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Key Takeaways | Keeping the Lights On: Cyber Threat, Vulnerability and Oversight Considerations for the Energy Sector

During the latest webinar in our Energy Transition series, Partners Carl Fleming and Scott Ferber hosted PWC Principals Brad Bauch, US Power and Utilities Cybersecurity & Privacy Leader, and Mark Ray, Cybersecurity & Privacy, to discuss the cyber threat landscape that the energy sector currently faces, the US government’s oversight of cybersecurity and key considerations for building a robust compliance program.

Below are key takeaways from the webinar:

1. The Cyber Threat Landscape. Threat actors are continually evolving in the tactics, techniques and procedures they are deploying against their targets, making it a daunting threat landscape. Where nation state threat actors are involved, the risk of compromise is heightened. Ransomware continues to be, by far, the most prevalent issue organizations are contending with across all sectors and geographies—followed by supply chain attacks and zero-day exploits. Amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the punishing sanctions being imposed, along with Russia’s demonstrated willingness to use malign cyber means against an array of targets, the energy sector should be on high alert for cyberattacks.

2. US Government Engagement. The US government is using a carrot-and-stick approach with the private sector to encourage and, in some instances, require robust cybersecurity, as well as information sharing. Bottom line, the government is expecting more of the private sector (particularly the energy sector) when it comes to dealing with cybersecurity.

3. Building a Robust Compliance Program. There are unique considerations when building a robust compliance program that encompasses both Information Technology (IT) and Operations Technology (OT) systems. As a starting point, companies should consider:

  • Benchmarking against cybersecurity compliance programs at peer companies and similar industries
  • Creating processes that are enterprise-wide, with a control standards-based approach
  • Avoiding program siloing
  • Ensuring active monitoring and controlled access of IT and OT systems
  • Developing strong protections for legacy OT software that is operationally essential.

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




Key Takeaways | Commercial, Legal and Policy Responses to Commerce’s Anticircumvention Investigation

The US Department of Commerce (Commerce) recently initiated a circumvention investigation against solar cell and module imports from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. This decision has the potential to profoundly impact the companies that import or rely on imported crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells (CSPs) in the United States. To help companies navigate this investigation, McDermott’s Carl Fleming, Lynn Kamarck and Tyler Kimberly were joined by Brett White, vice president of regulatory affairs for Pine Gate Renewables, for a fireside chat that covered, among other things, the specific issues Commerce will investigate, how to assess the risk of this decision across developer portfolios and the opportunities presented for improving current renewables legislation.

Below are key takeaways from the discussion:

1. Commerce’s decision to initiate a circumvention investigation into whether CSPs imported from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand or Vietnam are circumventing antidumping and countervailing duty orders on CSPs from China has generated market uncertainty for companies that import or rely on imported CSPs.

2. Whether any assessment of duties or penalties that result from the investigation will have retroactive effect is currently unclear. Applicable regulations do not require Commerce to apply duties retroactively, providing an opportunity for “interested parties” to offer feedback to Commerce as to why retroactive application would be unfair. (In this context, domestically, importers of record, businesses and trade associations and industrial users are generally recognized as interested parties.)

3. Major legal and factual issues may sway Commerce’s ultimate determination, while certain factual discrepancies in Auxin Solar Inc.’s petition to Commerce may lead to a preliminary decision by Commerce. (The deadline for the preliminary decision is August 29, 2022, and it’s unlikely that Commerce will act before this deadline.) Additionally, certain “country of origin” legal analyses are implicated in any ultimate determination Commerce makes.

4. Auxin’s petition and Commerce’s investigation have given more attention to the issue of importing CSPs and to the Build Back Better Plan (BBB), so there is optimism that this may push US Congress to act more quickly on the adoption of certain tax credits, domestic content credits and other incentives under the BBB.

To access past webinars in the Energy Transition 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 | Energy Storage Opportunities and Challenges

What are the opportunities and challenges facing those in the energy storage sector? During the latest webinar in our Energy Transition series, Partner Jim Salerno hosted Perfect Power’s CEO and President Alan Dash and Chief Commercial Officer Douglas Sherman for a 30-minute discussion where they opined on the importance of battery storage and the differences between regulated and unregulated markets within the energy storage industry.


Below are the key takeaways from this discussion:

1. Utility-scale battery storage is necessary for transitioning the grid from fossil fuels to renewables. The surge of renewables across grids has resulted in unpredictability, volatility and intermittency in the energy market, creating a need for a new form of peaking. Batteries are becoming the ideal peaking units as their fast ramping capabilities allow them to adapt to shortfalls in the grid and create stability.

2. Battery storage, unlike renewables, provides capacity as well as ancillary services. This concept is known as “value stacking.” In addition to storage capabilities, ancillary services allow batteries to manage volatility and uncertainty in the grid by providing tools that keep the system in balance and establish the ability to arbitrage the Real Time Market while creating predictability in the Day-Ahead Market.

3. The current regulatory and merchant markets are evolving to facilitate renewables and storage project development. In unregulated markets, such as Texas, the integration of renewables into the grid has grown organically because of the efficiency, speed and economic benefits that are derived from renewables and battery storage. Meanwhile, highly regulated markets, such as California, are focusing on resource adequacy, market certainty and incentives to promote capital investment in the clean energy space—including battery storage.

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




Key Takeaways | Finding and Structuring Development Capital for Renewable Platforms and Projects

During the latest webinar in our Energy Transition series, McDermott Partners Christopher Gladbach and Joel Hugenberger hosted Angel Fierro, managing partner of PLEXUS Solutions, and Jorge Vargas, managing partner & co-founder of Aspen Power Partners, to discuss what financing is available to fund the development of projects before they reach notice to proceed (NTP). They also covered what capital providers and developers consider when approaching development capital to fund pre-NTP expenses and general business expansion and the challenges and opportunities associated with these financing products.

Below are key takeaways from the webinar:

1. The market for pre-NTP financing is expanding and diversifying. Traditionally, pre-NTP costs were covered by a developer using the development fee they received from selling a completed project or by granting preferred equity. Today, large credit funds, Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) funds, boutique finance groups, family offices, oil and gas companies and corporations are all providing pre-NTP financing, and development loans are becoming a more common way for developers to cover pre-NTP costs.

2. Sponsors should look for development lenders that understand the typical risks and delays associated with the project development process. Development lenders need to be flexible and ready to accommodate development delays and other unexpected issues that arise as a project is brought to market. (This includes flexibility related to amendments and consents.) Lenders should be prepared to quickly provide amendments and waivers to address changes in a project’s timeline as it progresses toward NTP.

3. Price should not be the only thing developers consider when deciding which source of development capital to use. Developers should ensure that they and the capital providers are aligned when it comes to deadlines for NTP to occur, capacity to accommodate delays in the development process and the share of income generated from the project.

4. Development capital is essentially a bet on a development team, and in evaluating a development team, development lenders assess what experience management has and their success working together to bring projects to market. Development lenders want to see that a development team has people who know how to mitigate risk across the various segments of the development process (e.g., origination, site control, permitting, power marketing, etc.).

5. Power purchase agreements (PPAs) are becoming scarcer and shorter (10-year terms are replacing 25-year terms), and lenders and investors are getting more comfortable with providing capital to merchant projects and other projects that have traditionally struggled to obtain financing.

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 | Lender Outlook on the Debt Financing of Renewables and Transactions

During the latest webinar in our Energy Transition series, McDermott Partners Robert da Silva Ashley and John Bridge hosted Paul Pace, SVP and team leader at KeyBank, and Andrew Chen, managing director at CIT, to discuss the current outlook of leading lenders in the US renewables and transactions space. More specifically, they focused on lender outlook regarding the state of debt market support for the growing range of renewable power generation and clean energy infrastructure projects.

Below are key takeaways from the webinar:

1. The financing market for renewable projects remains extremely competitive, compressing pricing for lenders and driving innovations in financing structures with credit increasingly given to shorter tenured power purchased agreements (PPAs) and earlier merchant tails.

2. Current supply chain delays and inflationary pressures are creating significant stress. Solar panels and other major equipment are stuck in ports and sharp rises in project costs (insurance, labor wages, operations and maintenance, etc.) are starting to have a noticeable effect on the viability of certain project developments.

3. Lenders have been leaning heavily on client relationships with established track records of successful project developments, strong financial footing and credibility with industry counterparties helping to navigate the current challenges.

4. Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) remains a focus for banking institutions driven by regulatory and environmental factors.

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.




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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