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Weekly REsource January 26, 2018

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Monday's decision by the Trump administration to impose tariffs on imported solar cells and modules was anticipated by the industry, given the president's "America First" agenda on behalf of U.S. manufacturing, energy and other sectors. The U.S. Trade Representative's (USTR) office announced that it would impose 30-percent tariffs on imported crystalline silicon photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules, though it excludes the first 2.5 gigawatts (GW) of imports. The tariffs were also an outcome that most of the solar industry in this country feared. While claims were made that the punitive duties would generate U.S. jobs, the consensus – even from impartial analysts – suggests any increase in manufacturing jobs would be minimal. In fact, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the key U.S. trade group in the sector, estimates the tariffs will drive up the costs of solar components, drive down demand for new utility-scale solar plants and rooftop systems, and cost the industry upwards of 23,000 jobs.

News of Note

SEIA, Others Express Disappointment in Trump Tariffs Decision


With the exception of a few cell and panel manufacturers, virtually every other solar energy interest expressed significant disappointment in President Trump's decision announced Monday to impose 30-percent tariffs on imported solar products.


The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the key U.S. trade group in the sector, estimates the tariffs will drive up the costs of solar components, drive down demand for new utility-scale solar plants and rooftop systems, and cost the industry upwards of 23,000 jobs.


The U.S. Trade Representative's (USTR) office announced Monday Trump's decision to impose 30-percent tariffs on imported crystalline silicon photovoltaic (PV) cells and panels, though the levy will not apply to the first 2.5 gigawatts (GW) of imported cells.


The tariffs will decline by five percent over each of the next three years, coming to an end at 15 percent in 2022.


Analysts say the 30-percent levy will add another 10-15 cents per watt to the cost of imported cells and panels, which are now forecast to drop anticipated solar installations by 11 percent, or 7.6 GW – down to 61.3 GW – from now until 2022.


The tariffs stem from a petition seeking relief submitted last April to the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) by Suniva, a bankrupt, Georgia-based firm principally owned by a Chinese company, which was later joined by SolarWorld, a U.S. manufacturer owned by an "insolvent" German company. The commission determined in September that the import of low-cost solar cells and panels were causing "serious injury" to the manufacturers, and following a hearing in October, formally sent a wide range of recommendations to the White House in November.


While many critics of the tariffs say they will not be enough to save the two petitioning panel manufacturers, Suniva applauded the decision, issuing a statement Monday saying: "Over the last 5 years, nearly 30 American solar manufacturers collapsed. Today the president is sending a message that American innovation and manufacturing will not be bullied out of existence without a fight."


However, Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA's president and CEO, said in a statement issued Monday, shortly after the tariffs were announced that they "will not create adequate cell or module manufacturing to meet U.S. demand, or keep foreign-owned Suniva and SolarWorld afloat." Instead, she said, the tariffs "will create a crisis in a part of our economy that has been thriving, which will ultimately cost tens of thousands of hard-working, blue-collar Americans their jobs."


The impact of the decision will be far-reaching across all sectors of the solar economy, SEIA members said.


"It boggles my mind that this president – any president, really – would voluntarily choose to damage one of the fastest-growing segments of our economy," said Tony Clifford, chief development officer, Standard Solar. "This decision is misguided and denies the reality that bankrupt foreign companies will be the beneficiaries of an American taxpayer bailout."


SEIA estimates that a tariff at the level prescribed by the White House will eliminate, not add to, American manufacturing jobs. There were 38,000 jobs in solar manufacturing in the United States at the end of 2016, and all but 2,000 made something other than cells and panels, the subject of the case. Those 36,000 Americans manufactured metal racking systems, high-tech inverters, machines that improved solar panel output by tracking the sun and other electrical products.


"There's no doubt this decision will hurt U.S. manufacturing, not help it," said Bill Vietas, president of RBI Solar in Cincinnati. "The U.S. solar manufacturing sector has been growing as our industry has surged over the past five years. Government tariffs will increase the cost of solar and depress demand, which will reduce the orders we're getting and cost manufacturing workers their jobs."


"This is a bad day for the U.S.," said Costa Nicolaou, president and CEO of PanelClaw, an American racking company. "What's most disappointing is that the president sided with two foreign-owned companies and didn't listen to Americans from across the country and political spectrum who understood tariffs will cause great economic pain for so many families in the solar sector."


While the case will undoubtedly have negative effects on the industry, SEIA pointed out that the tariffs were nowhere near as bad as what Suniva and SolarWorld requested. SEIA said it looks forward to working with interested parties to achieve a positive outcome in the existing antidumping and countervailing duty cases.


"While we believe the decision will be significantly harmful to our industry and the economy, we appreciate that the president and the administration listened to our arguments," Hopper said. "Our industry will emerge from this. The case for solar energy is just too strong to be held down for long, but the severe near-term impacts of these tariffs are unfortunate and avoidable."


The prospect of tariffs had drawn together an odd coalition, with usual Trump allies like the The Heritage Foundation, the Koch brothers-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the free-market promoting R Street Institute joining SEIA in opposition to the levies.


GTM Research, which compiles SEIA's quarterly market reports, says the impact of the tariffs will be significant, but not destructive. GTM says the levies will result in an average 10-cent-per-watt increase in first year prices for panels, decreasing to a 4-cent-per-watt premium by the fourth year.


MJ Shiao, head of Americas research for GTM, said utility-scale solar will take the brunt of the impact, accounting for 65 percent of the anticipated 7.6-gigawatt decline. Next year is expected to be the most painful year for the utility-scale sector, with a 1.6-gigawatt decline in installations compared to GTM Research's original forecast.


This year's solar activity is relatively insulated from the tariffs, the research firm says, with a forecast decline of 525 megawatts, because many installers locked in their orders for panels early in anticipation of Trump handing down the sanctions.


"The reason why we think the 2018 impacts are muted is because we think there were somewhere between 2 to 3 gigawatts of modules in the U.S. by the end of the year basically dedicated for projects in the works – projects under construction to come online in the first half of the year or allocated modules for projects that will begin construction in early 2018," Shiao said.


As a result, GTM Research expects the industry to continue the significant growth in recent years of U.S. solar capacity, deploying more than 10 gigawatts of solar installations this year, despite the tariffs. The firm says another 11.9 gigawatts next year, with continuous growth through 2022. But that growth will be at a slower pace than initially expected.


The tariffs are expected to be challenged before the World Trade Organization by China, the principal target of the levies. No countries were deemed exempt from the duties. The proclamation signed by Trump does allow U.S. firms to seek a waiver from the tariffs, though it is unknown if any will be granted.


Greg Wetstone, CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), said the sector is resilient.


"I don't want to suggest that anyone is invulnerable," Wetstone told the Washington news outlet, Politico. "But we have a tremendous amount of momentum in the marketplace. I think the administration understands it's not in their interest to get in the way of the driver that is producing tremendous amounts of investment and creating jobs."


Corporations Purchased Record Amounts of Clean Power in 2017


Corporations across the globe signed a record volume of power purchase agreements (PPAs) for green energy in 2017, driven by sustainability initiatives and the increasing cost-competitiveness of renewables, says a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).


A total of 5.4 gigawatts (GW) of clean energy contracts were signed by 43 corporations in 10 different countries in 2017, according to BNEF in its inaugural Corporate Energy Market Outlook. The total was up from 4.3 GW in 2016 and widely exceeded a previous record of 4.4 GW in 2015.





The increase in clean power purchases came despite question marks about how evolving policy could affect corporate procurement in the United States and Europe, the two largest markets.


Corporations have signed contracts to purchase nearly 19 GW of clean power since 2008, an amount comparable to the generation capacity of Portugal, with 76 percent of the activity coming since 2015.


BNEF says most of the activity in 2017 occurred in the United States, where 2.8 GW of power purchase agreements were signed by corporations, up 19 percent from 2016. The most notable of the U.S. deals was Apple's 200-megawatt (MW) PPA with NV Energy to purchase electricity from the Techren Solar project, the largest agreement ever signed in the United States between a corporation and a utility.


Europe also experienced a near-record year, with more than 1 GW signed, some 95 percent of the volume coming from projects in the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. In those countries, policy mechanisms allow developers to secure subsidies, while also giving corporations the ability to receive certificates to meet sustainability targets. The largest deal in Europe was aluminum producer Norsk Hydro's commitment to purchase most of the electricity from a 650 MW wind farm in Sweden, from 2021 to 2039.


Emerging markets also saw newfound activity, with the first onsite corporate PPAs being signed in Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Egypt, Ghana, Namibia, Panama and Thailand.


Activity in the United States persists despite a tumultuous political climate and cheap wholesale power, BNEF says. After nine months of deliberation, the White House this week imposed 30-percent tariffs on the import of PV modules, punitive measures that will increase the cost of solar generation. As developers waited for the outcome of the tariff case, they had no clear vision of how sever the tariffs may be and could not accurately prices PPAs with corporations and other offtakers during that time.


In Europe, the EU Winter Package is expected to make it so developers that receive renewable energy subsidies will no longer be eligible to receive certificates, and instead will have to acquire them through a mandatory auction.


The policies on both sides of the Atlantic are likely to affect the economic calculations for corporations interested in purchasing clean energy.


"The growth in corporate procurement, despite political and economic barriers, demonstrates the importance of environmental, social and governance issues for companies," said Kyle Harrison, a corporate energy strategy analyst for BNEF. "Sustainability and acting sustainably in many instances are even more important, for the largest corporate clean energy buyers around the world, than any savings made on the cost of electricity."


Despite the policy issues, BNEF expects volumes to grow further in 2018, surpassing 2017's record level of activity. Commitments on the part of companies to use renewable electricity, including those made via the RE100 campaign, remain the most promising source of demand.


Some 35 new companies signed onto the RE100 in 2017 – with several headquartered in markets less developed for corporate procurement, such as Japan and Singapore. RE100 brings together corporations pledging to source 100 percent of their electricity from renewables at some date in the future. The total number of members of RE100 reached 119 at the end of last year. In 2016, these companies consumed 159 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity globally, nearly equivalent to the electricity consumption of Sweden.


Latin America and Asia are two historically sluggish corporate procurement markets that are expected to attract major activity in 2018 and the coming years.


In Mexico, private companies can now sign bilateral PPAs with developers, and major power buyers will also be expected to comply with clean energy mandates, once a new certificate market kicks off in 2018. Large consumers in Argentina are now eligible to purchase clean energy directly from developers, rather than just the national utility.


In Asia, most of the 3.2 GW of offsite PPA contracts signed since 2008 have been in India. Cheap renewable energy resulting from competitive auctions, coupled with an unreliable grid, has prompted numerous Indian and multinational corporates to sign PPAs, despite only three Indian firms formally being a part of the RE100 campaign.


In Australia, where corporations signed power purchase agreements for more than 400 MW in 2017, expensive wholesale power and the availability of renewable energy certificates have increased the economic incentive for locking into relatively cheap renewable electricity prices long-term.


Japan and China, however, continue to have few corporate procurement opportunities due to regulatory barriers, though both are undergoing power market reforms that will change things rapidly.


In China, firms have built an estimated 7 GW of solar projects for onsite self-consumption since 2010, taking advantage of low costs and generous net-metering subsidies. Most of the projects are owned by a third-party, and have a long-term power purchase agreement with an offtaker.


"Most companies in Asia currently are unfamiliar with the concept of corporate procurement – of the 119 RE100 members, only eight are headquartered in this region," said Justin Wu, head of Asia-Pacific for BNEF. "But this is all about to change as multinational corporations extend their sustainability pledges to their Asia-based supply chains and their Asian competitors begin to see the need to follow suit. It won't be long before Asian companies try to take advantage of the large amounts of renewable energy already deployed in their home markets."


BNEF updates its data on corporate procurement each month and publishes a market outlook on corporate energy strategy bi-annually.


EDF Report Finds Clean Energy Jobs Outnumber Coal and Gas Jobs 1.5 to 1


The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) released a report this week that shows wind and solar energy jobs now outnumber coal and gas jobs in 30 states, including D.C.


The report, In Demand: Clean Energy, Sustainability and the New American Workforce, finds that the clean energy and sustainability economy provides local jobs in all 50 states, frequently pays higher than average wages and offers numerous career and educational pathways for individuals looking to work in the clean energy economy.


"The clean energy workforce has skyrocketed, launching us into the new clean energy economy while supporting American workers," said Ellen Shenette, manager of EDF Climate Corps, a summer fellowship program that accelerates clean energy initiatives and spearheaded the new report. "The growth in clean energy sectors can be credited to reductions in costs, increased demand for clean energy and efficiency technologies, as well as policies and investments."


The report, coauthored by Meister Consultants Group, also suggests a strong future for renewable energy and sustainability employment.


However, 2017 marked a year of political uncertainty at the federal level, centered on the future of renewable energy tax incentives and a tariff on imported solar modules. The uncertainty has so far contributed to a 22 percent decline in cumulative 2017 installations as compared to the previous year.


Other highlights from the report include:

  • The sustainability economy continues to be a large and growing source of jobs for over 4 million workers in the United State, with wind and solar energy jobs outpacing those in the coal industry.
  • Solar and wind installations comprised 65 percent of installed electric capacity in 2016 and for the third year in a row, exceeded the installed capacity of all other electricity sources combined.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that solar PV installers and wind turbine service technicians will be the two fastest growing jobs in America from 2016 to 2026, roughly doubling during that period.


The report also highlights the stories of three former EDF Climate Corps fellows currently working in the clean energy industry, including Ben Metcalf, a former operations officer for the Navy, who shifted his career to focus on utility-scale solar development and now works at Galehead Development.


"Every day, I witness the many jobs – from blue to white collar positions – that support the demand for clean energy," said Metcalf. "I'm confident that the policies over the next 12 months will not slow the market's long-term positive outlook."


The report also provides recommendations for sustaining clean energy job growth, such as increasing investments in clean energy research, supporting smart climate policy and ensuring that companies set big and public greenhouse gas emissions reductions goals.


"Businesses have become key catalysts in helping drive the clean energy economy by setting goals and investing in energy efficiency technologies," added Shenette. "Companies are recognizing that the market is demanding a low-carbon economy, and they're seeing the benefits to their bottom lines. What business wants to bet against the market?"


Ethanol Groups Dispute Bankruptcy-Seeking Refiner's Claims


Ethanol trade groups are disputing claims by a Philadelphia refinery that its bankruptcy is primarily attributable to the high cost of Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) it needs to purchase to comply with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).


Critics of the RFS have cited this week's announcement by Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES), which owns the largest refinery on the East Coast, to support their calls for reforming the federal biofuel-blending mandate.


On Monday, PES filed a plan with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware to restructure $525 million of debt while it continues to operate. With a capacity of 335,000 gallons per day, the refinery employs 1,100 people and about 500 contractors.


The company says its financial issues stem from volatile prices for RINs, credits that refineries can purchase to show their compliance with the RFS, and which cost PES some $217 million last year. Only the refinery's crude oil costs were higher.


"It is unfortunate that the company was driven to this result by the failed RFS policy and excessive RINs costs," said PES CEO Gregory Gatta. "We can only hope that our filing today will provide the necessary catalyst for meaningful long-term reform of the RFS program."


The company is expected to ask the Trump administration for relief from its RFS obligations, a prospect that worries biofuel supports who see other smaller, independent refiners seeking a waiver of their blending mandates.


In fact, Reuters news service Thursday quoted "sources familiar with the matter" as saying EPA was currently reviewing 27 waiver applications from small refineries, covering multiple years. The number of waiver applications, the sources tell the news organization, is higher than those received in previous years.


Meanwhile, in support of the refinery in his home state, Sen. Pat Toomey (R) vowed to continue his efforts to weaken or kill the RFS.


The bankruptcy, he said, is "a result of the counterproductive, job-killing, EPA-imposed Renewable Fuel Standard that requires an excessive amount of biofuel be blended into the nation's fuel supply."


But the executive leadership of both Growth Energy, an ethanol manufacturers trade group, and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) say PES is the victim of its own outdated business model.


Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor said the PES refinery has been on the brink of bankruptcy off and on for the last decade.


"Biofuels were never a part of the challenge facing PES, even after they received a taxpayer bailout in 2012," Skor said. "It's the nation's oldest refinery and refused to update its business model to blend biofuels."


PES' contention that its bankruptcy was driven by RINs "has no factual basis," Bob Dinneen, RFA president and CEO said in a statement. "Wall Street analysts, academic researchers, EPA officials, and even some other oil refiners have said repeatedly that RINs don't negatively affect refining margins."


"PES is the oldest refinery in the country with antiquated technology that is captive to the higher priced Brent crude index," Dinneen continued. "Like other refiners, PES could have made investments in blending more renewable fuels. It chose a different course, slavishly pursuing a change in the law that fit its flawed business model."


Ethanol advocates have cited over the past year studies from Iowa State University, Harvard University, the University of Michigan and MIT that all show refiners can recover their RIN costs by slightly marking up the price of gasoline blendstock sold at wholesale. have conducted studies that reached that conclusion.


In a press release last year, RFA said that historically, East Coast refiners have generally had lower profit margins than their competitors in the Midwest and Gulf Coast regions because of their reliance on imports of more expensive crude oil from west Africa and the North Sea.


The political dispute over the RFS and RINs took the spotlight last fall when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) placed a hold on the nomination of Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey to a USDA under secretary position, demanding a meeting with the White House over oil sector issues with the federal standard.


In pleading his case with President Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Cruz cited RIN prices in particular. But he was told by Trump to meet with ethanol advocates, including Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and work out a deal over RINs. Both sides have said talks have gone nowhere – pro-ethanol supporters roundly rejected a proposal to cap RINs at 10 cents each – and Cruz continues to have Northey's nomination on hold.


Meanwhile, Valero Energy Corporation, the nation's largest oil refiner and third largest ethanol blender, announced this week it is withdrawing from the RFA a little more than a year after joining. The San Antonio, TX-based firm cited needs to cut costs, but Valero joined the RFA to pursue changes to the RFS, including a shift in point of obligation to meet the biofuel-blending mandate from refiners to terminals and others further down the chain. EPA rejected last fall the petition seeking the change, ruling that making the change would do nothing to make the RFS more effective.


It was the second time the agency has turned it down. EPA rejected a similar request under the Obama administration in 2016.


Valero is among a number of refiners and oil interests who are in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia challenging the 2017 RFS rule, claiming EPA did not properly consider their request for a change in point of obligation.


RFA to EPA: Lack of Transparency Around Small Refiner Exemptions Threatens RFS


With reports coming out of Washington indicating EPA is reviewing more than two dozen applications for small refiners seeking an exemption from the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) over multiple years, the head of the nation's largest ethanol trade group says there is a troubling "lack of transparency" in the agency's  management of the RFS small refinery exemption provisions.


Tim Monroe photo

In a letter sent this week to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and CEO Bob Dinneen warns that "an ill-conceived and unauthorized expansion of this exemption could destabilize the market for renewable fuels and undermine Congress's goals for the RFS program,"


EPA has the ability to exempt small refineries with crude oil throughput of no more than 75,000 barrels of crude per day from RFS obligations if they demonstrate that the program would lead to "disproportionate economic hardship." EPA, in consultation with DOE officials, examines requests for the exemption on a case-by-case basis.


In the past, EPA has generally exercised restraint and judiciousness in issuing exemptions for small refiners, presumably because there is little or no evidence that the RFS itself is causing disproportionate economic hardship.


However, recent reports suggest EPA has received requests for exemptions from dozens of small refiners, and RFA believes the public has a right better understand EPA's decision-making process for granting or denying exemption requests


"Although EPA has indicated that it has evaluated a dozen petitions for exemption for 2016, we are not aware of any instance in which EPA has been willing to disclose any data about the total number of petitions it received and granted for subsequent years, including 2018," Dinneen wrote.


"EPA recently indicated that a congressional directive to follow the Department of Energy's recommendations for exemptions 'could impact how EPA evaluates small refinery hardship petitions and the number and magnitude of exemptions granted.' It would be disappointing, to say the least, if EPA now began to increase the number and magnitude of exemptions granted, a decade after the program began," Dinneen noted.


"As EPA reevaluates its position of what constitutes a 'disproportionate economic hardship' to a small refinery, we hope that EPA will remain true to its previous determination in the 2017 [RFS] Final Rule that 'obligated parties, including small entities, are generally recovering the cost of acquiring the credits…necessary for compliance with the RFS standards through higher sales prices of the petroleum products they sell," Dinneen continued.


In the interest of transparency and public participation, Dinneen's letter requested that the agency provide more information on:

  • Whether and how the criteria to approve an exemption request that EPA described in its Dec. 6, 2016 memorandum will be amended in light of the Sinclair Refining decision;
  • Whether and to what circumstances EPA would consider departing from the Department of Energy's recommendation on a particular exemption request;
  • Whether the Agency will confirm that any economic hardship asserted must be a direct result of RFS obligations and not general business factors that may impede a refinery's profitability;
  • Whether EPA's Dec. 6, 2016 memorandum outlining financial and other information to be submitted as part of a small refinery exemption request will be updated in light of the recent developments described above;
  • When EPA will publicly disclose, on an ongoing basis, the number of small refinery exemptions granted in 2016, 2017 and subsequent years, and whether each of those small refinery volume reductions were accounted for in that year's or the subsequent year's applicable percentages;
  • The number of pending small refinery hardship exemptions that are pending before EPA for 2018;
  • The total capacity represented by small refineries with pending hardship exemption requests in 2018; and
  • When and how EPA intends to communicate any changes in policy to small refiners, the renewable fuels industry, or other regulated parties.

To provide greater certainty for both renewable fuel producers and obligated parties, the RFA letter also suggested EPA should establish an annual cut-off date for receiving and processing any small refinery exemption requests, and ensure that any exempted volumes are proportionally reallocated to the blending obligations for non-exempt refiners. Alternatively, the agency could continue granting hardship exemptions in the year they are received, but adjust the total gasoline and diesel percentage standards in the subsequent calendar year to offset the reductions.


"The renewable fuels industry and obligated parties deserve greater clarity on the criteria EPA will apply to small refinery petitions going forward," Dinneen concluded.


U.S. Government Report Strengthens Consensus on Biodiesel Benefits


A new study on biodiesel's lifecycle energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission effects updates and reaffirms the long-understood benefits of using the renewable fuel.


The study is the latest in the significant body of transparent, peer-reviewed, studies that conclusively quantify biodiesel's widespread benefits, says the National Biodiesel Board (NBB).


The report, recently published by a collaboration between Argonne National Laboratory, Purdue University and USDA, represents what the NBB says is the most up-to-date and comprehensive lifecycle analysis of biodiesel ever produced. Results confirm that biodiesel compared to petroleum diesel reduces GHG emissions by 72 percent and fossil fuel use by 80 percent.


"This is the highest GHG reduction of any heavy-duty transportation fuel and reflects biodiesel's natural ability to store solar energy in a liquid form compatible with today's engines and power generation technologies," said Jim Duffield, who coauthored numerous lifecycle reports for USDA's Office of the Chief Economist prior to his recent retirement.


"It's encouraging to see the commitment to data and quality analysis brought together in this study," said Don Scott, sustainability director for the National Biodiesel Board. "It's not news that biodiesel is good for the environment. Where credible results are needed for sound policies, it serves us well to look at transparent, reliable science."


This study represents the first time Argonne National Laboratory has published a lifecycle assessment of biodiesel including indirect land use change (ILUC).


The theory of ILUC suggests that economic benefits from renewable fuels impact farming patterns globally. ILUC modeling attempts to quantify the future impact of such predicted land use change.


ILUC has been included in analyses by the EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) that independently conclude biodiesel's GHG advantage exceeds 50 percent reduction over diesel fuel.


"The improvements to ILUC modeling in this study were not possible just a few years ago, because we did not have as much data as we do today," said Farzad Taheripour, one of the authors of the paper from Purdue University's Department of Agricultural Economics. "Data available today shows that farmers all around the world are increasing productivity on existing farm land. Calibrating the model to these real-world trends improves the accuracy and reduces the predicted emissions of biofuel expansion."


The more the models reflect real world data, biodiesel's benefits become even clearer, the NBB says, noting the latest model reduces ILUC emissions by more than 30 percent relative to the score adopted by CARB in 2015.


"Biodiesel's emission-reduction benefits are so great that you can overapply penalties aligned with the most conservative models and biodiesel is still the cleanest alternative for today's diesel engines and the heavy-duty transportation of tomorrow," said Scott.


For example, although CARB applies an ILUC penalty to soy biodiesel, biodiesel remains a key component to reducing greenhouse gas emissions under the Low Carbon Fuel Standard.


Using its flagship Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Transportation (GREET) lifecycle analysis model, Argonne computes the GHG advantage of biodiesel as reducing emissions by 76 percent compared to petroleum.


The NBB says GREET houses the best engineering data for allocating process emissions, but it does not make predictions of future economic changes. When predicted economic impacts are added, the GHG benefit lands in the range of 66 to 72 percent better than petroleum.


The lower end of the range stems from using CARB's emission factor model developed specifically for the California market. The higher end of the range results from using the emission factor model developed by the national laboratory, which includes higher resolution for organic carbon where that data is available.


Roughly half of the biodiesel used in the United States is made from soybean oil. The other half is produced from sources like used cooking oil, animal fats, and other fats and oils.


The authors of the study began by collecting the latest data on the energy and emissions from farming soybeans, which are grown primarily to produce protein meal for livestock feed.


The first processing step after soybeans leave the farm is to a soybean crush facility where 80 percent of every soybean is used to produce livestock feed. The volume of oil that remains after protein extraction exceeds demand for feed or food, (such as salad dressing, or frying and baking oils, for example). A portion of that oil that cannot be eaten or exported is used to produce biodiesel.


"This study includes the largest ever survey of biodiesel production facilities to capture the energy used in the form of natural gas and electricity to convert fats, oils, and grease into biodiesel fuel," said Jeongwoo Han, who maintains the GREET model for Argonne.


All the emissions were also combined with the emissions of transporting raw ingredients and finished fuel to market. By including all the emissions in the entire fuel lifecycle, the report presents a comprehensive comparison with the emissions of producing and using diesel fuel.


The study includes more data but yields consistent results with other studies published over the last two decades, the authors say.


a trend that is improving the quality and affordability of the food supply while conserving land to protect habitat and biodiversity.


Meanwhile, NBB CEO Donnell Rehagen says the U.S. has more than enough capacity to meet the 2018 and 2019 biodiesel blending requirements under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) set by EPA last November.


Speaking at the NBB's national conference in Fort Worth, TX, Rehagen says domestic producers can generate 2.5 this year and next, much more than the 2.1 billion gallons set under the RFS.


The NBB executive made his observation in response to an inquiry about the expected drop of imports from Argentina and Indonesia, which now face heavy U.S. tariffs.


The NBB has filed suit in federal court challenging the RFS blending targets set for biodiesel, contending they unfairly limit revenue opportunities for growers.


Wind Now Top U.S. Renewable Electricity Generation Source: EIA


The Energy Information Administration (EIA) this week reports that it expects wind energy will surpass hydroelectricity in U.S. renewable electricity production in 2018.


As one of the first technologies used to generate electricity, hydroelectric power has historically provided the largest share of renewable electricity generation in the United States.


Based on forecasts in the January Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) the EIA says that because few new hydro plants are expected to come online in the next two years, hydroelectric generation in 2018 and 2019 will largely depend on precipitation and water runoff. Although changes in weather patterns also affect wind generation, the forecast for wind power output is more dependent on the capacity and timing of new wind turbines coming online.


Both hydro and wind generation follow seasonal patterns, says EIA's Owen Comstock. Hydro generation is typically highest in the spring when precipitation and melting snowpack increase water runoff. Wind generation is typically highest in the spring and fall, reflecting the capacity-weighted mix of seasonal patterns in wind across the country. Hydro often has slightly higher annual capacity factors, or utilization rates, averaging 38 percent in 2016, compared with wind's 35 percent.


EIA's hydroelectric generation forecasts over the next two years are mostly based on projections of water runoff. After a relatively wet year in 2017 – when hydro provided 7.4 percent of total utility-scale generation – hydro generation is expected to be slightly lower at 6.5 percent of total utility-scale generation in 2018 and 6.6 percent in 2019.


EIA expects significant levels of new wind capacity to come online in 2018 and 2019, similar to the trend in recent years. EIA's most recent Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory survey shows wind capacity increasing by 8.3 gigawatts (GW) in 2018 and 8.0 GW in 2019. If these new generating units come online as scheduled, they would add 9 percent to U.S. utility-scale wind capacity by the end of 2018 and another 8 percent by the end of 2019.


Because much of the new electric capacity comes online in the final months of each year, these capacity additions affect the subsequent year's electricity generation values. EIA expects wind to provide 6.4 percent and 6.9 percent of total utility-scale electricity generation in the United States in 2018 and 2019, respectively, up from 6.3 percent in 2017.


Meanwhile, EIA's latest STEO also forecasts that natural gas will remain the primary source of U.S. electricity generation for at least the next two years, but that non-hydro renewables are making significant gains in its share of the power market.


The share of total electricity supplied by natural gas-fired power plants is expected to average 33 percent in 2018 and 34 percent in 2019, up from 32 percent in 2017.


EIA expects the share of generation from coal, which had been the predominant electricity generation fuel for decades, to average 30 percent this year, then fall to 28 percent next year, compared with 30 percent in 2017.


The mix of energy sources used for producing electricity generation continues to shift in response to changes in fuel costs and the development of renewable energy technologies, the EIA says.


The agency says it expects the cost of natural gas for electricity generation to remain relatively competitive with coal-fired electricity over the next two years, with the average cost of natural gas delivered to generators this year falling 2 percent. The forecast delivered cost of coal rises 5 percent and the relative price changes should increase the share of natural gas generation this year. The costs of both natural gas and coal in 2019 are expected to remain relatively unchanged from this year's forecast prices.


Power plant operators are scheduled to bring 20 gigawatts (GW) of new natural-gas fired generating capacity online in 2018, which, if realized, would be the largest increase in natural gas capacity since 2004. In contrast, about 13 GW of coal-fired capacity are scheduled to be retired in 2018, signaling the ongoing changes in the generating capacity from coal to natural gas, especially in southern and midwestern states.


Generation from renewable energy sources other than hydropower has grown rapidly in recent years, says the EIA, which expects the average annual U.S. share of total utility-scale generation from non-hydro renewables to exceed 10 percent for the first time in 2019.


State Roundup: Duke Energy Offers $62M Solar Rebate Program in N.C.


In North Carolina, Duke Energy this week proposed to the N.C. Utilities Commission a $62-million solar rebate program designed to help customers with the upfront cost of installing solar panels on their property.


The utility is proposing the program as part of the implementation of 2017's Competitive Energy Solutions for North Carolina Act adopted by the North Carolina legislature last year.


The law "will reduce the cost our customers pay for solar, while also supporting their interest in solar energy in ways that are most meaningful for them," said David Fountain, Duke Energy's North Carolina president. "For many customers, installing solar is a significant investment. Duke Energy's rebate program will help them by lowering their initial costs."


Currently in the state, Duke Energy has about 6,000 customers who have private solar systems, with a total capacity of just more than 50 megawatts. The program expects to increase North Carolina's private solar market by 200 percent over the next five years, providing an economic boost for the state's solar installation business as well.


"The proposed solar rebates program is the result of two years of collaboration between the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) and Duke Energy," said Ivan Urlaub, NCSEA's executive director. "If approved, this program will enable more North Carolinians across our state to realize the cost-saving benefits of solar. We are glad to have been a voice for electric consumers in the design of this program. NCSEA looks forward to partnering with all energy providers and their customers to continue innovating solutions that open our growing clean energy market to everyone."


For program details, click HERE.

For program details, click HERE.


In Illinois, new calculations show an estimated $1.2 million in health cost savings for communities in the state where B20 biodiesel fuel is used routinely in diesel vehicles.


The calculations come from data submitted by 15 members of the B20 Club, a partnership between the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) checkoff program and the American Lung Association in Illinois (ALAIL). B20 Club members include Illinois-based municipalities, trucking companies, fuel suppliers and other fleets that use biodiesel blends of 20 percent or more for at least six months of the year.


"Vehicles fueled with B20 biodiesel generate less harmful emissions that contribute to asthma, bronchitis, cardiovascular disease and other health ailments," says John DeRosa, ALAIL environmental health director. "Considering hospitalizations, lost work days and other health costs, using B20 translates into an estimated savings of $1,218,100 for the communities where B20 Club members operate."


ALAIL compiled the health cost savings estimates based on EPA's diesel emission quantifier (DEQ). Estimates are based primarily on biodiesel's ability to reduce particulate matter (PM), a mixture of small particles and liquid droplets that are major components of air pollution. When inhaled, PM affects the heart and lungs and causes serious health problems.


As a group, the 15 B20 Club members reduce PM in their communities by a total of 1.2 tons per year. Using biodiesel also reduces carbon emissions. B20 Club members reduce carbon dioxide in their communities at a level equal to planting 295,141 trees. These fleets collectively use 6.3 million gallons of biodiesel annually to fuel 4,899 vehicles.


"Members of the B20 Club are clearly providing value to their communities by reducing emissions and also by using a renewable and reliable fuel that is made in Illinois," says Rebecca Richardson, Illinois Soybean Association biodiesel lead.




Editor's Note: We here at 25x'25 welcome companies and organizations with a major stake in the continued growth and development of renewable energy across America. We invite those interests to increase visibility and demonstrate a commitment to a clean and economically vibrant energy future by taking advantage of opportunities to sponsor The 25x'25 Weekly REsource, a highly acclaimed newsletter distributed to key state and federal policy makers, their staff and a wide range of stakeholder organizations. For sponsorship information, click HERE.



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.


ACORE says there is no better venue to convene public sector, private sector and power sector meet to advance renewables than the forum, where participants will look ahead to further defend and promote a range of policies that will expand the renewable energy marketplace.


A featured session will be "American Renewable Energy Competitiveness: The Impact of Solar Tariffs. High levels of U.S. investment in the renewables sector is important to maintaining our leadership role in a booming industry sector that was pioneered by American scientists and engineers. This session will evaluate the scope of the global business opportunity for renewable energy and the positioning of U.S. companies to compete.


As the Trump administration responds to international trade concerns with new tariffs, panelists will discuss strategies to stimulate the continued growth of the American renewable energy sector. Topics will include:

  • Solar tariffs and international trade
  • Stimulating development and investment in the U.S.
  • Size of the global market; opportunities for export
  • Supporting advanced technologies that grow our footprint


Other 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


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.


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.