has set an aggressive climate goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 and to net zero by 2050. Developers and utilities need additional certainty around the scheduled phaseouts in the ITC and PTC in order to build renewable resources to meet climate goals. While the White House has yet to back a specific package of renewable tax incentives, the proposals introduced by congressional Democrats are a likely starting place for negotiations.

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




Why 2030 is the New 2050 after the Leaders Climate Summit and What President Biden’s Accelerated Transition to a Sustainable Economy Means for Renewables Developers, Investors and Corporates

2030 is the new 2050 as US President Joe Biden has officially set a new goal for fighting climate change over the next decade in the United States. At the Leaders Climate Summit (the Summit) on Earth Day, he announced that America would aim to cut its greenhouse gas emissions at least 50% below its 2005 levels by 2030. If successful, this transition would lead to a very different America and would affect virtually every corner of the nation’s economy, including the way Americans get to work, the sources from which we heat and cool our homes, the manner in which we operate our factories, the business models driving our corporations and the economic factors driving our banking and investment industries. The effectiveness of this transition lies in the administration’s ability to pull on two historically powerful levers: Tax policy and infrastructure funding. However, tax policy will call upon multiple sublevers, such as increased tax rates, expanded tax credits, refundability, carbon capture, offshore wind, storage, transmission and infrastructure investment. All of this will be bolstered by the American corporate sector’s insatiable appetite for environmental, sustainability and governance (ESG) goal investment.

QUICK TAKEAWAYS

There were six key announcements at the Summit for renewables developers, investors and corporates to take note:

  1. The United States’ commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% – 52% below its 2005 emissions levels by 2030
  2. The United States’ economy to reach net-zero emissions by no later than 2050
  3. The United States to double the annual climate-related financing it provides to developing countries by 2024
  4. The United States to spend $15 billion to install 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations along roads, parking lots and apartment buildings
  5. A national goal to cut the price of solar and battery cell prices in half
  6. A national goal to reduce the cost of hydrogen energy by 80%

President Biden’s goals are ambitious. It is clear from the history of renewable incentives in the United States as well as current developments that moving forward, the green agenda will predominately rely on two primary levers being pulled at the federal level: Tax policy and infrastructure funding. The federal tax levers mentioned above will not be pulled in a vacuum. Instead, they will be pulled in the midst of a tectonic shift among individual investors that now demand that institutional investors and corporations begin to create and meet ESG goals as individual customers are beginning to take a corporation’s climate goals and footprint into account when making purchasing decisions.

As a result, we discuss the following areas in greater detail below:

  1. Tax policy
    1. increased tax rates
    2. expanded tax credits
    3. refundability
    4. carbon capture
    5. offshore wind
    6. storage
    7. transmission
  2. Infrastructure bill
  3. ESG environment

DEEPER DIVE: BREAKING DOWN EACH LEVER AS WELL AS ITS OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES

  1. Tax Policy: The consistent message from the Biden Administration, at the Summit and elsewhere, makes clear that tax policy will likely play a significant role in the administration’s ambitious climate agenda. At [...]

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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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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.




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