Renewable Energy Credits

On September 29, 2017, the Illinois Power Agency (IPA) released its Long-Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan (Plan) to implement renewable energy goals set forth in Illinois’s Future Energy Jobs Act, which went into effect on June 1. Together, the new legislation and the Plan, among other things, make significant modifications to Illinois’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) goal of 25 percent of retail electricity sales sourced from renewable energy by 2025. The Plan sets forth procurement programs designed to meet the state’s annual RPS targets until 2030 and will be updated at least every two years. These changes significantly expand renewable energy development opportunities in Illinois—by some estimates, leading to the addition of approximately 1,300 megawatts (MW) of new wind and nearly 3,000 MW of new solar capacity by 2030.

Expanding the Illinois RPS

While maintaining the same 25 percent renewable energy sourcing goal, the Future Energy Jobs Act functionally increases the state’s RPS target because Illinois’s RPS standard previously applied only to customers buying power through a utility’s default service, not customers taking supply through alternative retail suppliers or through hourly pricing. According to the IPA, in recent years, only 30-50 percent of potentially eligible retail customer load actually received default supply services, while competitive class customers (including larger commercial and industrial customers, which represent approximately half of total load) had no default supply option. Given this transition, meeting Illinois’s RPS goal of 13 percent of retail electric sales in the state sourced from renewable energy for the 2017–2018 delivery year will require the IPA to procure on behalf of the state’s electric utilities an additional 7.5 million renewable energy credits (RECs), which will gradually increase to a forecasted procurement of 31.5 million RECs for the 2030–2031 delivery year. One REC represents 1 megawatt hour (MWh) of generation produced by an “eligible renewable resource.” Eligible resources include wind, solar, thermal energy, biodiesel, anaerobic digestion, biomass, tree waste, landfill gas and some hydropower. Many other states, including California and Massachusetts, utilize RECs to demonstrate compliance with the state’s RPS program. Continue Reading Illinois Renewable Resources Procurement Plan Aims to Boost Renewable Energy Development

Last week’s article discussed New York’s Zero-Emissions Credit (ZEC) for nuclear power. The ZEC is one component of New York’s Clean Energy Standard (CES). The other major component of the CES is the new Renewable Energy Standard (RES). In the RES, the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) formally adopted the goal set by Governor Cuomo in December 2015: 50 percent of all electricity used in New York by 2030 should be generated from renewable resources. This goal builds on the State’s previous goal of achieving total renewable generation of 30 percent by 2015.

The RES consists of a Tier 1 obligation on load-serving entities (LSE) to support new renewable generation resources through the purchase of renewable energy credits (REC), a Tier 2 program to support existing at-risk generation resources through maintenance contracts, and a program to maximize the potential of new offshore wind resources.

The goal of the RES is to reduce carbon emissions and ensure a diverse generation mix in New York. The state’s existing nuclear facilities, supported by the ZEC program, will close in 2030 (absent a renewal of their licenses) and the RES aims to ensure that the electricity provided by those units is replaced with new renewable resources.

Continue Reading New York’s New Renewable Energy Standard

The New York Public Service Commission’s (PSC) Clean Energy Standard (CES), adopted in August, includes a new emissions credit—the ZEC. The ZEC, or zero-emissions credit, is the first emissions credit created exclusively for nuclear power.

The ZEC is the result of a highly politicized effort to support New York’s struggling nuclear power plants. New York’s four nuclear plants account for 31 percent of the state’s total electric generation mix. According to the PSC, “losing the carbon-free attributes of this generation before the development of new renewable resources between now and 2030 would undoubtedly result in significantly increased air emissions due to heavier reliance on existing fossil-fueled plants or the construction of new gas plants to replace the supplanted energy.” The ZEC Program is intended to keep the state’s nuclear plants open until 2029 and provide an emissions-free bridge to renewable energy.

Continue Reading NY Creates New Emissions Credit for Nuclear Plants

by Bradford K. Gathright

On April 20, 2012, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued an order confirming that it has no jurisdiction under the Federal Power Act (FPA) with respect to sales of state-issued renewable energy credits (RECs) that are not bundled with sales of wholesale energy, but asserted that it does have jurisdiction over sales of RECs that are bundled with wholesale energy.

The ruling was in response to a request by the Western Systems Power Pool (WSPP) for FERC to clarify the scope of its jurisdiction. WSPP administers a standardized contract, called the WSPP Agreement, for the sale of wholesale electric power and physical options between its members. The WSPP Agreement allows a seller to charge market prices in energy transactions if the seller has received market based rate authority from FERC or if the seller is not regulated by FERC. Otherwise, the price is subject to rate caps set forth in the applicable FERC-approved rate schedule to the WSPP Agreement.

On February 22, 2012, WSPP submitted for approval under Section 205 of the FPA a revised service schedule to the WSPP Agreement, Service Schedule R, to address several varieties of bundled and unbundled REC transactions. For bundled REC transactions, the rate caps set forth in the existing service schedules of the WSPP Agreement would apply only to the energy portion of the contract price if the total price was allocated separately between energy and RECs, or to the total contract price if there were no separate allocations. With regard to unbundled REC transactions, the WSPP requested that FERC confirm its lack of jurisdiction.

In its order, FERC approved the incorporation of Service Schedule R into the WSPP Agreement and confirmed that sales of RECs that are not bundled with sales of wholesale energy fall outside FERC’s jurisdiction under Sections 201, 205 and 206 of the FPA. FERC’s rationale was that a REC is simply an instrument of state law certifying that energy has been generated pursuant to certain standards, and that the sale of a REC does not constitute the transmission of electric energy or the sale of energy in interstate commerce. However, when RECs are bundled with sales of energy, the REC transaction falls within FERC’s jurisdiction because the REC sales “affect” and are “in connection with” the wholesale energy sales. Under these circumstances, FERC asserted that it has jurisdiction over both the wholesale energy portion and the REC portion of the bundled transaction, regardless of whether the contract price is allocated separately between the energy and the RECs or whether the energy portion and the REC portion of a bundled transaction are split into two separate contracts.

The practical implications of the order are not yet clear. By extending its jurisdiction to RECs at all, FERC has expanded its reach and now has the authority to create additional requirements relating to the REC portion of a bundled REC transaction, which could increase the administrative and financial burden of selling RECs. For power producers who are selling bundled RECs and already have market based rates, the order will likely not have much of a practical impact, other than perhaps changing how bundled RECs are described in periodic FERC reports, a subject that has not yet been addressed.