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Weekly REsource December 8, 2017

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For all of the bipartisan goodwill that was on display at the end of 2015 when Congress reauthorized and extended multiple tax credits for renewable energy technologies, it is disappointing to now see so many lawmakers willing to renege on those agreements. Despite the fact that the renewable energy sector agreed two years ago to a phase-out of those extended benefits, in exchange for market certainty, many in the House and Senate are now ready to impose new tax structures that will upend one of the nation's fastest growing industries, and endanger billions of dollars of investment in projects that would diversify and strengthen our nation's energy infrastructure and delivery. The House version of tax reform would take away much in the way of tax credits promised to wind and solar interests two years ago, while Senate tax writers inserted Base Erosion Anti-Abuse Tax (BEAT) provisions that would seriously devalue renewable energy tax credits for investors.

News of Note  

 
SEIA Offers Trump a Plan to 'Make America First'
 
In an effort to deter President Trump from imposing tariffs on imported solar cells and panels, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) this week released a blueprint it says will "put America First on economic growth, jobs, manufacturing and national security."
 
SEIA's America First Plan for Solar Energy recommends six steps Trump can take to maintain the solar industry's booming growth.
 
"The plan starts with the president's rejection of tariffs, which would increase the cost of solar, sacrifice tens of thousands of American jobs and raise electricity prices for consumers and businesses," the trade group said in describing the plan.
 
The president is expected to make a decision next month on a petition filed with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) by Suniva, a Georgia-based firm principally owned by a Chinese company, and SolarWorld, owned by an "insolvent" German company, who say imports are being sold below cost, damaging their businesses. The two manufacturers asked that penalty tariffs be levied on imported solar cells and panels, regardless of origin.
 
The four ITC commissioners determined in September that the imports were causing "serious injury" to the manufacturers and following a hearing in October, sent varied recommendations to the White House last month. Three of the ITC members generally agreed on the imposition of tariffs over four years amounting to 30-35 percent (a price hike of about 10-11 cents), far lower than the punitive levies sought by Suniva of 25 cents per watt on all foreign-made solar cells and 32 cents per watt on all foreign-made panels. Suniva had also sought a floor price for all imported solar products of 74 cents per watt.
 
While SolarWorld called on the ITC to impose an import limit of at least 0.22 gigawatts for solar cells and 5.7 gigawatts for panels, before tariffs kicked in, the fourth commissioner called for a more generous quota – 8.9 gigawatts for the first year, then an increase of the duty-free limit by 1.4 gigawatts annually over the next four years. The commissioner also called for the U.S. sale of import licenses of one cent per watt, a scheme similar to one proposed by the SEIA.
 
The solar industry says any tariffs would raise component costs, kill solar projects and deal a serious blow to a sector that is employing workers at a rate 12 times that of the national economy (more than 260,000 are employed by the industry). Billions of dollars in solar investment are also at risk, industry leaders say.
 
The U.S. Trade Representative's (USTR) office conducted its own hearing Wednesday and heard the same arguments made by both sides at two previous hearings before the ITC. Suniva officials did tell USTR officials at this week's hearing that the ITC recommendations do not go far enough to significantly help the two manufacturers. The USTR, which is expected to make its own recommendations to Trump, is involved because the petition targets countries around the world, not singular nations usually targeted in complaints filed with the ITC.
 
In the plan released this week, SEIA leaders used a number of catch-phrases favored by Trump during his campaign and his first year in office.
 
"Tariffs would jeopardize our economy, our national security and our workers," said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA's president and CEO. "Our plan is meant to help the president address the issues in this case, put America First, and say yes to strong economic and manufacturing growth. Rather than throw a highly successful U.S. industry in reverse for no good reason, this plan will create more jobs and investment in America."
 
In addition to rejecting the proposed tariffs, SEIA urged Trump to:
  • Support the U.S. military and national security by standing for stable, affordable energy prices. Our bases and armed forces are increasingly relying on solar to achieve mission success.
  • Ensure U.S. energy dominance by listening to energy producers, conservative groups and American businesses large and small. This will maintain our status as a world leader in solar power production.
  • Fight for American workers by allowing the booming solar market to continue going strong and offering well-paying jobs to 260,000 Americans, including more than 23,000 military veterans.
  • Don't bail out failed foreign firms at the expense of American workers by helping millionaires in China and Germany, and investors in Qatar and Europe, exploit U.S. trade law.
  • Make America First. If the president believes the petitioning firms should get trade assistance, the SEIA says he can create an import license fee that will collect money from overseas manufacturers and inject hundreds of millions of dollars in direct investment to U.S. companies and our economy.
 
SEIA says the U.S. solar industry is soaring. Last year, domestic solar power capacity doubled and solar was the top source of new electricity generation. The industry has added more than 100,000 blue-collar jobs to the economy in just the last five years, and is growing at a rate 17 times faster than the rest of the economy.
 
If the government lets the market work and there are no tariffs, new solar installations are expected to triple by 2022, according to GTM Research and SEIA's latest U.S. Solar Market Insight report.
 
President Trump has until Jan. 26 to make a decision in the case. He can accept or reject the ITC's recommendations, or come up with a different policy.
 
EPA Adds 3 Hearings on Proposed Repeal of Clean Power Plan
 
Chastened by complaints his agency was short-changing comment on plans to cut back a major Obama administration policy tool crafted to address climate change, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt this week announced that three additional public listening sessions will be held.
 
Also this week, Pruitt testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where he appeared to tell lawmakers his agency would issue a replacement rule for the Clean Power Plan. Up until his appearance before the committee Thursday, he had only agreed to solicit public comments on the plan.
 
"We are going to be introducing a replacement rule too, in place of the Clean Power Plan," told committee members.
 
However, his statement was cut off by the end of the hearing. When later asked by reporters to clarify, he declined to comment, leaving it uncertain as to whether he misspoke.
 
The listening sessions on how to proceed with the Clean Power Plan (CPP) will be held in San Francisco, CA, Gillette, WY, and Kansas City, MO. Dates and specific locations will be released in coming weeks and can be found on the EPA website. The agency is urging all persons wanting to speak to register in advance. (Registration information will be made available HERE.)
 
"Due to the overwhelming response to our West Virginia (two-day) hearing (last week), we are announcing additional opportunities for the public to voice their views to the agency," Pruitt said.
 
In October, Pruitt issued a formal notice of its intentions to diminish or end the CPP, contending that it exceeded the authority granted by the Clean Air Act. The move against the CPP brought immediate criticism from clean energy, environmental and consumer groups. Many organizations and states have pledged to file suit challenging the move to repeal the plan.
 
Pruitt said at the time of the notice that EPA would get input from industry stakeholders, including utilities with coal-fired power plants, to put together what he said would be a new, more restricted plan. A 60-day public comment period set at the time of the notice had been extended and now runs through Jan. 16.
 
"After reviewing the CPP, EPA has proposed to determine that the Obama-era regulation exceeds the agency's statutory authority," EPA said in a press release in October. "Repealing the CPP will also facilitate the development of U.S. energy resources and reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens associated with the development of those resources, in keeping with the principles established in President Trump's Executive Order on Energy Independence."
 
The proposal claims that repealing the plan will save some $33 billion in avoided regulatory costs in 2030. The proposal also rejects health benefits the Obama administration said would be generated by the CPP.
 
The plan, which was announced by President Obama in August 2015, was developed in response to a U.S. pledge to reduce emissions as part of the Paris Climate Agreement. Trump has since announced the United States will pull out of the agreement.
 
The CPP, which was expected to be a significant driver of U.S. renewable energy development, called on states to submit by 2016 their plans to reduce emissions from existing power plants – most fueled by coal – or by 2018 if a two-year extension is requested. Together, the state plans would result in the United States reducing carbon pollution from existing power plants by 870 million tons annually, or 32 percent below 2005 levels, by 2030, officials said then.
 
Soon after the Obama administration issued the plan, 27 states, along with mining companies, and coal-related trade associations and labor unions challenged the CPP, highlighting a range of legal and technical concerns. Another 17 states, along with dozens of clean energy and environmental groups, filed petitions with the court in support of the administration and the plan.
 
A few months later, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the CPP, immediately halting implementation pending the resolution of the litigation, which has been in a holding pattern since Trump took office.
 
Pruitt and EPA recruited Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) to provide a quote for inclusion in the press release issued on the announcement of additional listening sessions. Barrasso's state produced more than 40 percent of the coal mined in the United States and gets nearly 90 percent of its power from coal.
 
"The Trump administration is listening to the people of Wyoming," said Barrasso, chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. "Today's announcement that the EPA will hold a listening session in Gillette on the impacts of the so-called 'Clean Power Plan' demonstrates the administration's commitment to hear directly from the people who would have been hurt most by this punishing regulation. The Clean Power Plan would have meant lost jobs for energy workers in Gillette and across Wyoming."
 
EPA says oral comments and supporting information presented at each session will be included in the rule-making docket.
 
Written comments about EPA's proposal must be received by Jan. 16 and should be identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2017-0355. Instructions on how to submit comments are HERE.
 
Trump Said to Seek a 'Win-Win' Solution for Oil Industry's RIN Issues
 
Oil state senators leaving a meeting at the White House Thursday said President Trump is willing to negotiate a "win-win" solution to issues over the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) raised by refiners, as long as it does not adversely affect farm producers.
 
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who led a contingent of 11 senators in the meeting with the president, cabinet members and administration officials with ties to energy and agriculture policy, told Fox News afterward that he and the other senators would meet with the president again soon, suggesting that congressional biofuel advocates and industry leaders would take part, unlike at Thursday's meeting.
 
Other senators told E&E News after the meeting that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who's agency oversees the RFS program, said he would consider moves the administration can make to address the problem specifically cited by Cruz and others – volatility in the price of Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs).
 
RINs are credits generated by blending biofuels and used to certify a refiner's compliance with the RFS. If a refiner is unable to generate enough RINs by physically meeting its blending requirement, it may purchase excess RINs from other firms that have met their RVOs.
 
RIN prices are currently hovering around $.90, but have fluctuated this year to as high as $1.40 each. That, says Cruz and other oil-state lawmakers, puts a financial burden on merchant refiners who must meet their RFS requirements by purchasing RINs. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has asked EPA for a waiver of the RFS in his state, citing the unstable prices, while Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has asked for a waiver for the entire northeastern United States. (See next story)
 
Five members of the Senate and a single House member joined last month to write the Federal Trade Commission asking the agency investigate potential RIN market manipulation.
 
A White House spokesperson said that though Trump offered to help refiners find a solution to their financial issues, he did not back off his support of the RFS.
 
The president "confirmed his commitment to RFS and his support for our farmers and energy workers," said Hogan Gidley. "He understands there are differing views on this issue, and the administration looks forward to working with all the stakeholders toward a mutually agreeable path forward."
 
Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) also cited the president's desire to work out a mutually acceptable solution.
 
"It was just a recognition that this is a more complicated problem and we're going to have to get everybody together from all sides," Lankford told reporters outside the White House.
 
The administration reaffirmed its support of the biofuel industry last month, issuing RFS biofuel blending requirements at levels slightly above those proposed earlier in the year, though the biobased diesel industry expressed disappointment that biodiesel numbers were not increased above current levels.
 
Renewable fuel advocates were pleased – and some in the oil industry was disappointed – with EPA's decision to not change the RFS "point of obligation" from refiners to downstream marketers.
 
Cruz has used a hold on the nomination of Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey to become an USDA under secretary to leverage his case with the White House over the RFS issue. The Texas senator reportedly said the hold would be kept in place until a meeting is held with President Trump. Reports today indicate Cruz will release his hold on the nomination only after a solution is reached.
 
Texas Governor Seeks RFS Waiver for His State
 
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has joined the governor of Pennsylvania in seeking a waiver from the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Both requests have been disputed by the Renewable Fuels Association.
 
In a letter late last week to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Abbott asked the agency to waive RFS Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) – the standard's biofuel blending requirements – for his state to no more than 9.7 percent, suggesting the RFS threatens to severely harm the state's economy.
 
Abbott cited Texas' status as the nation's top-ranking crude oil producing and refining state in the nation in making the claim that the sector's strength and resilience is "threatened by a restrictive federal mandate." He said that of the state's 29 refineries, some 22 are held by companies in a short position – meaning they are hurt directly by high prices for Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs).
 
RINs are credits generated by blending biofuels and used to certify a refiner's compliance with the RFS. If a refiner is unable to generate enough RINs by physically meeting its blending requirement, it may purchase excess RINs from other firms that have met their RVOs.
 
Citing RIN prices that have reached $1.40, Abbott said they are "escalating and unjustified," creating severe economic hardship for refiners, small retailers, consumers, skilled labor and others.
 
In late November, RIN prices for conventional ethanol hovered around 90 cents. However, a bipartisan group of six lawmakers wrote the Federal Trade Commission last month asking the agency to investigate possible market manipulation in the RIN market.
 
The six lawmakers said in their letter that RIN prices have fluctuated widely over the past four years, including a spike of 200 percent this year.
 
"This price volatility creates great uncertainty for obligated parties, especially for merchant refiners like the ones along the East Coast that limited capability to blend biofuels into their products and need RINs to comply with the RFS program's requirements," the letter states.
 
In October, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf cited similar regional arguments when he wrote President Trump seeking a waiver to relieve refiners throughout the Northeast United States from having to comply with RFS RVOs. Wolf also based his request on what he said were high RIN prices, particularly harming merchant refiners in the region are unable to generate enough RIN credits to meet their RFS obligations because they have limited blending capacity. He said they must purchase RINs on the secondary market, where prices have gone up.
 
The Renewable Fuels Association's (RFA) reaction to Abbott's request is similar to its response to Wolf's request six weeks ago, arguing that the grounds for the waiver laid out by the Texas governor do not meet the threshold required by the RFS statute for proving "severe harm."
 
"The truth is, the RFS is helping – not harming the Texas economy by offering greater consumer choice, lower cost fuels, and thousands of jobs in ethanol production and agriculture," RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen said in a statement. "While Texas is always labeled as a big oil and gas state, the RFS has supported a burgeoning renewable fuels industry in the Lone Star state as well. Not only is the state home to four large ethanol plants, it is also home to 199 stations offering E85 and other flex fuels, dozens of stations selling E15, and one of the largest populations of flex fuel vehicles in the nation.
 
"Gov. Abbott's waiver request ignores this critical Texas industry and would undermine the significant economic benefits it offers each and every day," he said.
 
Dinneen said EPA's threshold for action specifically notes that an impact on any particular industry would not trigger a waiver. Rather, the agency would look at the impact on the economy as a whole.
 
"With ethanol today being less expensive than gasoline, and providing consumers significant savings at the pump, that is a threshold that simply is not met today," Dinneen said.
 
The RFA executive also cited an analysis released last month by Wells Fargo that corroborated studies from Harvard University, MIT, the University of Michigan, Iowa State University and other institutions showing that merchant refiners recoup their RIN costs through higher refining margins.
 
"When these facts are properly taken into consideration," Dinneen said, "it is clear that EPA has no choice but to deny Gov. Abbott's request for a waiver of the RFS requirements."
 
The last governor before Wolf to make a request was Rick Perry of Texas, now Secretary of Energy, who in 2012 joined the governors of Arkansas, Maryland, Delaware and North Carolina in seeking waivers to the RFS for their respective states. All were denied for failure to show "severe economic harm" to the nation or their state.
 
Lawmaker, Ethanol Groups Call for RFS Data Updates, but for Different Reasons
 
The chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is calling on EPA to update its studies of the environmental impacts of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
 
Sen. John Barrasso

Two leading ethanol groups agree with him, but for far different reasons.

 
Sen. John Barrasso, R-WY, said in a Dec. 1 letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt that the agency failed to complete studies assessing the environmental impacts of the RFS required under the Clean Air Act and by the 2007 legislation that reauthorized and strengthened the RFS.
 
Under the Clean Air Act, EPA was required, by May 19, 2009, to study whether the RFS "will adversely impact air quality." To date, says Barrasso, the agency has never completed that study. Also, under the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), EPA was required to report to Congress on the RFS' impacts to the environment and resource conservation every three years. But Barrasso says that to date, EPA has issued only one report, and that was in December 2011.
 
Barrasso says that over the last several years, his committee has heard testimony citing an increase in concerns about the environmental impacts of the RFS. The committee chairman noted in particular testimony from Jonathan Lewis, the senior counsel for a Boston-based environmental group, who claimed EPA's own data show "the incremental additional corn ethanol produced in response to the 2007 expansion of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) has higher lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline."
 
Barrasso, a long-time opponent of the RFS, also cites "a growing body of independent academic research" that he says "has also documented the RFS' impacts on air, water and land quality, wildlife habitat and other sensitive ecosystems."
 
Barrasso and others opposed to the RFS are looking for data showing the standard is, in fact, creating more emissions that fossil fuel in the hope of weakening or ending the federal biofuel-blending mandate.
 
At the same time, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFS) and Growth Energy have both been calling on EPA to update its data, asserting that it will show the RFS has resulted in significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).
 
RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen says that even though Barrasso motive's may be hostile to the RFS, his group believes updated data is needed. And Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor says her organization of mostly ethanol manufacturers is confident that an examination of the RFS will show the benefits of the program to the environment.
 
EPA's Office of Inspector General said that it intended to update RFS data required by EISA, which the agency told Barrasso would be finished by the end of the year.
 
Ethanol groups were quick to point out a vast array of studies and information they say verify the environment benefits provided by the RFS, including data that show the lifecycle of biofuels far exceed EISA requirements that corn ethanol have at least 20 percent fewer emissions than gasoline and that cellulosic and other advanced biofuels emit at least 50 percent fewer GHGs than petroleum-based fuels.
 
They cite a 2012 analysis done by DOE's Argonne National Laboratory showing corn ethanol offered anywhere from 20 percent to 48 percent fewer emissions when compared to gasoline, while biofuels derived from corn stover, switchgrass and miscanthus offer at or more than 100-percent reductions when matched against their petroleum-based equivalents.
 
Ethanol advocates also point to more recent studies reaffirming the environmental benefits of ethanol and advanced biofuels, including those from Purdue University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, LifeCycle Associates LLC, Oak Ridge National Laboratory/Duke University, and Michigan State University, among others.
 
Barrasso says in his letter to Pruitt that the agency has said it will not complete its assessment of RFS requirements under the Clean Air Act until 2024, a delay that Barrasso said is "unacceptable."
 
While the committee chairman called on the agency to complete that study no later than Sept. 30 of next year, the day before Barrasso sent his letter to Pruitt, EPA issued documents laying out how it has met its Clean Air Act obligations over the years, though saying the statute's language "is ambiguous in many respects, and provides EPA significant discretion to determine how and when the periodic reviews will be conducted and made available to the public."
 
In the documents published last week, EPA said the statute does not provide direction on the extent of the required reviews, such as qualitative versus quantitative, or the format in which the reviews should be publicized.
 
"The statute merely directs EPA to conduct a 'review,' a broad and open-ended activity which requires the exercise of agency judgement," the agency said.
 
EPA also said the Clean Air Act does not require a specific and discrete agency document or action, and does not specify the precise timing or frequency with which the EPA must complete the reviews.
 
In other RFS-related developments, Pruitt told a farm audience in Iowa that EPA would lift the restriction of E15 sales during summer months in much of the country, but only if the Clean Air Act allows it.
 
"If the statute doesn't allow us to do it, we'll communicate that to Congress," Pruitt said. "If the statute authorizes us to do it, we'll do our job and provide the waiver."
 
The administrator put no timeline on the agency's determination of Clean Air Act applicability.
 
ITC Vote Supports Biodiesel Industry; Blenders Credit Extension May Come
 
The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) this week voted 4-0 in determining that the biodiesel industry here has suffered because of unfairly subsidized imports of biodiesel from Argentina and Indonesia.
 
Meanwhile, lawmakers say a biodiesel blenders tax credit that expired at the end of 2016 may be renewed and extended before this year is out.
 
The ITC vote came in response to a petition from the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) Fair Trade Coalition.
 
The affirmative vote on injury, coupled with last month's final countervailing duties determination by the Commerce Department, paves the way for final countervailing duty orders by the end of December.
 
"This unanimous vote is important progress to addressing the harm by this unfair trade on biodiesel," said CEO Donnell Rehagen. "U.S. energy policy sought to create a level playing field for domestic and imported biodiesel, but foreign government subsidies have made it nearly impossible for U.S. producers to compete."
 
He said the countervailing duty orders will contribute to more fair market and give the domestic biofuel industry "the opportunity to produce at the levels it knows it can."
 
Last month, a mix of large and small producers testified on the volume and price effects of biodiesel imports from Argentina and Indonesia, and the related impacts to the industry at a hearing before the ITC commissioners. If the Commerce Department makes an affirmative final determination on dumping, then the ITC will still need to vote early next year on the question of dumping.
 
The NBB Fair Trade Coalition filed petitions with the Commerce Department and the ITC in March to address what it said was a flood of subsidized and dumped imports from Argentina and Indonesia that has resulted in market share losses and depressed prices for domestic producers.
 
Biodiesel imports from the two nations surged by 464 percent from 2014 to 2016, taking 18.3 percentage points of market share from U.S. manufacturers. Imports of biodiesel from Argentina again jumped 144.5 percent following the filing of the petitions. Indonesia has shipped no exports here this year.
 
The coalition said the surge in low-priced imports prevented producers from earning adequate returns on their substantial investments and caused U.S. producers to pull back on further investments to serve a growing market.
 
In November, the coalition won a preliminary antidumping determination from the Commerce Department, which found that biodiesel imports from Argentina and Indonesia are sold into the United States below fair value.
 
The Commerce Department also affirmed last month its earlier decision that the two countries unfairly subsidize biodiesel. As a result of the decisions, importers of Argentinian and Indonesian biodiesel will be required to pay two sets of cash deposits on biodiesel imported from those countries.
 
The ITC vote comes following a fly-in to Washington of some 100 NBB members promoting the renewal and extension of the biodiesel blenders credit of $1 per gallon, which was left out of the tax reform legislation adopted by both the House and the Senate.
 
Sen. John Thune (R-SD), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, said he expects the biodiesel credit to be among a number of tax breaks for various energy sources and technologies that have expired but will be put together in an "extenders package" that Congress will vote on by the end of the year.
 
What form that incentive for biodiesel will take is unknown. There is a bill pending in the House to extend the blenders tax credit and phase the incentive out by 2022. The bill would drop the credit from $1.00 to 75 cents in 2019, and then down to 50 cents before sunsetting at the end of 2021. The NBB opposes the phase-out.
 
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has pushed legislation that would change the application of the credit from blenders to producers, arguing that imported biodiesel should not get the same break as that produced domestically. A number of interests, including truck stop operators, are opposed to the change, fearing the loss of the credit for blenders would make biodiesel more expensive.
 
Mike McAdams, who heads up the Advanced Biofuels Association and opposes a shift of the credit, said the ITC vote was not good because it made imported biodiesel more expensive. But he said it did have some good effects.
 
"Today's disappointing decision from the U.S. ITC now obviates the need for a biodiesel producers tax credit," he said. "The biodiesel and renewable diesel industry can now align in support of extending the existing biodiesel blenders credit in an extenders package prior to the end of the year."
 
U.S. Energy Storage Deployments Up 46% Annually in Q3 2017
 
Nearly 42 megawatts of energy storage were deployed across the U.S. in the third quarter of 2017, representing 46 percent year-over-year growth and 10 percent growth over the second quarter of the year, says the latest U.S. Energy Storage Monitor from GTM Research and the Energy Storage Association (ESA).
 
According to Greentech Media, the front-of-meter segment continued to drive the greatest share of the market. More than two-thirds of total deployed capacity for the quarter came from a single 30-megawatt project in Texas. The report notes additional, but smaller, utility projects came on-line in Florida, Tennessee and Massachusetts.
 
The size, use cases and geographic diversity of front-of-meter projects will continue to increase. According to the report, utilities across 14 U.S. states have included nearly 2 gigawatts' worth of storage into integrated resource planning.
 
"Energy storage is increasingly acknowledged in utilities' long-term resource planning across the country," said Ravi Manghani, GTM Research's director of energy storage. "Many utilities that hadn't considered energy storage in IRPs a year or two ago are now explicitly modeling hundreds of megawatts of storage into their resource stacks. It's also encouraging to see consistent mention of multiple values that storage can provide to the grid."
 
"Energy storage deployments are increasing rapidly, as more policymakers and grid planners are recognizing the many benefits of storage," said Kelly Speakes-Backman, CEO of the Energy Storage Association. "Coupled with policies that provide a clear signal to markets, and regulatory reforms that compensate storage for the full value it offers, we see this trend continuing toward 35 gigawatts by 2025."
 
The residential energy storage segment hit a new high-water mark after a surge in new deployments, largely driven by California's Self-Generation Incentive Program and Hawaii's Customer Self-Supply Program. The U.S. saw, on average, nine new grid-connected home energy storage systems deployed per day in the third quarter of the year, totaling 4.2 megawatts. This represents growth of 202 percent year-over-year.
 
The non-residential segment experienced a relatively quiet quarter in which 6.8 megawatts of energy storage were deployed. However, GTM Research is expecting a rebound for the segment in Q4 2017 and Q1 2018 as projects that recently reserved funding are expected to come on-line.
 
GTM Research expects 295 megawatts of energy storage to be deployed in total in 2017, up 28 percent from the 231 megawatts deployed in 2016.
 
Other insights offered by the 95-page report include:
  • The U.S. energy storage market grew 10 percent quarter-over-quarter, from 38.2 megawatts in Q2 2017 to 41.8 megawatts in Q3 2017
  • Behind-the-meter deployments accounted for 26 percent of total megawatts deployed, down from last quarter's 42 percent share
  • California led in both residential and non-residential energy storage deployments in Q3 2017
  • Annual market will nearly cross the 1-gigawatt annual deployment threshold in 2019 as procurement programs and improved economics come to the forefront
  • Behind-the-meter deployments (residential plus non-residential) will make up half the annual market by 2021
  • The U.S. energy storage market will be worth $3.1 billion by 2022, a nine-fold increase from 2016 and a seven-fold increase from 2017
  • The residential segment only contributed 4 percent of revenues in 2016 and is expected to be about 10 percent this year, though this value will grow to 38 percent by 2022 when the annual market will be worth $1.2 billion
 
A free executive summary is available HERE.
 
50th U.S. City Commits To 100% Clean, Renewable Energy
 
Fifty cities and towns across the United States have now committed to transition to 100 percent clean, renewable sources of energy like wind and solar.
 
Last week, the Truckee, CA, town council adopted a resolution to move to 100 percent clean electricity town-wide by 2030, as well as all energy sources by 2050.
 
A full list of the cities committed to 100 percent clean energy can be found here.
 
The 100-percent clean energy commitments are already shaping the future of energy in communities across the country, says the Sierra Club. The environmental group's "Ready For 100" last month released a report showcasing 10 U.S. cities that have made ambitious commitments to be powered with 100 percent clean, renewable energy and the steps those communities are taking to achieve their goal.
 
In response to the major milestone, Jodie Van Horn, director of the "Ready For 100" campaign, issued the following statement, said that as "the Trump Administration turns its back on clean air and water, local leaders in cities and towns will move our country forward in a just transition towards 100 percent clean, renewable energy for all.
 
Now, as more and more cities establish bold clean energy goals," she said, "it's vital we work to ensure that everyone, particularly those hit first and worst by fossil fuels, benefits in the switch to cleaner, healthier sources of energy."
 
"By committing to 100 percent clean energy, cities like Salt Lake City and Truckee are sending a message that we care about the health and prosperity of the people in our communities," said Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, a co-chair of Mayors for 100% Clean Energy. "Clean energy is the future, and cities that make the investment today are not only helping to protect the environment, they are positioning themselves to be the economic and social powerhouses of tomorrow."
 
Truckee Mayor Morgan Goodwin said his city's "commitment to 100-percent clean energy, including electricity, heating, and transportation is good for our community and our planet. Our town is on the front lines of climate change and we understand how serious this is. Reducing our emissions will create jobs and long-term economic sustainability as we uphold our responsibility as stewards of the environment."
 
Jenny Hatch, executive director of the Sierra Nevada Alliance, said her group was proud to work with cities like Truckee.
 
"Truckee recognizes the many impacts on the local economy and environment that climate change will bring," she said. "Our model for our Regional Climate Change Program is to be a facilitator of creating community climate coalitions for this goal that work with their community decision makers and energy users to pledge to go 100 percent renewable. Through a ripple of communities going 100 percent renewable across the Sierra Nevada we will make a big difference."
 
Georgia PSC Staff Says Vogtle Completion 'No Longer Economic'
 
Staff at the Georgia Public Service Commission says that unless the finances of the project change, continued construction of the Vogtle nuclear plant is "no longer economic" and should be cancelled.
 
However, Georgia Power Company may have caught a break a couple of days after the PSC staff report was disclosed when Toshiba, the parent company of the construction firm that went bankrupt during the Vogtle expansion, agreed to pay the utility and three other co-owners $3.2 billion by next week, Dec. 15. The money, which represent project guarantees made by Toshiba and Westinghouse, was originally set to be doled out in installments through 2020. Georgia Power's share of that will be $1.47 billion.
 
To date, Vogtle remains the only nuclear plant in the United States under construction. Expansion at the V.C. Summer nuclear plant in South Carolina was cancelled earlier this year in the face of massive construction time and cost overruns.
 
But Georgia PSC staff said that unless Vogtle's principal owner, Georgia Power Company, can cut the cost of the plant that is would be paid by ratepayers, the project should be ended. The report, which averaged a number of assessed scenarios to reach its conclusions, said that compared to others sources of power generation, the two additional towers at Vogtle would come it about $1.6 billion over what would be economic.
 
The PSC has yet to schedule a decision on the Vogtle expansion's fate, and while analysts say the staff report does not bode well, the effect the infusion of Toshiba cash may have is unknown.
 
Paul Bowers, chairman, president and CEO of Georgia Power, said in a statement that the utility was "pleased to have reached this constructive agreement with Toshiba regarding the parent guarantees for the Vogtle project and every dollar will be used to benefit our customers.
 
The PSC staff report says that only if natural gas prices or the cost of carbon skyrocket will the Vogtle two-tower expansion be feasible. Neither scenario is likely any time in the next several years, analysts say. Staffers say making ratepayers shoulder the costs that would otherwise be met by shareholders would be "inherently unfair."
 
Georgia Power, which owns about 45 percent of the plant (Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities are the other co-owners), estimates total costs to finish the two reactors will be about $12.2 billion. The PSC staff, however, says a "reasonable" share of that total to be borne by Georgia Power is about $8.3 billion.
 
Southern Company, Georgia Power's parent firm, blames delays and cost overruns on Westinghouse, the manufacturers of the reactors set to be used at the new Vogtle towers. Westinghouse, who's reactor design was also implicated in the delays and cost overruns leading to the V.C. Summer shutdown, filed for bankruptcy in March.
 
But the PSC staff also criticized Georgia Power, noting that its "failure to manage the project in a reasonable manner resulted in repeated schedule delays and increases in actual and projected costs."
 
Under current cost estimates, the completion of the project at Vogtle would require ratepayers to incur "significantly higher revenue requirements and a reduced economic benefit, while the company's profits would increase."
 
Southern Company, which assumed control of construction at Vogtle in May, acknowledged in a statement that bringing project costs down will be challenging, but remained hopeful the PSC will approve completion of the project.
 
"We remain confident that the unified recommendation to move forward with construction represents the best choice for customers while preserving the benefits of a new carbon-free energy source for our state," the company said. "We also understand that this is a complex and difficult decision and it is ultimately the decision of the Georgia PSC on whether or not we will move forward with the Vogtle project."
 
The shutdown of expansion at the V.C. Summer nuclear plant, which is co-owned by two utilities, resulted in the CEO of one of the utilities stepping down and the government seeking to privatize the other. Utility leaders are also facing a number of lawsuits seeking to determine if they misled the public and shareholders about the progress of the project.
 
Toyota to Build World's 1st 100% Renewable Power, H Gen Station
 
Toyota Motor North America Inc. (TMNA) will build the world's first megawatt-scale carbonate fuel cell power generation plant with a hydrogen fueling station to support its operations at the Port of Long Beach.
 
The Tri-Gen facility will use bio-waste sourced from California agricultural residues to generate water, electricity and hydrogen.
 
The automaker announced the project at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
 
When it comes online in 2020, Tri-Gen will generate approximately 2.35 megawatts of electricity and 1.2 tons of hydrogen per day, enough to power the equivalent of about 2,350 average-sized homes and meet the daily driving needs of nearly 1,500 vehicles.
 
The power generation facility will be 100 percent renewable, supplying Toyota Logistics Services' (TLS) operations at the port and making them the first Toyota facility in North America to use all renewable power.
 
"For more than twenty years, Toyota has been leading the development of fuel cell technology because we understand the tremendous potential to reduce emissions and improve society," said Doug Murtha, group vice president for strategic planning. "Tri-Gen is a major step forward for sustainable mobility and a key accomplishment of our 2050 Environmental Challenge to achieve net zero CO2 emissions from our operations."
 
Tri-Gen is a key step forward in Toyota's work to develop a hydrogen society, company officials say. In addition to serving as a key proof-of-concept for 100-percent renewable, local hydrogen generation at scale, the facility will supply all Toyota fuel-cell vehicles moving through the port, including new deliveries of the Mirai sedan and Toyota's Heavy Duty hydrogen fuel cell class 8 truck, known as Project Portal. To support these refueling operations, Toyota has also built one of the largest hydrogen fueling stations in the world on-site with the help of Air Liquide.
 
Tri-Gen has been developed by FuelCell Energy with the support of DOE; California agencies, including the California Air Resources Board, South Coast Air Quality Management District and the Orange County Sanitation District; and the University of California at Irvine, whose research helped develop the core technology.
 
The facility exceeds California's strict air quality standards and advances the overall goals of the California Air Resources Board, the California Energy Commission, and the Air Quality Management Districts of the South Coast and the Bay Area, who, the automaker says, have been leaders in the work to reduce emissions and improve air quality.
 
"Going forward, Toyota remains committed to supporting the development of a consumer- facing hydrogen infrastructure to realize the potential of fuel cell vehicles," the company said in a statement.
 
Toyota says 31 retail hydrogen stations are now open for business in California, and Toyota continues to partner with a broad range of companies to develop new stations. That includes a partnership with Shell that represents the first such collaboration between a major automotive and major oil company.
 

 


Headlines of Note

 

Upcoming Events

 

TREEDC Annual Conference Set for Next Week

 

The 4th Annual Conference of the Tennessee Renewable Energy and Economic Development Council (TREEDC) is set for next week, Dec. 14-15 at Tennessee Tech University.

 

Organizers say the conference will feature a wide selection of renewable energy approaches and dialogue for networking and fellowship among our supporters in Tennessee and the rest of the world.

 

An International Renewable Energy Conference will showcase Tennessee, Alabama and Philippine renewable energy technologies, leaders and local governments and university best practices for our state, national and international members of TREEDC.

 

Among topics to be discussed are

  • The Future of Renewable Energy in the Tennessee
  • Renewable Energy Funding Updates for Local Governments
  • Tennessee and the Volkswagen Diesel Settlement
  • The Future of Research in Renewable Energy
  • The Future of Solar
  • Tennessee Large Urban Renewable Energy Programs:
  • Tennessee Rural Renewable Energy Programs:
  • TVA Renewable Energy Portfolio
  • Renewable Energy Emerging Issues

 

For a copy of the full conference agenda, click HERE.

 

Registration options include:

  • Individual Registration | $50
  • Day of conference | $75
  • Booth Registration | $200
  • Reception and meals sponsor| $1000

 

To register, click HERE.

 

For further information, email Warren.Nevad@tennessee.edu.

 

Conference organizers are also directing stakeholders to review an article
on TREEDC featured in Governing Magazine.

 

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