Policy - State Level

Energy Self Reliant States

If renewable energy generation can be dispersed widely, then it should be locally owned whenever possible. With local ownership, the neighbors of energy generation are also the economic beneficiaries, creating a constituency for rapidly expanding renewable power and transforming energy consumers into energy producers.

The Energy Self Reliant States website expands on this foundation and is written by report co-author John Farrell, a senior researcher on the New Rules Project at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. The potential for states and communities to pursue decentralized renewable energy inspired the highly acclaimed report Energy Self-Reliant States, published in late 2009.

Americans Making Power Act Proposes National Net Metering

July 2010, Washington, D.C. - Rep. Jay Inslee (WA) has introduced the Americans Making Power Act, or AMP Act, which would establish a national standard for net metering. The legislation would allow Americans to feed back into the grid excess renewable power they generate through their homes, small businesses and even places of worship. This legislation would also improve reliability of the nation's electric grid by encouraging a more diffuse means of energy production.

“Our new clean energy economy can start right at home.”

—  Rep. Jay Inslee

The AMP Act (HR 5692) addresses two main issues associated with a robust net metering policy; namely the actual net metering standard and a policy component designed to allow for the connection of a renewable energy system to the electric grid, also known as "interconnection." The AMP Act would accomplish this by modifying section 113 of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) of 1978. While some 42 states have already adopted some form of net metering and/or interconnection standards, there are many variations in policy and some states have yet to adopt net metering language at all.

The AMP Act would set a minimum in standards and procedures for net-metering including a limit on the size of machine at 2MW, but would allow states to enact their own regulations over and above this minimum. As written, the owner-generator keeps all renewable energy credits generated by the machine. Additionally, the requirement to offer this program does not apply once the utility has reached a total of 6% of its peak load in net-metered projects (or 4% of it's peak by any one qualifying net-metered technology). This is re-calculated every 12 months. Customer-generators will receive a kwh credit on their bill for any excess generation. At the end of 12 months, if there is a net excess of generation, the customer-generator recieves a payment equal to the average wholesale rate for the previous 12-month period per net excess kwh.

“Our new clean energy economy can start right at home,” said Rep. Inslee. “By empowering Americans, this legislation can help build the clean energy economy of the 21st century while saving families money. Imagine getting a credit on your bill from your utility company every month because you generated more power than you use.”

States Advancing Wind Peer Network

Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA) would like to invite you to join a new States Advancing Wind Peer Network group as part of the DOE's Wind Powering America State Outreach Project. The goal of this initiative is to create a peer-to-peer network for sharing information on the merits, approaches, best program practices, and policy tools available for states to accelerate wind project development. The information that will be provided will include briefing papers and notices of in-depth webinars on specific topics such as best siting practices, innovative policy tools, and emerging finance mechanisms for wind projects, as well as real-time information on state wind activities. The objective is to provide objective, quality, targeted information for state officials and those interested in state wind policy, not to overwhelm you with too much information too frequently - and to seed opportunities for collaboration.

The goal of DOE's Wind Powering America project is to rapidly accelerate the market penetration of wind technology to secure the substantial energy, economic, environmental, and national security benefits for America. The Department has chosen to work with 25 diverse states and organizations to promote information sharing, including CESA - whose role is to work with state agencies and officials across the nation to advance outreach efforts and to provide targeted technical assistance.

Clean Energy States Alliance is a nonprofit organization representing leading state clean energy programs across the country. Established in 2002, CESA works with over 20 state clean energy funds and programs. CESA assists its members in multi-state strategies to develop and promote clean energy technologies and to create and expand markets for these technologies.

To join the listserv, please send an contact  Anne Margolis  with "Wind Listserv" in the subject line and include your contact information.

 

Advanced Renewable Tariffs for Wisconsin Analysis and Case Study

"Advanced Renewable Tariffs for Wisconsin: Analysis and Case Study" was prepared by the University of Wisconsin Madison Energy Analysis & Policy Certificate Capstone Project.

ART is a policy which aims to encourage customer-sited development of renewable energy. An ART is unique because a regular customer becomes the producer (who we will refer to as a Renewable Power Producer (RPP)), and the electric utility becomes the customer. This is different than net metering and a RPS; net metering is essentially running the kWh meter backwards-thus, the value for a kWh of renewable electricity is equal to the retail rate-while a RPS establishes a quantity obligation.

There are many ways to establish energy payments for an ART. The various methods are primarily based on:

  1. Generation cost, which provides a payment based on the cost of the technology
  2. Avoided cost, which sets the payment based on displacing fossil fuel-based generation
  3. Premium rates, which establish energy payment at a specified level above the retail rate for electricity

This analysis uses a generation cost approach-generation cost is the most common form and is consistent with the Governor‘s Task Force on Global Warming-to determine energy payments for each renewable technology.

Connecting Renewable Energy to a Smarter Grid

Transmission Linemen
Transmission Lineman
photo: mnorri, some rights reserved

There are many hurdles for connecting renewable energy projects to the existing electric power grid. Transmission lines already operate near full capacity. Substations may not handle new interconnections. Regulatory processes span state and federal authorities, and interconnection standards vary from state to state. Plus, it's not clear how to best allocate costs for infrastructure improvements between utilities, energy developers, and rate-payers.

The good news is that both industry and government groups have invested in research on how to better connect renewable energy projects to the grid and how to construct a smart grid that can support a clean energy future. While there is clearly need for technology improvements, much of the research points to improved policies, consistency in standards, and adoption of best practices. Here are recently released reports on these topics.

The sixth edition of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council's (IREC) Connecting to the Grid Guide provides a comprehensive introduction to a span of topics that relate to grid-tied renewable energy sources. The sixth edition has been revised to include information on IREC's recently updated model procedures, alternative billing arrangements for net metering, energy storage and several other emerging issues in the field. This guide is designed for state regulators and other policymakers, utilities, industry representatives and consumers interested in the development of state-level interconnection and net metering policies.

The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), part of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) laboratory system, hosts a Modern Grid Strategy web site that regularly issues whitepapers. The Transmission Smart Grid Imperative outlines the technologies that are ready to be deployed while considering the complexities of building consensus for new transmission construction. Accomodates All Generation and Storage Options defines how a smart grid can be powered by small distributed energy resources (DER) which include both distributed generation and storage, as one of seven "Smart Grid Principal Characteristics" identifed by NETL.

Perspectives for Utilities & Others Implementing Smart Grids by The Smart Grid Stakeholder Roundtable Group represents the outcome of meetings with a range of stakeholders including state agencies, consumer groups, environmental groups, commercial and industrial consumers, utilities and public utility commissions. The report was sponsored by the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability with the goal "to help utilities and other smart grid project developers better communicate how and why they think smart grid technologies will benefit consumers and the environment, as well as the overall electric system in general."

Under the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), partnering with DOE and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), has "primary responsibility to coordinate development of a framework that includes protocols and model standards for information management to achieve interoperability of smart grid devices and systems..." The NIST Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability Standards, Release 1.0 is a draft of a framework that includes protocols and model standards for information management to achieve interoperability of Smart Grid devices and systems. NIST has currently identified 16 initial standards and is considering an additional 46 potential standards. 

Analysis of Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariffs in the U.S.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has published a report analyzing the impacts that state level feed-in tariff policies can have on the renewable energy industry across the country. The report uses data and reports from around the world to highlight the various benefits that a feed-in tariff type of policy can have on renewable energy development.

A feed-in tariff is an energy policy that provides for a guarantee of payment to renewable energy developers for the energy that is produced. This type of policy can be thought of as an advanced form of a production-based incentive because payments are made for the actual electricity produced and not for how much capacity is installed. The most common feed-in tariff payment is based on the actual levelized cost of renewable energy generation. This method of payment provides a price adequate to ensure a reasonable rate of return on for investors. 

The authors of the report delve into the various advantages of feed-in tariff policies and the number of challenges to implementing feed-in tariff policies in the U.S. The report also provides a review of the current state-level and utility-level feed-in tariff policies that are currently in place across the county and compares them with the successful models found in Europe. These states include Gainesville, Florida; various Wisconsin utilities; California; Vermont (report was written prior to passage of the state-wide feed-in tariff so this analysis focuses on the two utility-specific programs); Washington; and Oregon. The authors wrap up the report with a discussion of best practices for feed-in tariff policy design and implementation, followed by an analysis on how to use a feed-in tariff policy to achieve state renewable energy goals.

The authors highlight one of the most important elements of a feed-in tariff policy - that it allows for more participants in renewable energy project development. In their analysis the authors state that there are significant impacts of a feed-in tariff on developing community ownership, but it will depend on how the program is structured and payments determined. 

You can read the full report here (PDF).

Office of Energy - Minnesota Department of Commerce

The Office of Energy at the Minnesota Department of Commerce is working to move Minnesota toward a sustainable energy future, managing energy assistance funds, advocating in the public interest on energy utility rates and facility siting. We provide information and assistance to residents, builders, utilities, non-profits and policy-makers on home improvements, financial assistance, renewable technologies including wind energy information, policy initiatives, and utility regulations.

Going Grid Neutral at California Schools

2008: State and Consumer Services Agency Secretary Rosario Marin  announced the release of California's "grid neutral" guidebook; a step-by-step guide to help California schools and community colleges cut energy costs through on-site electricity generation.

The program was spearheaded by the California State Architect and a team of environmental experts. It is the first comprehensive program for schools to use to create campuses that generate as much electrical energy as they consume in a year.

Windustry staff thought that it might be useful to share these ideas with a wider audience.  While there is only a small segment specifically about wind energy, many ideas contained in this guidebook could be useful in other states. Please follow the link at more information for access to the full report and the full press release.

New Report from ILSR: "Minnesota Feed-In Tariff Could Lower Cost, Boost Renewables and Expand Local Ownership"

This January 2008 policy brief from the New Rules Project of ILSR highlights how several European countries, and more recently the Canadian province of Ontario, have adopted a simple yet powerful strategy to expand renewable energy and benefit local economies. It is called a feed-in tariff: a mandated, long-term premium price for renewable energy paid by the local electric utility to energy producers. Evidence shows that a feed-in tariff achieves greater results at a lower cost than do other strategies like tax incentives or renewable electricity standards.

Click here to go to the New Rules Project website and download a copy of the report.

Property Taxation of Wind Generation Assets

"Property Taxation of Wind Generation Assets," North American Windpower, May 2006, Vol. 3, No. 4, pp. 31-34. This article, written by Warren Ault, summarizes research he did for Windustry in 2005 into the actual and potential local economic benefits of wind power, focusing particularly on a survey of the varieties of approaches throughout the United States to the use of local property taxes. Click on the link below to download a PDF copy of the article.

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