Recently in Energy Category

Ninth Circuit Provides Clarity on ERA Whistleblower Protections

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By Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman

Today, Pillsbury attorneys Daryl Shapiro, Tim Walsh, Rebecca Carr Rizzo and Keith Hudolin posted their advisory titled The Ninth Circuit Provides Clarity on ERA Whistleblower Protections. The Advisory discusses the Ninth Circuit's November 7, 2014 ruling in Tamosaitis v. URS Inc. In its Tamosaitis ruling, the Ninth Circuit provided clarity on three key aspects of the whistleblower protections afforded under the Energy Reorganization Act (ERA), 42 U.S.C. 5801 et. seq. This decision has important implications for employers facing ERA whistleblower claims.

If you have any questions about the content of this blog, please contact the Pillsbury attorney with whom you regularly work or Daryl Shapiro, Tim Walsh, Rebecca Carr Rizzo, or Keith Hudolin, the authors of this blog.

Mexico's Guidelines for Clean Energy Certificates Will Support Renewable Energy Development

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By Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman

Yesterday, Pillsbury attorneys Michael Hindus, Eric Save and John McNeece published their advisory titled Mexico's Guidelines for Clean Energy Certificates Will Support Renewable Energy Development. The Advisory discusses, as part of a historic restructuring of its electrical power sector, Mexico's creation of a market for tradable Clean Energy Certificates, which many industry participants will be required to obtain. Draft guidelines proposed by the Mexican Ministry of Energy set forth the criteria for granting these clean energy certificates, a framework for buying and selling them, and a procedure for establishing the obligations of market participants to obtain the certificates. Final guidelines will be issued shortly.

If you have any questions about the content of this blog, please contact the Pillsbury attorney with whom you regularly work or Michael Hindus, Eric Save or John McNeece, the authors of this blog.

$8 Billion Los Angeles Wind Power Project Would Be Engineering Marvel and Green Energy Landmark

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Four energy companies - Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy, Duke-American Transmission, Dresser-Rand, and Magnum Energy - have jointly proposed an $8 billion plan to supply Los Angeles with more than twice the amount of electricity generated by the Hoover Dam. According to Duke Energy, the proposal would require construction of "one of America's largest wind farms in Wyoming, one of the world's biggest energy storage facilities in Utah, and a 525-mile electric transmission line connecting the two sites." The compressed air storage facility in Utah - consisting of four vertical chambers, each approaching the size of the Empire State Building, carved from an underground salt formation - would yield 1,200 megawatts of electricity, which is enough to serve 1.2 million homes in the Los Angeles area.

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Mexico's Energy Reform Provides Significant Opportunities in Oil and Gas Exploration and Production

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By Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman

Yesterday, Pillsbury attorneys John McNeece, Eric Save and Michael Hindus published their advisory titled Mexico's Energy Reform Provides Significant Opportunities in Oil and Gas Exploration and Production. The Advisory discusses Mexico's new energy legislation, which went into effect on August 12, 2014 and which will completely restructure the Mexican energy sector, including both hydrocarbons and electricity. This legislation opens up oil and gas exploration and production ("E&P") to the private sector, through authorization of new contract arrangements with the Mexican State or with PEMEX, while reaffirming Mexico's ownership of hydrocarbons in the ground. Mexico's opening to the private sector will generate numerous opportunities for E&P operators, the E&P arms of international oil and gas companies, suppliers, and investors.

If you have any questions about the content of this blog, please contact the Pillsbury attorney with whom you regularly work or John McNeece, Eric Save or Michael Hindus, the authors of this blog.

Oct. 3-13: U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013 & XPO

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In the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, 20 collegiate teams compete to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are affordable, attractive, and easy to live in, maintains comfortable and healthy indoor environmental conditions, supplies energy to household appliances for cooking, cleaning, and entertainment, provides adequate hot water, and produces as much or more energy than it consumes. The winner of the Decathlon will be "the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency."

The free and open to the public 2013 Decathlon & XPO that will be held October 3-13, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, at Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California, will include "a clean, renewable, and efficient energy exposition, featuring visionary and innovative companies, products, and educational opportunities." SolarDecathlon.jpg

The Decathlon's purpose is to educate students and the public about the money-saving opportunities and environmental benefits presented by clean-energy products and design solutions, to demonstrate to the public the comfort and affordability of homes that combine energy-efficient construction and appliances with renewable energy systems available today, and to provide participating students with unique training that prepares them to enter our nation's clean-energy workforce. Through fun, interactive exhibits and activities, the Decathlon & XPO will also help "educate visitors about the broad spectrum of energy efficiency in home design, transportation, consumer products, food production and education." Exhibitors will showcase their company and energy-efficient products, resources, and ideas to consumers, homebuilders, municipalities, government agencies, businesses, and more, and speakers will showcase their work, research, and expertise in clean, efficient, and renewable enterprises.

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Innovative Solar Solution for Deteriorated Exterior Marble Façade

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MilwaukeePublicMuseum.jpgThe Milwaukee Public Museum's 8-story tower's marble façade facing West Wells Street is being replaced with 234 solar panels. It was reported that, over the past 50 years, the Museum's heavy marble façade on the south wall facing West Wells Street has weathered and become less stable. Milwaukee County, which owns the building, reportedly elected to use solar panels as the replacement option because of the energy-generating potential of solar. The Museum's solar wall is expected to generate 77,533 KW hours of electricity per year, the equivalent of having 442, 60-W light bulbs on for 8 hours every day for an entire year. For now, the Museum will be the only building in Milwaukee with a full solar wall that is generating electricity.

It was reported that Milwaukee-based manufacturer Helios USA has been contracted to produce the Museum's solar panels. Construction is expected to last approximately 5 months, commencing Monday, July 29. The initial phase, which will involve removal of the existing marble façade, is expected to take 4 weeks.

Photo © March 10, 2006, fitzgene - creative commons.


NY Governor Announces SUNY to Develop First-Of-Its-Kind CNSE Photovoltaic Manufacturing and Technology Development Facility

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UPDATE: Natural Resources Defense Council Staff Blog, Great News: NY Governor Cuomo Pledges $1 Billion For Solar (Jan. 8, 2014)

On July 17, 2013, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the State University of New York's (SUNY) College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) will revitalize a vacant Kodak cleanroom building in Rochester, "transforming it into a first-of-its-kind CNSE Photovoltaic Manufacturing and Technology Development Facility (CNSE MDF) for crystalline silicon photovoltaics, part of a $100 million initiative that will attract solar energy jobs and companies to the Greater Rochester Area." This effort will also include the acquisition and relocation to the CNSE MDF of "the assets of Silicon Valley solar company SVTC as part of a $100M initiative that will create over 100 high-tech jobs and positions New York as the national leader in accelerating innovative solar technologies."
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The project is expected to set "a precedent for further investment in this green industry in New York State" and to "attract additional investments from companies around the world and accelerate our development and use of solar energy," growing New York's clean energy economy. It is reportedly the "first initiative as part of the project will relocate a critical component of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) SunShot initiative from California's Silicon Valley to Upstate New York, positioning New York as the recognized national leader in accelerating the development and use of solar energy nationwide."

Renovation of the former Kodak's MEMS inkjet facility is underway to transform the 57,000-square-foot building at 115 Canal Landing Boulevard in the Canal Ponds Business Park. The initiative will include the fitting up of a state-of-the-art, 20,000-square-foot cleanroom. The press release confirms that a late fall opening is anticipated.

As part of the CNSE MDF project, it was reported that "over $19 million in cutting-edge tools and equipment formerly utilized by SVTC, a Silicon Valley-based solar energy company, are being relocated to the CNSE MDF and will constitute the foundation of the manufacturing development line, a result of the acquisition of SVTC's assets by CNSE." It further confirmed that the U.S. Department of Energy "is providing nearly $11 million in cash funding to support procurement and installation of high-tech tools and equipment, with investment from private industry partners expected to exceed $65 million to support the development and operation of the CNSE MDF." In addition, it was reported that, "[t]o support the project, New York State will invest $4.8 million through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA)." New York's investment is to be directed entirely to CNSE with no private company to receive any state funds as part of the initiative.

This is to be the solar industry's first full-service collaborative facility dedicated to advancing crystalline silicon, or c-Si technologies. The CNSE MDF will provide a range of services and equipment, including complete manufacturing lines, access to individual tools, secure fab space for users' proprietary tools, and pilot production services in an intellectual property secure environment. It is expected that the CNSE MDF will attract solar industry companies to New York to access a state-of-the-art resource that will dramatically reduce the cost, time, and risk associated with transitioning innovative solar technologies from research to commercial manufacturing of crystalline silicon photovoltaics. It is also expected to play a critical role in the national effort to develop a strong photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing industry, and serve to accelerate the introduction and use of solar energy in homes and businesses across the country. Among other things, it is expected to enable education and training to support the expansion of the highly skilled workforce required by the U.S. PV manufacturing industry.

The establishment of the CNSE MDF for c-Si PV technology is also expected to complement and expand the capabilities and expertise of the national U.S. Photovoltaic Manufacturing Consortium (PVMC), headquartered at CNSE as part of the DOE's SunShot Initiative. The PVMC is reportedly leading the national effort to reduce the cost of installed solar energy systems from $5 per watt to less than $1 per watt over the next 10 years.

Governor Cuomo's announcement comes on the heels of his July 9, 2013 announcement that $54 Million will be awarded to fund 79 large-scale solar power projects across the State of New York, adding 64 MWs to the state's solar capacity.

Photo © July 1, 2011, Deutsche Bank, All Rights Reserved, Creative Commons.

CPUC Reports California's Solar Success

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UPDATE: Sacramento Business Journal, California hits solar power record, twice (Mar. 11, 2014); The Huffington Post, California More Than Doubles Solar Energy In 2013 (Jan. 13, 2014): "California installed more megawatts of solar energy in 2013 than it did in the last 30 years combined, the California Solar Energy Industries Association reported ... 'Today, California is closing out the year with more than 2,000 MW of rooftop solar systems installed statewide,' CALSEIA executive director Bernadette Del Chiaro said."

On July 10, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued its California Solar Initiative Annual Program Assessment on the progress of the California Solar Initiative (CSI). The Assessment reflects that the program has installed 66% of its total goal with another 19% reserved in pending projects. This is an estimated 1,629 MW of installed solar capacity at 167,878 customer sites in the investor-owned utility territories through the end of the first quarter of 2013. The CPUC estimates that this is enough to power approximately 150,000 homes and avoid building three power plants. To read the Assessment, click California Solar Initiative Annual Program Assessment.
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In January 2007, California began an $3.3 billion ratepayer-funded effort to install 3,000 MW of new solar over the next decade and transform the market for solar energy by reducing the cost of solar generating equipment. The CPUC's portion of the solar effort is known as the CSI. The CPUC boasts that is the country's largest solar program and has a $2.2 billion budget and a goal of 1,940 MW of solar capacity by the end of 2016.

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BLM Land Order Clears Way for Additional Solar Energy Development on Public Lands

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In early July, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced the withdrawal of lands identified for solar energy development in the West from new mining claims that could impede development of solar energy sites. Public Land Order No. 7818 (PLO 7818) withdraws 303,900 acres of land within 17 Solar Energy Zones in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah. You can read the PLO 7818 here.
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"The Sun Is Shining Brightly in the State of California!" Touts California Governor Jerry Brown

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At the 2013 North America Intersolar Conference in San Francisco, California Governor Jerry Brown, and many others spoke confidently about solar opportunities in California. "Just within the last two months we actually recorded over 2,000 MW of solar energy being put into the grid...," Governor Brown reported. He also confirmed his "goal of 1 million solar rooftops." He encourages a call to action, marshaling "intelligence and collaboration and political response..." You can hear Governor Brown's 2013 North America Intersolar Conference Keynote Address here.

Governor Brown launched California's first round of solar incentives in 1978, during his first two-term tenure as the Governor of the State of California. California now puts more than 2,000 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of solar power into its grid, and Governor Brown wants to see 1 million GWh by 2025, to meet the 33% Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), a regulation that requires the increased production of energy from renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal. The state now has 130,000 photovoltaics (PV) installations on homes and businesses, growing toward Governor Brown's stated goal of a million solar roofs.

FERC'S ORDER 1000 Aims to Power Up Competition

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Last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ("FERC") began enforcing Order 1000, a broad and detailed set of guidelines regarding the development of the nation's power transmission system. The Order, which has been viewed as one of the most significant transformations to the electricity market in recent memory, impacts regional transmission planning and allows for new transmission projects to be competitively bid. As outlined by FERC, Order 1000 consists of three categories of reforms - planning reforms, cost allocation reforms, and nonincumbent developer reforms.

The most controversial aspect of the Order appears to be this third category of reforms, which takes away incumbent utilities' right of first refusal from any FERC jurisdictional contracts. But not all energy executives are opposed to this reform. Transmission & Distribution World shared the views of several top utility executives, including one who supports the elimination of the right of first refusal because it opens up opportunities for more providers to participate in building transmission lines and allows existing utilities to compete in other parts of the country. Other executives, however, fear that opening up development by letting inexperienced companies bid on transmission may jeopardize reliability.

It is undisputed that the nation's current power grid is out of date. The American Society of Civil Engineers reports that 70 percent of power lines and transformers are over 25 years old, and 60 percent of circuit breakers are over 30 years old. Clearly, the need for investment and opportunities for development, construction, and business are massive. Bloomberg reports that approximately $673 billion will need to be invested by 2020 to avoid major breakdowns of the power grid. $104 billion worth of new transmission capability will be constructed by 2022, resulting in an estimated $6 billion in profits for developers of power lines.

It is anticipated that the costs of modernizing the power grid will be borne in part by consumers, who will likely face increased rates. But a more efficient power grid should ultimately lead to lower rates. In addition, modernization will help facilitate the use of renewable energy. SmartGridNews.com notes that new transmission lines are essential for energy sources like solar and wind to be incorporated into the power grid.

The true impacts of Order 1000 may not be known for some time, but the need for improving the grid combined with the opportunity for increased competition may provide a much needed economic boost.

America in the Dark

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The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) just released a report titled "Failure to Act, the Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Electricity Infrastructure" and no, the results are not pretty. According to the report, the gap between the amount actually spent on infrastructure across America and the amount that needs to be spent to maintain the system will reach $107 billion by 2020 and $732 billion by 2040. The Southeast and the Western portions of the country are particularly vulnerable to infrastructure underinvestment, making up approximately half of the country's infrastructure deficit. Furthermore, don't forget about the 2003 blackout across large sections of the East Coast, including New York City, that showed the grid's vulnerability. This report comes on the heels of ASCE giving the United States a grade of "D+" in the Energy category in 2009. D+ seems pretty generous.

The ASCE report predicts that disruption and inconsistent service resulting from faulty electricity infrastructure will lead to a reduction in U.S. GDP of almost $500 billion and half a million fewer jobs in America by 2020. The calculations implicit in this report are simple: if we can spend $100 billion to address this problem over the next decade, the country on the whole will be half a trillion dollars better off. It seems so simple.
However, the crunch of budget deficits at both the federal and state levels means that these profitable long-term investments lose out to short-term cost cutting. President Obama, however, has championed doubling overall infrastructure spending that would also help spur job growth and make up for years of underinvestment, but it is not enough.

Public-Private Partnerships will play an important role in bridging this funding gap by leveraging private investment over the long-term. The private sectors sees this $500 billion in potential savings and the United States needs to think creatively to spur further infrastructure development.

The Yin and Yang of offshore wind power

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Earlier this month the Department of Energy announced a 6 year, $180 million initiative to boost the Nation's wind power capabilities. Starting with $20 million this year, the DOE will spend the money on up to four innovative offshore wind energy installations across the United States. The DOE says the initiative will help move the U.S. closer to harnessing the estimated 4,000 gigawatts of power that could be generated from wind in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Great Lakes.

The money will be allocated through a competitive solicitation and will be awarded to a consortia with representatives from developers, equipment suppliers, researchers and marine contractors. Awarded funds can be used to fund up to 80 percent of the project design costs and 50 percent of the installation costs. The deadline for Letters of intent is March 30 and applications are due on May 31, 2012.

For the press release click here. For information and application details, visit The DOE website here.

More after the jump.

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Public Comment Period Opens for the Atlantic Wind Connection

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By Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman

The Department of the Interior has opened the public comment period for the environmental impacts of the Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) project. The project envisions a link between the proposed off shore wind farms in the Atlantic from Virgina to New Jersey and will provide an effecient means of transporting the power they produce to land. The project is backed by Google - so if you're looking for adverse comments, you might want to search on Yahoo!