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Key Takeaways | Update on the Solar Circumvention Proceeding and Discussion of Possible Comments in Response to Commerce’s Recent Memo

On May 17, 2022, Carl Fleming, Lynn Kamarck and Tyler Kimberly from McDermott’s Energy and Project Finance and International Trade teams hosted Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) General Counsel and Vice President of Market Strategy John Smirnow for a roundtable discussion that provided substantive arguments, best practices and other advocacy strategies for US solar developers who are preparing to submit collective and individual responses to the US Department of Commerce (Commerce) this week following Auxin Solar Inc.’s petition and Commerce’s subsequent memorandum.

Below are key takeaways from the discussion:

1. To reach an affirmative circumvention determination, Commerce must confirm that the processing occurring in the target countries (i.e., Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam) is “minor or insignificant.” While Commerce’s precedent establishes that the processing required to make a wafer into a module (including cell production) is not “minor or insignificant,” it has suggested the opposite during this circumvention inquiry.

2. Commerce could terminate the circumvention proceeding on the basis that including cells or modules completed in the target countries within the scope of the existing Chinese orders would not be “appropriate.” However, there is no clear indication as to what “appropriate” means.

3. What developers need the most right now is certainty. Because of the uncertainty surrounding the amounts of cash deposits and the final assessment of import duties, some developers are unable to make key business decisions. While Commerce tried to provide some of this certainty in its May 2 proposal, it did not accomplish that goal.

4. Developers can share their views regarding the investigation by submitting comments to Commerce by 5:00 pm EDT on May 19, 2022. Comments can include discussion of any difficulties complying with Commerce’s proposed certifications and whether such certificates would be useful to the company, the treatment of cells or modules manufactured in non-targeted countries and inconsistencies between prior Commerce decisions and the investigation at hand.

5. SEIA is calling for a Public Interest Requirement in anti-circumvention investigations to prevent similar petitions from being filed and moving forward in the future.

McDermott is currently preparing comments for a number of US solar developers and also providing additional feedback on comments prepared by other US solar developers to ensure that they are putting their best foot forward during this critical period.

For more insight on this topic, please watch our recent webinar recording where our executive leadership panel discussed the commercial, legal and policy responses to Commerce’s anti-circumvention investigation.




Key Takeaways | African Markets and Opportunities for Cross-Border Investments in Renewable Energy

On March 30, 2022, Carl Fleming and Emeka Chinwuba, partners in McDermott’s Energy and Project Finance Practice Group, hosted Dr. Abdelilah Chami, head of sustainability Northern & Central Africa at Enel Green Power, and Jay Katatumba, investment director at Africa50 Infrastructure Fund, for a lively discussion on the renewable energy space in Africa and cross-border investments.

The transition to renewable energy in Africa has progressed impressively over the last decade, with many countries working to increase renewable energy capacity in recent years. Forecasts by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) indicate that with the right policies, regulation, governance and access to financial markets, sub-Saharan Africa could meet up to 67% of its energy needs by 2030. This is reflected by the fact that average annual investments in renewable energy grew ten-fold from less than half a billion dollars during the 2000 – 2009 period to $5 billion during 2010 – 2020.

Below are key takeaways from the webinar:

1. Development Financial Institution (DFI) participation in Africa’s power market is primarily driven by its mandate to make the cost of electricity more affordable, increasing access to electricity and improving the reliability of its power supply.

2. Energy access and consumption in Africa has global ramifications as we look to trade, commerce and development, future demographic trends and geopolitics with respect to energy costs and access.

3. From a power sector policy standpoint, each African country should be taking a holistic view when looking at the specific in-country and regional needs for energy, the entire value chain, related and existing infrastructure, local capabilities and local regulatory and governance frameworks.

4. In accessing various African jurisdictions for investment opportunities, private sponsors are focused on predictability, highest risk weighted returns, existing infrastructure and the whole value chain proposition for a specific asset.

5. Private sponsors are also looking for opportunities where projects are bankable and structured with very limited reliance on subsidies or other credit support from the host governments.

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




Key Takeaways | Post-Uri Hedge Products for Storage and Renewables

During the latest webinar in our Energy Transition series, Partners Robert Lamkin and Jacob Hollinger hosted Louis Martinsen, vice president, origination at Boston Energy Trading and Marketing, for a 30-minute discussion concerning hedge product opportunities for renewables and storage projects one year after Winter Storm Uri impacted Texas’s power grid.

Below are key takeaways from the webinar:

1. A year after Winter Storm Uri, hedging products for renewables are moving toward “as generated” hedges, meaning the hedge settles based on how much power the renewable project actually generates rather than based on other possible metrics (such as proxy generation).

2. A potential alternative for renewable and storage developers are hedging projects that provide a revenue “floor,” which can be thought of as a minimum level of revenue scaled to ensure that the project will receive a minimum amount of revenue sufficient to meet its operating and maintenance costs, debt service and capital expenditures regardless of market prices for the products it sells or intends to sell.

3. The providers of these hedge products are also changing to include entities serving (directly or indirectly) retail load rather than purely wholesale trading entities.

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 Growth of Early Stage Technology Company Investment and Development in Energy and Oil and Gas

How is technology affecting the energy industry? In the latest webinar in the Energy Transition series, McDermott Will & Emery Partner Parker A. Lee hosted Shawn Helms, co-head of McDermott’s Technology and Outsourcing Practice Group, Nadine Herrwerth, managing director at TWTG, and BJ Walker, managing director at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co for a 30-minute discussion where they opined on the current and future impact technology plays on conventional and renewable energy companies.

Below are key takeaways from the webinar:

1. Industrial Internet of Things (I-IOT). I-IOT products and services can be used to improve site safety and efficiency. I-IOT products have the capability to monitor equipment, such as valves and temperature sensors on machinery, and record data on external dashboards for analysis and alerting. Through the use of data analysis, data gathered by I-IOT products can identify trends, build models and detect future equipment failure. As a result, I-IOT products and services can increase the efficiency, reliability and safety of equipment.

Though the application of I-IOT devices is relatively new to the industry, these products are capable of being retrofitted to established and already operational sites.

2. Technology Companies and Energy. While technology companies are large consumers of energy output, they can also provide significant insights and intelligence in regard to energy use and production. Synergies between technology and energy industries are continuously evolving and providing improvements in energy investments, efficiencies and reliability. For example, drones are capable of leveraging artificial intelligence to increase efficiency and consistency of equipment monitoring and inspections, particularly equipment that is located in remote areas (such as offshore).

3. Investor Focus on the Energy Space. An important theme in the oil and gas industry is the recent focus on transforming the industry to a generator of cashflow. In attracting new investors to the energy industry, particularly as new technologies are introduced, investors should know there is typically a longer wait period to receive a return on investment than what a general investor would commonly expect. In addition to general investors, technology companies are investing in renewable energy sources for purposes of environmental responsibility and in order to power their own enterprise. It is expected that this trend will continue to grow in energy intensive areas, such as the cryptocurrency space.

4. Technology in Traditional Oil and Gas. Although not widely appreciated, the oil and gas industry has always been heavily reliant on technology and an area where revolutionary technologies are developed—and that is certainly the case today. Because oil and gas professionals are proficient with, and conversant in, the application of new technologies, look to those professionals to be industry leaders in the energy transition as new businesses and products are developed.

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




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 | Conventional Energy Companies Pivot to Renewables

How will traditional energy companies compete as the world transitions to renewable energy? In the latest webinar in our Energy Transition series, McDermott Will & Emery Partner Jack Langlois hosted Philip Tingle, global co-head of McDermott’s Energy and Project Finance Practice Group, and Michael Hanson, managing director of energy transition at Truist Securities, to answer exactly that. During the 30-minute discussion, they assessed the future for conventional energy companies, including key issues surrounding decarbonization and current tax credit frameworks.

Below are key takeaways from the webinar:

1. Timeline and Decision-Making. There is a broad divergence of views in how quickly the transition to renewable energy will happen, but changes in law and policy could accelerate that timeline. Conventional energy companies are taking small steps to get acclimated to new renewable opportunities because there are multiple factors they need to consider before deciding whether to enter into the renewable energy space: Strategic fit, materiality, profitability and risk. Many conventional energy companies that have successfully pivoted to renewable opportunities have done so by reutilizing their existing assets.

2. Carbon Capture. Carbon capture is often a strategic fit for oil and gas companies. However, companies, investors and banks are still struggling with the profitability of carbon capture because without government incentive, carbon capture is not profitable. The current incentive structures do not compel a sufficient amount of activity because they only compensate capture equipment owners, leaving out all the necessary downstream affiliates. Until this business model is corrected, banks especially will struggle with how to finance carbon capture.

3. Reconciliation Bill. Carbon capture incentives may be around for a while longer. In the reconciliation bill, there is a provision that would extend the Section 45Q carbon capture tax credit through the year 2032. However, the bill would also modify the tax credit to provide for wage and apprenticeship requirements. Companies will need to find ways to assure financing parties that they have met these additional requirements. If they can accomplish this, the extension period will allow greater opportunities for conventional energy companies to enter the space.

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




An Update on Wind Farm Development along the US Coastline

On October 13, 2021, during a speech at American Clean Power’s Offshore WINDPOWER Conference & Exhibition, US Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced a path forward for future offshore wind leasing along the US coastline. This announcement supports the Biden administration’s goal to install 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030 and comes approximately five months after the Biden administration approved the 800 megawatt Vineyard Wind Project.

“The Interior Department is laying out an ambitious roadmap as we advance the Administration’s plans to confront climate change, create good-paying jobs, and accelerate the nation’s transition to a cleaner energy future,” Secretary Haaland said. As part of this roadmap, Secretary Haaland also announced plans for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to potentially offer up to seven new offshore lease sales by 2025 in the Gulf of Maine, New York Bight, Central Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and offshore the Carolinas, California and Oregon.

Secretary Haaland shared that the Interior Department’s “timetable provides two crucial ingredients for success: increased certainty and transparency. Together, we will meet our clean energy goals while addressing the needs of other ocean users and potentially impacted communities. We have big goals to achieve a clean energy economy and [the Department of] Interior is meeting the moment.”

BOEM Director Amanda Lefton advised, “[w]e are working to facilitate a pipeline of projects that will establish confidence for the offshore wind industry…At the same time, we want to reduce potential conflicts as much as we can while meeting the Administration’s goal to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030. This means we will engage early and often with all stakeholders prior to identifying new Wind Energy Areas.”

As we move closer to 2030, industry investors and developers should expect to see a steady increase of offshore wind activity due to the recent announcements and the Investment Tax Credit for projects that will start construction before 2026.




International News: Spotlight on the Energy Industry

US RENEWABLES: INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES PERSIST IN UNCONVENTIONAL PLACES

Christopher Gladbach | Seth B. Doughty

Apart from a few challenges, the sellers’ market in renewable energy is accelerating under the Biden administration, leading international investors to seek opportunities in non-traditional investments. Read more.

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THE US $2.3 TRILLION AMERICAN JOBS INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN

Elle Hayes | Dominique J. Torsiello | Carl J. Fleming | Ranajoy Basu

In March this year, US President Joe Biden unveiled the American Jobs Plan, the first of a two-part infrastructure package to revive the economy after the COVID-19 pandemic and the second stage of President Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda. Read more.

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RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN THE SOUTH EAST ASIA RENEWABLES MARKET

Ignatius K. Hwang | Merrick White

Despite considerable challenges, South East Asia is pulling out all the stops to transition to primarily renewable energy in the coming years. Read more.

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GREEN AMMONIA: AT THE INTERSECTION OF PETROCHEMICALS AND THE ENERGY TRANSITION

John Bridge | Parker A. Lee

As the world seeks to transition to a lower carbon economy, replacing traditional hydrocarbon-based transport fuels in the automobile, aviation, and shipping industries will be important. Read more.

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CLEAN ENERGY EMPLOYERS ARE THE NEW TARGET FOR ORGANISED LABOUR

Ellen M. Bronchetti | Ron Holland | Saniya Ahmed

Employers in the clean energy sector should be prepared to consider how changes to the US labour landscape are likely to impact their workforce. Read more.

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COMPETITION POLICY AND THE EUROPEAN GREEN DEAL: A PATHWAY TOWARDS CLEAN ENERGY AND ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Hendrik Viaene | David Henry | Karolien Van der Putten

EU competition rules—particularly State aid, merger control, and antitrust rules—are playing a key role in supporting the goals of the European Green Deal. Read more.

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NOT YET THE END FOR HYDROCARBONS

Merrick White

There has there been significant activity in the Asian upstream market this year. Who is buying mature oil fields, and why? Read more.

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ENGLISH HIGH COURT SANCTIONS RESTRUCTURING OF DTEK GROUP

Mark Fennessy | Sunay Radia | Alexander Andronikou

The recent restructuring of DTEK Group provides guidance regarding the English High Court’s position on challenges to the international effectiveness of schemes of arrangement and/or restructuring plans post-Brexit. Read more.

View the full issue here.




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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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.




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