Articles Posted in Renewables

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Anyone doing international construction work knows that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) has been continually increasing its Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) focus on U.S. companies doing business overseas. Here’s the latest: Recently my colleagues William Sullivan, Reza Zarghamee and Fabio Leonardi wrote an interesting pieceenergy, New SEC Payment Disclosure Rules Raise FCPA Concerns for Energy Companies, on the SEC June 27, 2016 announcement that it had adopted final rules requiring public disclosure, among other things, of certain payments made to foreign governments by resource extraction issuers in connection with the commercial development of oil, gas and mineral rights. These disclosure requirements are expected to raise FCPA enforcement concerns for energy companies, as both the SEC and the U.S. Department of Justice will scrutinize this information for cause to open parallel investigations and potentially pursue issuers for alleged FCPA violations.

Photo:  Sean MacEntee, energy, Taken May 19, 2010 – Creative Commons

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In 2014, the NRC promulgated a “Continued Storage Rule” followed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) issuance of a Generic Environmental Impact Statement on Decommissioning of Nuclear Facilities (NUREG-0586) to support the Rule. On June 3, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, in State of New York, et al., v. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, et al., rejected the arguments made by “several states, a Native American Community, and numerous environmental organizations” objecting to the Rule and generic EIS concerning the “continued, and possibly indefinite storage” of spent nuclear fuel generated by nuclear power plants operating in the United States.

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In Implications for the Power Sector of Recent Rulings by U.S. Supreme Court and FERC, Pillsbury attorneys Michael Hindus, Andrew Weissman, and Katherine Vorhis discuss an important issue the power industry is currently facing — the tension federal and state roles in power supply planning. Of note, is the U.S. Supreme Court’s April 19 decision in Hughes v. Talen Energy Marketing LLC et al. wherein the Court struck down on federal pre-emption grounds a Maryland program intended to support construction of a new 725 MW natural gas-fired generating plant in Maryland after concluding that the program invaded “FERC’s [exclusive] regulatory turf” over determination of wholesale rates for electricity. This was followed within days by FERC blocking the implementation of two Purchase Power Agreements approved by the Ohio Public Utilities Commission just days later. The tension likely will continue, and the sparring over this issue could intensify, given the states’ efforts to support continued operation of existing generating units and construction of new plants.

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California Assembly Bill 2699 (Gonzalez) is a bill to watch if you are a home improvement contractor that solarinstalls solar energy systems or, for that matter, a contractor in California. AB 2699 would, among other things, require the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) to develop a “solar energy system disclosure document” and, in turn, require solar energy systems companies to provide this document to its customers prior to the completion of a sale, financing, or lease of a solar energy system.

AB 2699 would also require the CSLB to establish through regulation requirements for a contractor to maintain a blanket performance and payment bond for the purpose of solar installation work and, of particular note, even with this bond, the contractor will be subject to the down-payment restriction set forth in California Business & Professions Code § 7159.5(a)(8). If this bill is signed into law, this latter requirement will certainly translate into increased costs for contractors that currently do not have in place a blanket performance and payment bond. In turn, as a practical matter, this lIsley will translate into higher costs for consumers who want to install a solar system because such costs will trickle down to them. There may also be pressure put on others in the industry to reduce costs to make up for this increase in costs.

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In Five Things You Need to Know About the Extension of the ITC/PTC, Pillsbury greenfootprintpartners Nick Sarad and Tom Morton, and senior law clerk Andrés Berry discuss the 2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 2822) and the extension of federal income tax credits for solar, wind and certain other renewable energy facilities.

Photo:  Chris Potter, 3D Green Footprint, Taken December 7, 2012 – Creative Commons

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Get ready wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal energy and transportation electrification contractors! On October 7, 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the “Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015.” The objectives of the Act are: (1) to increase from 33% to 50% (by December 31, 2030), the procurement of our electricity from renewable sources; and (2) to double the energy efficiency savings in electricity and natural gas final end uses of retail customers through energy efficiency and conservation. These lofty goals are to be achieved by implementation of the California Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) Program, a program established in 2003. Notably, the Act includes a legislative finding that “a principal goal of electric and natural gas utilities’ resource planning and investment shall be… to encourage the diversity of energy sources through improvements in energy efficiency, development of renewable energy resources, such as wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal energy, and widespread transportation electrification.” This bill reflects California’s persistence in its efforts to turn to reliance on renewable energy. In effect, this should mean the continued growth in opportunities for contractors working in renewable energy areas.

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UPDATE:   Stevens Wins Solar Decathlon 2015 — CONGRATULATIONS!

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon is a biennial event that challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The winning team will be the one that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. The Solar Decathlon U.S. 2015 will take place October 8 through 18 at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California.

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The Nevada State Contractors Board (NSCB) appears to be continuing its efforts to ensure that solar companies remain in compliance with state regulations.  NSCB reports that  it is using a series of outreach presentations to contractors and homeowners interested in solar construction, reporting, in part, on licensing-related violations within the industry. NSCB continues to caution that only companies with Nevada contractor’s licenses are allowed to install solar equipment in Nevada.  It reports that out-of-state contractors “have been known to hire unlicensed sales representatives [to] solicit solar projects, who then contract for the work to be installed.  This follows NSCB’s report in its February 2015 Senior Bulletin “aggressive efforts from out-of-state manufacturers to sell and install their products in Nevada homes is becoming more and more rampant.”  It cautions Nevada licensed-contractors not to jeopardize their licenses by contracting with unlicensed contractors.

Additional Source:  Nevada State Contractors Board, Horizons (August 2015), Board Addresses Solar Concerns; Nevada State Contractors Board, Horizons (February 2015), Beware of unlawful practices in solar sales

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Recently the Department of Energy announced that Re Vission Consulting, LLC (Sacramento, CA), Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, Virginia), Dehlsen Associates, LLC (Santa Barbara, CA), and Pennsylvania State University (State College, PA) were selected to receive $7.4 M “to spur innovation of next-generation water power component technologies, designed for manufacturability and built specifically for marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) systems.”  The projects will address technical challenges in 3 areas:  (1) advanced controls, (2)  crosscutting power take-off (PTO)—which converts mechanical motion into electrical power, and (3) innovative structures. Advancements in MHK technologies are expected to help effectively and sustainably harness increased amounts of renewable energy from waves, tides, and ocean currents, improving performance and reducing the cost of MHK technologies.

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In a ruling issued July 13, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed the decision of the lower court dismissing the claim of the Energy and Environment Legal Institute (EELI) that Colorado’s renewable energy mandate, as approved by Colorado voters, violates the “dormant commerce clause” of the U.S. Constitution. The case is Energy and Environment Legal Institute, et al., v. Epel, Tarpey, Patton, Commissioners of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

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