Our Renewables Law Blog provides timely legal and business information on issues impacting companies developing or investing in renewable energy generation.

Chevron Plans Further Growth Into Energy Transition – Renewable Fuels, Hydrogen and Carbon Capture

While long term goals of lowering greenhouse gas emissions and employing sustainable energy sources have gained momentum across all industries, Chevron Corp., through its New Energies division, has stated it has shorter term goals as well – it says its planned growth in renewable fuels, hydrogen and carbon capture is expected to enable about 30 million tonnes of annual CO2 equivalent emission reductions by 2028. Technology adoption, policy and consumer behavior will drive energy choices, says a top sustainability executive, as companies focus on carbon management along the path to net zero.

NextEra Announces Record Renewables, Pushing Major ‘Green’ Hydrogen Project

NextEra Energy Inc.’s CEO, Jim Robo, has pushed Congress to extend clean energy tax credits as the company announced record renewables contracts and a major hydrogen project yesterday. Robo said odds are “reasonably high” of an extension if a consensus can be reached on what would be in the reconciliation bill. There is wider support in Congress to expand clean energy tax credits compared to the proposed $150 billion Clean Electricity Performance Program or carbon pricing.

DOE Releases Solar Futures Study Outlining a Plan to Reach 40% Solar Electricity by 2035

On September 8, 2021, the Department of Energy (DOE) released its Solar Futures Study providing a blueprint for the role of solar energy in decarbonizing the nation’s power sector.  The 310-page Study outlines a future in which solar provides 40% of the nation’s electricity supply by 2035 through cost reductions, technological improvement, rapid deployment, and supportive policies.  And, with the electrification of buildings and the transportation sector, solar could also power 30% of all building end uses and 14% of transportation end uses by 2050.

Ohio Enacts Legislation Providing Counties with the Authority to Block Solar and Wind Developments

On July 12, 2021, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed into law Senate Bill 52 providing counties with the authority to block the construction of certain large solar and wind facilities in unincorporated townships.  The law goes into effect on October 11, 2021.  In short, Senate Bill 52 allows county commissioners to establish restricted areas in unincorporated townships prohibiting the construction of solar developments with generating capacity over 50 MWs and wind farms with over 5 MWs of generating capacity.  

Solar Development Application Denied Due to Tie Vote – Appeal Filed

On June 4, 2021, following 21 nights of public hearings held over the course of 15 months, a conditional use application for a proposed 75 megawatt solar energy system filed by Brookview Solar I, LLC, was denied by operation of law due to a two-two tie vote, with one abstention, by the Board of Supervisors of Mount Joy Township, Adams County.  The applicant faced many of the same challenges and opposition frequently levied against traditional energy sources.

Corporate solar interest surges as companies exit pandemic and turn focus to ESG issues

A financial rebound is in progress as COVID-19 becomes less of a driver to business and our general livelihood, and it is one that is apparent in the renewables sector. Experts see growth fueled not just by pent-up demand, but also growing attention to ESG considerations and renewables’ financial advantages.

Corporate merger and acquisition activity was up significantly with solar developers expanding their pipelines, oil and gas companies diversifying into renewables, and funds buying up renewable assets.

Talen Energy To Convert PJM Coal Plants to Battery Storage; Save Jobs, Tax Base

It’s no secret that coal plants have had trouble competing with cheaper renewables and natural gas in recent years. Unexpectedly low prices from PJM’s latest capacity auction spurred a fresh wave of retirement announcements this month. But Talen Energy has decided that rather than retire coal plants and walk away, it would convert those sites to be used for other renewable energy-related projects.

Biden Administration Proposes to Revoke Trump Era Rule Limiting Incidental Take Prohibition Under The MBTA

Developers of renewables projects are once again facing regulatory uncertainty regarding the scope of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (“MBTA”) as a result of a proposed rule issued on May 7 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“USFWS”).  The proposed rule, if finalized as issued, would revoke a rule issued in the last days of the Trump administration stipulating that deaths of migratory birds occurring incidental to lawful activities (i.e., incidental take) are not prohibited under the MBTA.

Eastern Pennsylvania Zoning Hearing Board Rejects a Developer’s Application for Large-Scale Solar Project

With the development of large-scale renewable energy projects, municipal land use officials and private developers face the dilemma of how to classify and address such uses when zoning ordinances do not expressly mention them. Such omissions may be intentional, or, more often, may simply be the result of failures to update their ordinances to account for the changing energy production market.

A recent example of how these issues play out was a decision by the Lower Mount Bethel Township, Northampton County Zoning Hearing Board.

Bank of America adds to its ESG financing goal – up to $1 trillion by 2030

Bank of America last week more than tripled its environmental financing goal, saying it wants to deploy more than $1 trillion by 2030 to accelerate the transition toward a low-carbon, sustainable future, according to a recent press release.

Since launching its environmental business initiative in 2007, the bank said, it has financed $200 billion in sustainable activities, including asset-based lending, tax equity investments and capital raising in the energy and transportation sectors, among others.

West Virginia Legislature Enacts Renewable Energy Site Reclamation Law

In an effort to ensure that owners of solar and wind energy facilities (“renewable energy facilities”) do not decommission production facilities without completing proper reclamation, on April 10, 2021, the West Virginia Legislature enacted Senate Bill 492, creating the West Virginia Wind and Solar Energy Facility Reclamation Act (as new Article 32 of Chapter 22 of the West Virginia Code (“Reclamation Act”)). The Reclamation Act (effective July 9, 2021) generally requires that an owner of a wind generation facility or a solar generation facility submit certain information to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”), including the date the facility commenced operation;

WV smooths the path for on-site solar energy facilities

The West Virginia Legislature has passed a bill that will make it easier for retail electric customers to establish on-site solar energy facilities.  Sponsored by Babst Calland Shareholder and House Judiciary Chairman Moore Capito, House Bill 3310 states that solar energy facilities designed to power only the premises where they are located are exempt from the jurisdiction of the West Virginia Public Service Commission under certain conditions. 

Pennsylvania Governor Announces PULSE Project to Provide 50% of Commonwealth Government’s Electricity Consumption

On March 21, 2021, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced the Pennsylvania “Project to Utilize Light and Solar Energy” (“PULSE”), a renewable energy project consisting of seven new solar farms totaling 191 MW in capacity to be constructed in various counties across the Commonwealth by 2023. Upon completion, the PULSE Project is expected to provide upwards of 360,000 MWh of electricity each year, estimated to be enough to supply nearly half of the state government’s annual electricity consumption.

Department of Energy Announces Plans to Reduce Cost of Solar Energy Technologies by 60 Percent

On March 25, 2021, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced plans to reduce the cost of solar energy technologies by 60% over the next 10 years by setting new cost targets and establishing funding opportunities.  The DOE accelerated its cost target for utility-scale solar by establishing a new goal of driving down the current cost of 4.6 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to 3 cents/kWh by 2025 and 2 cents/kWh by 2030. 

Proposed Bipartisan Legislation Would Expand Investment Tax Credit to Standalone Energy Storage Projects

A bipartisan group of federal lawmakers recently introduced a bill aimed at jumpstarting growth in the energy storage sector.  If enacted, the Energy Storage Tax Incentive and Deployment Act of 2021 would broaden the investment tax credit program, which is widely credited with stimulating considerable growth in the solar sector, to include standalone energy storage projects.  The tax credit is currently only available for energy storage projects that are charged directly from other clean energy projects that qualify for the credit, such as solar.