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Seeing a $100 Billion Market Opportunity, North Carolina Governor Commits to Developing 2.8 Gigawatts and Eight Gigawatts of Offshore Wind by 2030 and 2040, Respectively, through Executive Order

Last week, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper issued Executive Order No. 218 titled, “Advancing North Carolina’s Economic and Clean Energy Future with Offshore Wind,” announcing a goal of developing 2.8 gigawatts of offshore wind energy resources by 2030 and eight gigawatts by 2040. This executive order comes after the North Carolina Department of Commerce issued a report in March that found offshore wind energy development along the Atlantic is a more than $100 billion market opportunity through 2035.

Within the order, Cooper recognizes the favorable economic impact offshore wind development will create for North Carolina, including an estimated 85,000 new jobs and $140 billion in capital expenditure along the Atlantic Coast by 2035. “This coordinated approach to developing our offshore wind supply chain will bring new jobs to North Carolina for generations to come,” North Carolina Secretary of Commerce Machelle Baker Sanders said. “From building out the supply chain, to installing equipment, to operating the wind facilities, North Carolina’s manufacturers and workforce are well positioned to play an integral role in the entire East Coast market, not just for projects directly off the state’s coast.”

In addition to the economic benefits the offshore wind development will bring to North Carolina, this executive order will further assist the state in achieving the North Carolina Clean Energy Plan’s goal of a 70% reduction in power sector greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050. “The coordinated effort of state and federal partners on this issue is an important step forward in our transition to a clean energy economy in North Carolina and key to meeting the goals of the state’s Clean Energy Plan,” North Carolina Clean Energy Director Dionne Delli-Gatti said.

North Carolina’s commitment to create 2.8 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2030 and eight gigawatts by 2040 is one of the largest targets to date, exceeding Virginia’s goal of installing 5.2 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2034 and New Jersey’s goal of 7.5 gigawatts by 2035, Michelle Allen, project manager for the North Carolina political affairs team at the Environmental Defense Fund, said. Although North Carolina’s target is one of the biggest to date, the target of 2.8 gigawatts would almost be completely fulfilled should North Carolina’s current offshore wind project, Kitty Hawk Offshore, be built to its full capacity of up to 2.5 gigawatts. If North Carolina reaches its target, the energy generated will power roughly 2.3 million homes by 2040.

As a result of the executive order, Sanders must appoint a clean energy economic development coordinator and create the North Carolina Taskforce for Offshore Wind Economic Research Strategies. The order further requires the state’s Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (NCDMVA) to elect offshore wind coordinators and take steps to support offshore wind development.




Biden Administration Advances California Offshore Wind Development

On May 25, 2021, the Biden Administration announced an agreement to lease almost 400 miles off California’s northern and central coasts for offshore wind development. The announcement expands on the recent approval of the first major offshore wind project in US waters. In an effort to decarbonize US power generation, the administration noted, “These initial areas for offshore wind development in the Pacific Ocean could bring up to 4.6 gigawatts of clean energy to the grid, enough to power 1.6 million American homes.”

Furthering the Biden Administration’s “whole-of-government approach” to clean energy, the US Department of Interior in connection with the US Department of Defense identified an area northwest of Morro Bay that will support three gigawatts of offshore wind. The Humboldt Call Area is also being considered as a potential offshore wind location, which would bring 4.6 gigawatts of energy to California. The Department of Defense played a significant role in identifying areas for offshore wind development, as they take part in significant training and operations off the coast of California that are essential to national security. Both the Department of Defense and Department of Interior plan to work closely together to ensure protection of military operations while pursuing new domestic clean energy resources.

To support this development in the deep Pacific Coast waters, new floating offshore wind technology will be deployed. The US Department of Energy (DOE) has invested more than $100 million in researching, developing and demonstrating floating offshore wind technology. Floating turbine technology will likely be a prime candidate for DOE Loan Programs Office support because it is (1) large enough in scale, (2) has a long lead time to develop and (3) is not commercially scalable in the same way as offshore technology that utilizes bottom anchoring. Lenders will have questions about the technology and having that guaranty could significantly aid project financing.

Ahead of yesterday’s announcement, California invested millions into its budget for environmental needs, including funding port upgrades and power lines that will carry electricity to California homes. We expect further developments in California from a legislative perspective to further offshore development.




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 Project Finance and Grid Management, which was moderated by Ed Zaelke of McDermott Will & Emery and included panelists Nick Chaset of East Bay Community Energy, Daniela Shapiro of ENGIE, N.A. and Britta von Oesen of CohnReznick Capital.

A Brief History

The first CCA formed in 2010 in Marin County, CA, and since then, the CCA movement has grown very quickly to 19 agencies (19 of California’s 58 counties). Notably, CCAs serve over 10 million Californians today. Helping local governments accelerate climate action is foundational to CCAs, with many seeing CCAs as a positive catalyst in promoting climate action, cleaner energy and finding ways to make the necessary energy investments to actuate transportation electrification and building electrification.

In a nutshell? They want to offer lower-cost energy that is cleaner and find ways to invest in local communities. (more…)




New York Staged to Begin Full Community Net Metering Program

Community net metering is relatively new to New York.  Last July, the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) issued an order establishing a “community distributed generation program” that allows multiple customers to net meter from a single solar generation facility.  Community net metering will implement principles that are part of New York’s sweeping energy policy reform efforts in the ongoing Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) proceeding.  In order to coordinate the community net metering program with the broader REV program, the PSC delayed full implementation of its community net metering program until May 1, 2016.

The goal of community net metering is to expand opportunities for participation in solar and other forms of clean distributed generation to utility customers that would not otherwise be able to access that generation directly.  Many utility customers, such as residents of multi-unit buildings, lack control over sites that can be configured into a location for a clean generation facility.

To be eligible for community net metering, a generation facility must meet the requirements for New York’s regular net metering program.  Instead of having one owner, a community net metering project is owned by 10 or more members, all of whom are located within the same load zone and within the same utility’s service territory.  Besides multiple owners, community net metering projects have a sponsor, which may be the generation facility developer, an energy service company, a municipality, a business or non-profit, or other another form of business or civic association.  The sponsor builds the generation facility, owns and operates the generation facility, and acts as the liaison between the community members and the utility.  Each member of a community net metering project owns or contracts for a proportion of the credits accumulated as a percentage of the facility’s output in excess of usage at the host site.  The project sponsor reports these percentages to the utility, and the utility is responsible for distributing the credits to the members in accordance with the sponsor’s instructions.

Due to the PSC’s desire to coordinate community net metering with the REV program, New York’s community net metering is being implemented in two phases.  Phase 1 lasts through April 30, 2016.  During this period, the PSC will permit community net metering projects only if (1) the project site is in a location that will bolster grid reliability or provide other locational benefits or (2) the project meets a threshold level of low-income customer participation.  According to the PSC, these requirements will “advance selected REV principles” above and beyond general clean energy goals.  Phase 2, beginning soon on May 1, 2016, has no such restrictions and will be open to all qualifying projects.




Obama’s Climate Plan Provides Timeline to Reduce Carbon Emissions at New and Existing Power Plants

by Bethany K. Hatef

Following up on his Inaugural Address promise to prioritize climate change, President Obama unveiled yesterday a Climate Action Plan (Plan), which includes details about what steps the Administration will take to reduce carbon emissions from power plants.The White House also released a Presidential Memorandum that provides the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with specific deadlines for future rulemakings concerning new and existing power plants but few details on what the eventual requirements for existing facilities will look like.

In the Plan, President Obama aims to reduce carbon emissions nationwide by encouraging the use and development of clean energy, bringing up-to-date the transportation sector, reducing energy waste and cutting emissions of other greenhouse gases, including hydrofluorocarbons.  With regard to power plant emissions, the Plan notes that there are currently no federal standards in place to reduce carbon pollution from power plants.  Although EPA issued proposed standards for new power plants over a year ago, it received more than two million comments and never issued a final rule.  The Plan refers to a Presidential Memorandum (Memorandum), issued yesterday, that directs EPA to develop and finalize carbon emissions limits for both new and existing power plants.

Under the Memorandum’s timeline, a revised proposed rule for new facilities is due September 20, 2013, with a final rulemaking to follow “in a timely fashion.”  With respect to existing power plants, the memorandum notably does not require EPA to issue a formal rulemaking setting standards for carbon emissions from such facilities.  Instead, President Obama directs EPA to use its power under Sections 111(b) and 111(d) of the Clean Air Act to issue “standards, regulations, or guidelines, as appropriate” concerning carbon emissions from “modified, reconstructed, and existing power plants” (emphasis added).  EPA must issue a proposal by June 1, 2014, and the final rule (or guidelines) must be promulgated by June 1, 2015.  State implementation plans will be due to EPA by June 30, 2016.  Regardless of the substance of the rules for new and existing power plants, the Memorandum’s timeline leaves little room for delay before the end of Obama’s Presidency.




Senator Bingaman Introduces Clean Electricity Standard

by Ari Peskoe

Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resource Committee, introduced the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012 on March 1.  If passed by Congress, the legislation would require electric utilities to procure an escalating percentage of the electricity that they sell to consumers from “clean energy” sources beginning with24 percent in 2015 and rising to 84 percent by 2035.  The legislation would also establish a national trading program for clean energy credits that could be used by utilities to demonstrate compliance.

Clean energy, as defined by the Act, can come from a range of sources.  Clean energy includes electricity generated by a source placed in service after December 31, 1991, that uses natural gas, hydro, nuclear, qualified waste-to-energy, qualified biomass or renewables (solar, wind, geothermal, current, wave, tidal or ocean).  Clean energy also includes any generation source placed in service after the enactment of the Act whose carbon intensity is less than .82 metric tons of CO2 equivalent per megawatt-hour, or that is qualified combined heat and power.  Nearly all currently operating nuclear plants would not generate clean energy under the Act because they were placed in service prior to 1992.

A generation source with zero carbon emissions would earn one credit for each megawatt-hour generated.  A generation source with a carbon intensity greater than zero but less than .82 would earn credits at a rate proportional to its intensity divided by .82.  Electricity generated by nuclear or hydro sources put in service prior to 1992 is not included in the quantity to which the percentage requirement applies.  As an example, if an electric utility sells 10 million megawatt-hours of electricity in 2015, 4 million of which is generated by nuclear reactors placed in service prior to 1992, that utility would be required to hold 1.44 million clean energy credits (6 million x .24).

Bingaman’s previous national energy standard legislation introduced in 2010 focused exclusively on renewables and would have required all utilities to procure 11 percent of their electricity from renewable sources.  Bingaman’s 2012 legislation tracks a proposal President Obama made in his 2011 State of the Union address when he said, “[b]y 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources. Some folks want wind and solar.  Others want nuclear, clean coal and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all…”  Although neither the President nor Senator Bingaman said so explicitly, both proposals effectively mandate a reduction in coal-fired generation.  Nearly all non-coal generation sources qualify as “clean” with the caveats that under Bingaman’s 2012 proposal a source qualifies as clean only if it was placed in service after 1991, and Obama did not define whether “clean coal” requires carbon capture technology, which does not currently exist commercially in the U.S.

Applying the legislation’s requirements to current state-by-state data on electricity generation shows that 19 states would currently fall short of the 24 percent requirement.  It is likely that many utilities in [...]

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