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Weekly REsource January 19, 2018

Our Featured Blog

A gathering this week in Washington, DC, of leaders from more than 30 leading farm and sustainability organizations from across the continent has reaffirmed their commitment to enhance the adaptive capacity of North American agriculture. The meeting, held at the American Farm Bureau Federation headquarters, marked a revitalization of the North American Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance (NACSAA), which provides a platform for engagement, dialogue, knowledge sharing and application of climate science to the agriculture and forestry sectors. Tuesday's session drew together agriculture and forestry leaders from the United States, Canada and Mexico who share the mission of making our food, feed and fiber production systems resilient to changes in our climate while intensifying production levels in the face of a growing global population. Equally important, these farm and forestry leaders also renewed their commitment to the role of agriculture and forestry in significantly reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – which most scientists say is a major contributor to climate change – through methane capture, soil carbon sequestration and biofuels (including biofuels for transportation and woody biomass for power) that burn more cleanly than fossil fuels.

News of Note

Trump: 'Dumped' Solar Panels Means 'Everybody Goes Out of Business'

Media reports out of Washington indicate President Trump is nearing a decision on whether to impose import tariffs in a solar trade case brought by two U.S. solar panel manufacturers, but still offered no specific date.
Under current procedures, Trump has until Jan. 26 to choose from among a range of recommendations offered by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), impose his own level of tariffs, or do nothing.
Trump, who said his decision will come "pretty soon," has not said what action he will take.
But Reuters news service quoted him as saying Wednesday, "You know, they dump 'em – government-subsidized, lots of things happening – they dump the panels, then everybody goes out of business."
But the vast part of U.S. solar industry outside of manufacturing, which represents just 14 percent of the sector, fears the imposition of tariffs will inflict lasting damage.
Developers and installers have seen the exponential growth of their part of the industry, due in large part to continually dropping costs attributable to the low cost of panels from other nations.
Tariffs that would add costs to the development of solar facilities and the installation of solar panels is a threat to tens of thousands of jobs and would endanger hundreds of millions of dollars in investment, solar industry leaders say.
U.S. solar manufacturer Suniva, which is principally owned by a Chinese firm, filed the petition with the ITC last April, shortly after declaring bankruptcy. The filing was driven by Suniva's principle creditor, SNS. Suniva was later joined by German-owned SolarWorld, also in bankruptcy. Opposing the petition is virtually the entire remainder of the U.S. solar industry.
After reports of Trump's comments emerged, the two manufacturers who launched the trade petition wrote the president expressing their gratitude and calling for tariffs considerably stronger than those recommended by ITC members.
A statement issued by Suniva CEO Juergen Stein and the company's executive vice president, Matt Card, thanked Trump for understanding "the seriousness of the problem facing our solar manufacturers in Michigan, Georgia, Oregon, and across the country: for years, China cheated and predatorily targeted dozens of U.S. solar manufacturers, leaving nearly 30 U.S. companies dead and thousands of U.S. workers suffering because of it.
"Now the president can save and rebuild this great American industry and create thousands of jobs by immediately imposing 50 percent tariffs – the strongest tariffs possible," the Suniva executives said.
But the Solar Energy Industries Association says the manufacturers represent just two companies out of more than 8,000 firms across the U.S. solar industry, yet are asking for tariff relief that would impact the entire market.
The trade group has said the American solar industry is growing 17 times faster than the rest of the economy, and created 1 out of every 50 new jobs in the United States last year. Implementing punitive tariffs, however, would "grind growth to a halt" and result in nearly 88,000 employs – one-third of the current U.S. solar workforce today – losing their jobs this year.
Trump's comments this week would seem to reinforce his position of promoting U.S. manufacturers over foreign competition. That, says alarmed solar industry leaders, is protectionist rhetoric. They fear the president will adhere to his "America First" worldview and imposes the penalties on imported solar modules, regardless of the impact they will have on the solar industry here at home.
SEIA President and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper also sent a letter to Trump this week, reminding him of the tens of thousands of U.S. solar workers, including American manufacturers, whose jobs will be lost if high tariffs are implemented.
"A decision to impose high tariffs in line with the International Trade Commission's recommendation(s) will lead to the layoff of tens of thousands of workers, cause companies to stop investing in the United States and bring an American economic engine screeching to a halt," Hopper wrote.
The letter, which was also delivered to top officials across the federal government, highlighted how, in addition to jobs, both the U.S. economy and national security are at risk if the president imposes tariffs on cells and panels that punish successful American solar companies.
In an editorial Wednesday, USA Today said that given Trump's criticism of China's trade surplus with the United States, "it might be tempting to finally substitute action for rhetoric. But a decision to slap big import taxes on the Chinese-made solar parts would be a serious mistake, one likely to kill far more American jobs than it saves."
The editorial also said that "artificially raising prices on imported solar cells and panels would hurt a burgeoning domestic solar industry that employs the kind of 'forgotten' Americans whom Trump champions: small contractors who employ blue-collar workers earning a median of $26 an hour; one in 10 are veterans."
Meanwhile, Greentech Media (GTM) this week quoted trade experts as saying a decision could be delayed an additional 90 days if the Trump administration decides to pursue a "negotiated settlement," an outcome available through Section 201 trade cases like that filed by Suniva. The action could "trigger further review would involve negotiating 'quantitative restrictions' on imports of solar products subject to the 201 investigation," the news outlet said.
GTM said under the extension protocol, discussions could be even broader than the 201 case and include negotiations on a settlement that also addresses anti-dumping and countervailing duties on Chinese and Taiwanese PV manufacturers from previous solar trade cases.
GTM says an extension would be a "major win" for many in the solar industry by giving the Trump administration more time to deal with the complex issues posed by the trade case.
EPA Expanding Comment Period on Proposal to Replace Clean Power Plan
EPA has extended until April 26 the public comment period on its proposal to repeal and/or replace the Clean Power Plan (CPP), posting dates for three additional public listening sessions over the next two months.
EPA officials came under criticism after originally holding only one public hearing, which was held last month in Charleston, WVA, a state where coal is a major industry and employer, yet would face the biggest impact from the CPP as proposed more than two years ago.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the sessions were added "in response to…the success of the West Virginia hearing."
The added hearings will be held Feb. 21 in Kansas City, MO, Feb, 28 in San Francisco, and March 27 in Gillette, WY.
Elsewhere, in response to the perceived limitation on comments in open sessions, state officials in New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland held their own public hearings on EPA's proposal.
Pruitt's replacement plan will likely be significantly narrower than the CPP and is not expected to generate the renewable energy development anticipated from the Obama-era plan.
Pruitt announced last October that the Trump administration would shut down the CPP, former President Barack Obama's principle policy mechanism to meet U.S. obligations under the 2015 Paris climate agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), a pact that was signed by more than 190 nations.
Trump announced last summer that the United States would withdraw from the Paris agreement, a technical process that could not actually occur until after the 2020 elections. He has since suggested – most recently this week – that the United States might stay in the agreement subject to the renegotiation of U.S. participation terms. Other countries have said any effort to change the U.S. level of commitment to stay in the agreement is a non-starter.
Since the July announcement at the White House, U.S. states, cities and corporations have vigorously stepped up their efforts to reduce climate change, including adopting policies that encourage the development and procurement of clean energy sources like wind and solar.
As a presidential candidate last year, Trump repeatedly vowed to end the CPP, which has been hung up in court for nearly two years after 27 states, coal and mining interests sued the Obama administration, citing what they charged was federal regulatory overreach. Seventeen states, clean energy and environmental groups joined EPA at the time to defend the CPP.
With the change in administration, Trump has taken aim at virtually every vestige of the federal government's efforts to address climate change, going so far as to removing references to it in agency documents, curbing discussion of it by government scientists, and deleting it as a threat in the latest National Security Strategy issued last month.
The litigation over the CPP remains in virtual limbo in the District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
The fact that Pruitt says he will replace the CPP indicates the Trump administration will not challenge a carbon endangerment finding reached by EPA under the Clean Air Act in 2009. Upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, the finding has since served as the legal foundation for the agency's regulatory authority over GHGs.
Pruitt is now expected to retain a narrower version of the CPP, focusing on upgrades that can be made specifically within coal-fueled power plants and dropping broader strategies to reduce GHGs.
As drawn up by EPA under the Obama administration, the CPP would have called on states to develop their own schemes for reducing coal-plant emissions, using both "inside-the-fence" efforts aimed at improving a plant's efficiency, and "outside-the-fence" measures such as emissions trading, consumer energy efficiency programs and the increased use of fuels with lower emissions than coal like natural gas and renewable energy.
Critics of the CPP cited the so-called "outside-the-fenceline" provisions as overreach in their challenges to the plan and in the subsequent lawsuit. Pruitt, who previously served as the Oklahoma attorney general and was among those plaintiffs, also joined critics who challenged the CPP rule as it was being formulated in 2014, when he drafted his own "inside the fence" alternative to counter the EPA plan.
The EPA notice calls for public comments on "inside the fence" remedies such as improved heat rate efficiencies at generators and carbon capture and storage.
The administration is reportedly hoping a replacement plan will also help in its defense against lawsuits that are expected to come from states, and clean energy and environmental groups that support the CPP.
As for the additional listening sessions, EPA says registration information and more details will be posted HERE. The agency said that pre-registration to provide an oral presentation at any of the sessions will begin when the notice is published in the Federal Register and close one week prior to each session.
EPA says written statements and supporting information submitted while the public comment period is open will be considered with the same weight as any oral comments and supporting information presented at the listening sessions. Comments should be identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2017-0355 and may be submitted by one of the methods listed on the Clean Power Plan Proposed Repeal: How to Comment web page.
Bipartisan Letter Urges Trump to Restore Climate Change to National Security Strategy
A bipartisan group of 106 members of the House of Representatives wrote President Trump this week urging him to recognize climate change as a national security threat to the United States.
The letter, which was led by Reps. Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY), was sent in response to the president's recently released National Security Strategy, which omitted any mention of climate change.
The letter expresses the same concerns as those raised last month in a 25x'25 blog, which also pointed out the military's necessary reliance on renewable energy to address climate change.
The omission of climate change from the draft military security document is in contrast with the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that the president signed last month that includes language authored by Langevin explicitly recognizing this threat to our national security.
"It is imperative that President Trump include climate change as part of his National Security Strategy," said Langevin. "As our military leaders around the globe see the effects a changing climate is already having on our mission resiliency, it is critical that we address this challenge head on."
He said Congress took a "monumental step" in recognizing the threats climate change pose to our national security when the NDAA was passed and signed into law.
"I hope the President will reconsider this omission and join national defense and intelligence leaders in recognizing that climate security is national security," Langevin said.
"Climate change poses serious concerns for our national security and for political instability around the globe," Stefanik said. "This is a concern I share with many of our nation's top national defense experts, including (Defense) Secretary (James) Mattis. As a Member of the Climate Solutions Caucus and the author of the House Republican Climate Resolution, I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure the threats posed by climate change are being addressed at the federal level."
"We have heard from scientists, military leaders, and civilian personnel who believe that climate change is indeed a direct threat to America's national security and to the stability of the world at large," the lawmakers wrote in their letter transmitted to the president. "As global temperatures become more volatile, sea levels rise, and landscapes change, our military installations and our communities are increasingly at risk of devastation. It is imperative that the United States addresses this growing geopolitical threat."
In its blog, 25x'25 pointed out that Trump's exclusion of climate change from the new security strategy runs contrary to Pentagon's efforts over the past 10 years to reduce fossil fuel use – a leading source of greenhouse gases (GHGs) that contribute to climate change – and power military installations with renewables like wind, solar and biomass, as well as fuel planes, ships and vehicles with biofuels.
The omission also runs contrary to a report issued in October by the General Accounting Office (GAO), the independent, nonpartisan "watchdog" agency that works for Congress and is charged with investigating how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars.
The GAO recommended the White House take action to address climate change, warning that without implementing measures that mitigate the impacts of extreme climate events, which have resulted in the spending of billions of disaster assistance dollars, the federal government will only have to respond with even more spending in the future.
The National Security Strategy is a report to Congress required by the Goldwater-Nicholas Act that outlines the administration's goals and objectives for securing the United States.
During consideration of the FY18 NDAA, 46 Republicans joined 188 Democrats in voting to preserve the Langevin provision expressing the sense of Congress that "climate change is a direct threat to the national security of the United States."
The provision directs the Secretary of Defense to provide an assessment of and recommendations to mitigate vulnerabilities to the top 10 most threatened military installations in each service. The NDAA language also requires the secretary to address combatant commander requirements resulting from climate change over the next 20 years.
The required report must be submitted to Congress before the end of this year.
ACEEE: Rollback of Vehicle Standards Would Reverse Fuel Economy Gains
With the threat of a rollback looming, two new reports from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that federal fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards for vehicles are working, says a leading energy efficiency advocacy group.
"Furthermore, new models, such as those on display at the Detroit Auto Show this week, show that additional gains are within reach," said Therese Langer, transportation program director with the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) in a blog on the group's website.
Efficiency is the first option under the 25x'25 vision.
EPA released the new Light-Duty Automotive Technology, Carbon Dioxide Emissions, and Fuel Economy Trends report last week, showing that average fuel economy of new vehicles increased 0.1 miles per gallon from model year 2015 to model year 2016.
"Should we celebrate that fuel economy is increasing, even as consumers buy bigger vehicles?" Langer asks. "Or should we lament the slow pace of progress, despite advances in vehicle technology appearing in the news almost daily?"
Both, she says. That fuel economy continues to rise is the result of tightening fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards. As the Manufacturer Performance Report showed, automakers stayed in compliance with greenhouse gas emissions standards, despite the paltry increase in average miles per gallon, by spending some of the credits they'd accumulated through over-compliance in prior years.
And they have plenty left in the bank, she adds, noting that the industry spent only 11 percent of available credits to comply with the model year 2016 greenhouse gas standards.
Many people are buying crossovers, which consume more fuel than cars do. Had consumers maintained 2015 buying patterns in 2016, fuel economy would have increased 0.3 miles per gallon. But this is still less than one-third the efficiency gain anticipated for model year 2016 when the standards were adopted.
As it turns out, cars and pickup trucks separately increased their average fuel economy by only 0.1 mpg in 2016.
In the case of pickups, one might expect manufacturers to emphasize that 2016 was not a year of major redesign for the big pickup brands, Langer writes. She cites big upgrades to the Ram and Silverado/Sierra pickups coming in 2019; and to the 37-mpg F-150 with an Achates opposed-piston engine on display at the Detroit Auto Show, expected to hit the market around 2020, beating the model year 2025 standard by 12 percent at an incremental cost far below EPA's projected compliance costs.
"Instead, manufacturers are citing their meager fuel economy gains in 2016 and 2017 as evidence that the standards need to be rolled back," the ACEEE executive complained. "They've got the administration's ear: an earlier determination that rising standards through model year 2025 remain appropriate has been reopened, and a new proposal is expected March 30."
She said the appearance this year of the "venerable" Trends Report was a relief, coming only months after the Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Lab that produces these reports – and generates the data underlying them – faced a near-death experience in the FY 2018 budget process. The reports, which are models of adept data analysis and transparency, are the authoritative source of information on these timely issues, Langer says.
"Fuel economy matters," she writes. "An extra mile per gallon would have saved drivers $13 billion at the pump last year, even at the relatively low average gasoline price of $2.40 per gallon – and those prices won't last. If the administration decides to roll back these valuable vehicle standards, consumers, the environment, and the U.S. economy will pay the price."
Report: Transmission Needed to Meet Corporate Demand for Renewable Power
Big companies are increasingly signing deals to buy wind and solar power, and their large and growing demand may exceed the capacity of existing and planned transmission lines, yet transmission planners are not taking this into account as they draw up their future plans.
The transmission shortfall is among the findings in a new report released this week by the Wind Energy Foundation (WEF), a nonprofit advocacy group.
Large U.S. businesses – including Fortune 500 companies – are increasingly acting on their publicly announced renewable energy goals as new utility-scale wind and solar energy projects are now often the lowest cost power available.
According to the WEF report, a coalition of more than 100 corporate entities set a goal of purchasing 60 gigawatts (GWs) of renewable energy by the year 2025, equivalent to the amount of energy produced by 110 conventional power plants and enough electricity to power nearly 50 million homes.
The report estimates that the coalition still has some 51 GWs left to purchase in order to meet that goal, and questions whether current transmission plans can accommodate the increase in demand.
"This report demonstrates that there is an immediate need for transmission planners to account for the significant renewable energy goals of corporate purchasers," said WEF Executive Director John Kostyack. "As costs continue to decline for new utility-scale wind and solar projects, an ever-increasing number of large corporate buyers are acting to lock in low-cost renewable power purchase agreements."
The report looked at a range of different scenarios, and found that existing and planned transmission facilities may not be sufficient to deliver the amount of renewable energy companies have already committed to buying.
For example, using a conservative set of transmission-building assumptions, the report found that planned transmission build-outs would meet only 42 percent of corporate renewable energy demand in a high-procurement scenario, or 78 percent of the demand in a low-procurement scenario.
"GM's ability to access renewable energy is key to our decisions about where to expand new facilities," said Rob Threlkeld, global manager of Renewable Energy, General Motors. "It's essential that transmission planners take the growing corporate demand for renewables into account in the planning process. Expanding and upgrading transmission is critical in helping GM access low-cost renewable energy and meet our commitments."
Given the findings, the report recommends that corporate buyers and other large institutional customers take the following actions:
  • Encourage transmission planners and state Public Service Commissions to increase access to affordable, renewable energy by approving upgrades and expansion to transmission lines.
  • Participate in regional and inter-regional transmission planning conversations to ensure future transmission infrastructure meets customer demand for renewable energy.
  • Urge the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to continue to work to improve the interregional planning process, consistent with Order 1000.
"Any company aiming to buy renewable energy should engage in the transmission planning process," said David Gardiner, president of David Gardiner and Associates, which produced the report on behalf of WEF. "Access to the lowest-cost renewable resources depends on transmission, and corporate renewable energy buyers need to communicate their procurement goals to transmission planners."
IRENA Says Power from Renewables to be 'Consistently Cheaper' than Fossil Fuels
By 2020, electricity from renewables will soon be "consistently cheaper" than that from most fossil fuels, says a report released last weekend by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), an intergovernmental organization with more than 170 member states that supports countries in transitioning to a sustainable energy future.
"By 2020, all the renewable power generation technologies that are now in commercial use are expected to fall within the fossil fuel-fired cost range, with most at the lower end or undercutting fossil fuels," states the report, "Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2017."
In recent years, IRENA has issued reports showing power from renewables has been comparable in cost to that generated from coal and natural gas in some areas of the world. The agency now says renewable electricity is already competitive with fossil-fuel power in most of the world. And its latest report confidently expands the forecast to say that in less than three years, all forms of renewable electricity will be consistently cheaper than power produced by burning fossil fuels.
IRENA says currently, fossil-fuel power typically costs between $0.05 to $0.17 per kWh. On the other hand, the global-weighted average cost of electricity generated by various forms of renewables in 2017, as calculated by IRENA, is hydropower ($0.05 per kWh), onshore wind ($0.06 per kWh), bioenergy and geothermal ($0.07 per kWh), and solar photovoltaics ($0.10 per kWh).
"Turning to renewables for new power generation is not simply an environmentally conscious decision, it is now overwhelmingly a smart economic one," said Adnan Amin, IRENA's director-general, in releasing the report at the agency's annual summit in Abu Dhabi.
Other findings of the report include:
  • Renewable power generation costs continue to fall and are already very competitive to meet needs for new capacity.
  • Competitive procurement – including auctions – accounts for a small fraction of global renewable energy deployment. Yet these mechanisms are very rapidly driving down costs in new markets.
  • Global competition is helping to spread the best project development practices, reducing technology and project risk and making renewables more cost-competitive than ever before.
  • In developed countries, solar power has become cheaper than new nuclear power.
  • The levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) from solar photovoltaics (PV) decreased by 69 percent between 2010 and 2016 – coming well into the cost range of fossil fuels.
  • Onshore wind, whose costs fell 18 percent in the same period, provides very competitive electricity, with projects routinely commissioned nowadays at four cents per kilowatt hour (kWh).
  • As installation accelerates, the cost equation for renewables just gets better and better. With every doubling of cumulative installed capacity for onshore wind, investment costs drop by 9 percent while the resulting electricity becomes 15 percent cheaper.
  • Solar PV module costs have fallen by about four-fifths, making residential solar PV systems as much as two-thirds cheaper than in 2010.
The IRENA Renewable Cost Database includes 15,000 data points for LCOE from projects around the globe, representing more than 1,000 gigawatts (GW) of power generation capacity. An additional auctions database encompasses more than 7,000 projects with nearly 300 GW of capacity.
New Global Commission to Examine Geopolitics of Energy Transformation
On another front, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has launched a special commission to analyze how energy transformation driven by renewables will impact foreign policies and geopolitics.
The Global Commission on the Geopolitics of Energy Transformation was created with the support of the governments of Germany, Norway and the United Arab Emirates.
The panel, according to an IRENA release, "will examine the immediate and longer-term geopolitical implications of global energy transformation driven by large scale-up of renewable energy in the context of global efforts to tackle climate change and advance sustainable development."
The commission will be chaired by Olafur Grimsson, the former president of Iceland.
"The global energy landscape is witnessing rapid and disruptive change that will have far reaching effects on geopolitical dynamics," said IRENA Director-General Adnan min, "Renewable energy resources are abundant, sustainable and have the power to significantly improve energy access, security and independence.
"At the same time, the large-scale deployment of variable sources of renewable energy such as solar [photovoltaic] PV and wind is fostering greater cross-border energy trade and cooperation between nations," Amin continued. "Understanding these changing dynamics in a way that informs policy makers, will be the primary goal of the commission."
"I am delighted to chair the Global Commission on the Geopolitics of Energy Transformation, and congratulate IRENA on this timely initiative," said Grimsson. "The geopolitical implications of energy transformation is becoming one of the most debated issues in the global energy agenda. The Commission can make an important contribution to these global discussions, on the basis of solid evidence and analysis as well as a diverse range of perspectives."
While most geopolitical analyses of energy related issues have focused on conventional fuels such as oil and gas, the commission will review the implications of the ongoing global energy transformation underpinned by the surge in renewables and report on how it would impact the geopolitics of energy based on rigorous and credible evidence.
The commission will be composed of twelve leaders and experts on international energy and global security issues, with particular emphasis given to ensuring diverse geographical and expert background representation.
The commission will present its report at the 9th Session of the IRENA Assembly in January 2019.
SEIA Paper Offers Deep Dive into Locational Value, Time of Use Rates
Continuing an in-depth look at state-level efforts to modernize the electric utility grid, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) released this week the latest installment in its white paper series, "Improving Opportunities for Solar Through Grid Modernization."
The fourth paper, Getting More Granular: How Value of Location and Time May Change Compensation for Distributed Energy Resources, focuses on the ways in which utilities can more effectively operate on the grid.
"When states develop fair compensation mechanisms for distributed energy resources (DER), the result is a modern electric grid that better serves the needs of all its customers," said Sean Gallagher, SEIA's vice president of state affairs. "The case studies highlighted in our report can serve as a model for other states interested in grid modernization and the economic benefits that result."
In the latest white paper, SEIA staff applied experience in two leading states, California and New York, to develop framing principles for how to use locational values to guide DERs, like solar, to where they will have the most impact.
"As more states tackle the complexities of 'grid modernization,' SEIA's white paper series offers approachable and digestible insights on some of the most critical regulatory issues shaping the future of distributed energy resources, including solar," says Sara Baldwin Auck, regulatory director of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). "Drawing from the experiences in New York and California, this paper provides novel principles for state regulators to consider as they develop and deploy locational value analyses and new compensation mechanisms for solar and other distributed resources."
"The white paper examines important issues to consider in designing rules to compensate on-site solar generation, energy storage, and other clean energy technologies powering our homes and businesses," said Miles Farmer, Staff Attorney for the Climate & Clean Energy Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "As these projects become increasingly prevalent, it will become even more important to design rules that ease the ability of developers to obtain financing while at the same time maximizing their benefits for the utility system."
The series will continue in the spring with a white paper on the key steps a utility needs to take to efficiently upgrade and modernize.
To access the new white paper and the rest of the series, click HERE.
Shell Oil, BP Get Back into the Solar Business
After an absence of several years, Royal Dutch Shell oil company has returned to the solar energy business, announcing plans to purchase nearly 44 percent of Silicon Ranch Corporation, a Tennessee-based developer, owner, and operator of solar energy plants.
Shell, which sold off its renewable assets three years after revenues dropped in the face of plummeting oil prices, is making its return to the clean energy field, saying it would spend up to $217 in cash, based on Silicon Ranch's performance, with an option to buy more of the solar firm after 2021.
The proposed acquisition follows the oil company's move into the electric vehicle sectors, announcing in October the acquisition of Dutch-based NewMotion.
In November, Shell doubled its planned investment in its new energies division, which focuses on renewables and low carbon technologies, to up to $2 billion until 2020.
It also follows the announcement last month by BP to acquire a 43-percent equity share in the solar development and management firm, Lightsource, for $200 million, paid over three years.
The two oil giant's investments in renewables still represent a small fraction of their capital expenditure budgets (Shell's totals $25 billion).
But the investments are also seen as a response to pressure from governments around the world adopting clean energy policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Subject to regulatory approvals, the Shell acquisition of Silicon Ranch is expected to close by the end of this quarter.
The Nashville-based solar firm will continue to operate under its existing management and the Silicon Ranch brand. The business has doubled its operating portfolio for three consecutive years, with approximately 880 megawatts of PV systems that are contracted, under construction, or operating in 14 states from New York to California. The company has nearly 1 gigawatt more in its development pipeline.
Silicon Ranch management says the transaction will enable it to accelerate its growth strategy by developing new projects, entering new markets and expanding product offerings across its portfolio.
"The strategic partnership provides Shell a platform to establish a successful global solar business by aligning with a proven team in the second largest solar market in the world," the solar company said in a statement.
"We were impressed by Silicon Ranch's proven track record, its market-led development strategy, and its long-term ownership model and commitment to the communities it serves," said Marc van Gerven, Shell vice president of Solar. "Partnering with Silicon Ranch progresses our New Energies strategy and provides our U.S. customers with additional solar renewable options. With this entry into the fast-growing solar sector, Shell is able to leverage its expertise as one of the top three wholesale power sellers in the U.S., while expanding its global New Energies footprint."
Matt Kisber, Silicon Ranch co-founder and CEO, said the company's goal "has always been to ensure that Americans have access to a reliable, affordable, and clean energy supply, and we are honored to welcome Shell as our newest business partner. By pairing our solar expertise and trusted brand with the scale, resources, and brand equity of Shell, we are well-equipped to collaborate with our utility partners to provide comprehensive, win-win energy solutions for them and their customers."
Last month, BP officials said their investment in Lightsource represents the company's return to the solar sector, but according to Group Chief Executive Bob Dudley, "in a new and very different way. While our history in the solar industry was centered on manufacturing panels, (now named) Lightsource BP will instead grow value through developing and managing major solar projects around the world."
At the time of the acquisition announcement, BP cited its own Statistical Review of World Energy and noted that global installed solar generating capacity had more than tripled over the previous four years, growing by more than 30 percent in 2016 alone. BP's Energy Outlook analysis sees solar as likely to generate around a third of the world's total renewable power and up to 10 percent of total global power by 2035.
The company said Lightsource BP will complement its existing Alternative Energy business, which includes wind energy, biofuels and biopower.
BP Wind Energy has interests in onshore wind energy across the United States with total gross generating capacity of 2.3 GW. BP Biofuels has world scale plants in Brazil, which produce around 800 million liters of ethanol equivalent per year, as well as generating low-carbon power for Brazil's national grid.


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Headlines of Note


Upcoming Events


Energy Independence Summit 2018 Set for Feb. 11-14


Energy Independence Summit 2018, the nation's premier clean transportation policy summit, is set for Feb. 11-14 in Washington, D.C.


The event will be staged by Transportation Energy Partners (TEP) is a national non-profit organization that brings Clean Cities coalition leaders together with the clean transportation industry to advance policies that will reduce American dependence on petroleum-based fuels.





TEP officials say the summit provides a unique opportunity for Clean Cities Coalitions and leaders in the clean transportation industry to network and build partnerships with each other, and with key congressional and Trump administration policymakers in Washington.


Attendees will have the opportunity to:

  • Meet with leaders of the new administration and key congressional leaders.
  • Learn the latest on how you can benefit from investments from the Volkswagen settlement.
  • Network with the nation's Clean Cities Coalitions and top industry leaders.
  • Participate in roundtable discussions with DOE, EPA, USDA, Department of Transportation and Department of Defense.
  • Learn about new technologies and market developments that are driving the alternative fuels industry forward.
  • Participate in Capitol Hill Day meetings and educate members of Congress about successful projects achieved in partnership with government and industry.
  • Attend the Capitol Hill Day reception hosted by UPS.
  • Attend the Salute to Clean Cities reception.


The summit will take place at the Renaissance Dupont Circle Hotel in downtown Washington.


For more information and registration, click HERE.


ACORE Sets Renewable Energy Forum for March 14


The American Council on Renewable Energy is staging a forum on the many federal policy challenges the renewable sector has faced in the last year and how best to respond to them in the year ahead.


The forum is set for March 14 at the Washington Marriott at Metro Center.


"As we look ahead to further defend and promote a range of policies that will expand the renewable energy marketplace, there is no better venue to convene than ACORE's Renewable Energy Policy Forum," ACORE says.


The forum, the group says, is where public sector, private sector and power sector meet to advance renewables.


Agenda highlights include Andy Ott, CEO of PJM as keynote speaker, and sessions on:

  • Renewable Energy Finance in the New Tax Law
  • Boosting America's Renewable Energy Dominance
  • A Resilient, Reliable and Renewable Grid
  • The New Renewables Alliance: Cities, States and Businesses


Initial speakers will be announced soon


To view the forum agenda, click HERE.


To register, click HERE.


Interested in Sponsoring?


Showcase your business to investors, developers, manufacturers, utilities, policymakers, and other influencers. For information on sponsorship opportunities, please contact Cindi Eck at eck@acore.org.


Save the Date


On the eve of the forum, ACORE is hosting the American Renewable Energy Gala, an annual networking dinner and award ceremony. The 2018 American Renewable Energy Gala will be held on Tuesday, March 13, at the Reagan Building and International Trade Center, where more than 400 financial, corporate, industry leaders and policymakers will gather to reflect on the achievements, challenges and growth opportunities for the renewables sector.


Table sponsorships for the event are now available. Please contact Cindi Eck at eck@acore.org 


Registration Available for ACE's 10th Annual D.C. Fly-In


The American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) formally announces the organization's 10th annual Washington, D.C. fly-in will take place March 21-22. Registration for this event and ACE's 2018 advertising and sponsorship guide for this opportunity and others are available at ethanol.org/events/fly-in.


"The purpose of our fly-ins is to put a human face on the ethanol industry and to communicate our policy priorities to Members of Congress and Executive Branch decision makers," said Brian Jennings, ACE CEO. "The most effective lobbyists aren't lobbyists at all, but rather farmers, ethanol producers, Main Street business leaders, retailers selling higher ethanol blends, and other grassroots individuals whose daily lives benefit from ethanol."


This past spring, 75 ethanol advocates met with more than 120 Members of Congress from 35 states. Participants included ethanol company investors and management, corn farmers, scientists, fuel marketers and gas station owners, with representation from Jetz, Cresco Fast Stop, Midway Service, Good & Quick, Sheetz, and Propel Fuels.


"In ACE's 10 years of hosting D.C. fly-ins, we've found that the most successful ones strike a balance between Hill visits with our champions and those with Members of Congress who may be new, opponents of our policy priorities, or live outside the Corn Belt," said Shannon Gustafson, ACE senior director of Operations and Programming. "We encourage participants to share personal stories – Members of Congress and their staff hear from lobbyists and association staff regularly, but a deeply personal perspective of how the ethanol industry has directly benefitted a participant may help them view a topic with fresh eyes."


During Capitol Hill meetings, ACE and its fly-in attendees have emphasized the need to maintain support for the Renewable Fuel Standard, urged Members of Congress to cosponsor legislation to extend Reid vapor pressure (RVP) relief to E15 (S. 517 and H.R. 1311), and discussed the importance of the biofuels sector to a robust rural economy.


"While we are pleased the statutory 15-billion-gallon volume for conventional biofuel will be maintained in 2018 and EPA rejected pleas to change the point of obligation, more can and should be done to overcome regulatory hurdles which prevent market access to higher ethanol blends," Jennings said. "We encourage people from all walks of life who support ethanol to register for this important opportunity to tell this industry's success story."


The meetings will take place at the Liaison Capitol Hill hotel and on Capitol Hill. To register and find out more information about the event, please contact Shannon Gustafson at sgustafson@ethanol.org.


ACE's Ethanol Today magazine released its lineup of themes and sponsorship opportunities for 2018. The editorial calendar and media kit are available at ethanoltoday.com. The newly released sponsorship and advertising guide offers bundled Ethanol Today advertising opportunities with ACE event sponsorships. Contact Chuck Beck at cbeck@ethanol.org to find out how you can maximize your reach while minimizing the expense.


Other events of interest to 25x'25 partners and other renewable energy stakeholders can be found by clicking here.