Policy - Federal Level

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.”

Department of Energy Seeks Input on Wind Energy Workforce Development Roadmap

U.S. Department of Energy

Washington DC — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a Request For Information (RFI) to gain public input on the development of a Wind Energy Workforce Roadmap, which will provide details on the current workforce landscape in the wind industry as well as future steps necessary to train and develop a green workforce for the sector.

The purpose of the Roadmap is to establish the policy objectives and overall direction that workforce development efforts throughout the wind industry should assume as it moves forward. This RFI provides leaders from academia, industry, and government with the opportunity to provide insight and guidance to DOE as the nation ramps up its wind energy production. A draft Roadmap document has been developed, and the public may provide comments on the initial draft or may provide alternative or additional viewpoints.

This RFI does not constitute a request for specific project proposals. The information being sought under this RFI is intended to assist DOE and the wind industry in maximizing ongoing efforts to spark interest and skills development in the growing wind industry.

The information collected may be used for internal DOE planning and decision-making to align future activities under the Wind and Water Power Program with the Administration's goals for increased use of renewable energy and domestic job creation.

DOE will not reimburse costs associated with preparing any documents for this RFI, and there is no guarantee that a funding opportunity announcement will be issued subsequent to this RFI.

Comments must be provided by no later than July 30, 2010. View the full text of the RFI on the FedConnect website

 

Rural Summit on Capitol Hill Seeks Sustainable Solutions

“Local ownership through Community Wind development not only provides initial construction jobs, but more importantly it provides long-term economic activity.”
—Dan Juhl, Chairman and CEO, Juhl Wind, Inc.

Washington, D.C., April 28, 2010 - U.S. Senators Harry Reid, Blanche Lincoln, and Debbie Stabenow were joined by former president Bill Clinton and wind energy developer Dan Juhl as they hosted a Rural Summit at the capitol. The event brought together stakeholders from communities around the country to focus on revitalizing rural America through economic development and job creation, and preserving the rural way of life for future generations.

“Today was all about finding ways we can work together to create a sustainable rural economy,” said Senator Lincoln, Chair of Rural Outreach for the Senate Democratic Caucus. “I have worked diligently with my Senate colleagues over the last year and a half to pass historic legislation that will benefit rural America. From the Recovery Act...to working toward passage of the toughest financial reform legislation in our nation's history to put the needs of Main Street over the interests of Wall Street—I am working to make sure that rural America is strong and successful.”

Panel discussions focused on creating jobs in rural America through investments in infrastructure and critical services, along with building a sustainable rural economy through increasing small business access to capital, small business development and workforce development.

In his keynote speech Clinton offered a positive assessment of the job creation opportunities that exist for rural communities as the economy recovers and moves forward, particularly in creating new and sustainable sources of energy. “Manufacturing will make a comeback in this country, mark my words,” said Clinton. “It's going to be an enormous opportunity for small towns to get manufacturing jobs.”

Dan Juhl
Dan Juhl, Chairman and
CEO of Juhl Wind, Inc.

Dan Juhl, Chairman and CEO of Juhl Wind, Inc. represented the wind power industry and extolled the benefits of Community Wind. “Local ownership through Community Wind development not only provides initial construction jobs, but more importantly it provides the long-term economic activity for 20 plus years as our wind farms are owned and operated by our farmer partners,” said Juhl. “While it may cost $4 plus million to install one 2 megawatt turbine, there is only about $500,000 of local construction activity. However, that same turbine derives $500,000 a year in revenue—or $10 million over each 20 year period. That is why we are so committed to ensuring that our wind farms our owned by the people of rural America vs. larger utility conglomerates based hundreds of miles away—and sometimes from other countries.”

Vast Majority of Americans Want More Wind Power

“An overwhelming majority of American voters, on a bipartisan basis, want more wind power.”

—Bennett, Petts & Normington

"Increasing the amount of energy America gets from wind is a good idea," agree 89% of American voters, according to a new poll released by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). The poll shows that only clean energy sources incuding wind, solar, and natural gas receive a favorable opinion, while coal and oil are given unfavorable ratings, and nuclear energy has split ratings with no majority opinion.

“The poll's bottom line is clear: An overwhelming majority of American voters, on a bipartisan basis, want more wind power and support a national Renewable Energy Standard (RES) to increase its use,” said Anna Bennett and Neil Newhouse, partners respectively with Bennett, Petts & Normington and Public Opinion Strategies, the firms that conducted the poll.

Poll highlights include:

  • An overwhelming, bipartisan majority—89%—of American voters (including 84% of Republicans, 88% of Independents and 93% of Democrats)—believe increasing the amount of energy the nation gets from wind is a good idea.
  • A majority of Americans—56%—disapprove of the job Congress is doing on renewable energy and 67% believe Congress is not doing enoughto increase renewable energy sources such as wind.
  • A majority of Americans—82%—believe the nation's economy would be stronger (52%) or the same (30%) if we used more renewable energy sources like wind.
  • A majority of Americans—77%—support a national Renewable Electricity Standard. This support extends across party lines and includes 65% of Republicans, 69% of Independents, 92% of Democrats.

“Wind works for America and that is why voters want Congress to pass a strong national RES,” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. “Americans understand that an RES will mean new manufacturing jobs, less dependence on imported energy, and more pure, clean, affordable energy for our country.”

The poll was conducted March 27-28 by Neil Newhouse of Public Opinion Strategies and Anna Bennett of Bennett, Petts & Normington. The poll sampled a national survey of 600 likely voters. The margin of error is plus or minus four percentage points.

FITness Testing - Exploring myths about feed-in tariff policies

The US currently generates close to nine percent of its electricity from renewable sources such as wind, solar, biomass, and hydropower. During the past several years, renewable electricity markets have surged as a result of new federal and state policies. Thirty-five states and Washington, DC, have established renewable energy targets designed to increase the amount of renewable electricity in utility portfolios. Despite the impressive amount of new policies that have been implemented, many policy makers in the US are evaluating how to further accelerate renewable energy growth. As can be seen in the graph below, renewable electricity generation has declined since a peak at over 12 % in the 1990s because of decreases in hydropower output. The US will need to dramatically increase the amount of installed renewable energy capacity in order to surpass recent historical highs, improve energy security, create new jobs, and address the growing risks of climate change. Since the start of this decade, non-hydro resources, especially wind and solar energy, have grown rapidly in key state markets (Sherwood, 2009; Wiser & Bolinger, 2009). The question remains, however: is current growth fast enough to transition to a more sustainable energy supply and meet the threat of climate change?

Excerpt from “FITness Testing: Exploring the myths and misconceptions about feed-in tariff policies,” published by the World Future Council.

Download the report document and visit the web site in the links below.

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. 

DOE Announces $22 Million for Community Renewable Energy Projects

Washington DC, July 15, 2009 - U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced plans to provide up to $22 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to support the planning and installation of utility-scale community renewable energy projects in up to four communities nationwide. This funding opportunity directly supports the Obama Administration's goals of developing clean, renewable energy supplies, and creating new jobs and economic opportunities.

Secretary of Energy Chu
Secretary of Energy Steven Chu

"American families and businesses are struggling in a recession and an increasingly competitive global economy. The Recovery Act was designed to rescue the economy from the immediate dangers it faces while rebuilding its fundamentals, with an eye toward new industry and opportunity," Secretary Chu said. "To help meet these challenges, the Recovery Act invests significant dollars to put people to work to spur a revolution in clean energy technologies."

The DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) will provide technical assistance to selected recipients, including concepts, best practices, planning, financial approaches, policy guidance, and recognition to help communities rapidly plan and deploy utility-scale renewable energy systems that provide clean, reliable and affordable energy supplies for their communities, while creating jobs and new economic development opportunities. The projects will demonstrate how multiple renewable energy technologies, including solar, wind, biomass and geothermal systems, can be deployed at scale to supply clean energy to communities.

DOE anticipates each project will leverage significant investment, including public and private sector investment in renewable energy systems.  The projects funded under this FOA are expected to create jobs and avoid 50,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually.

Up to $22 million in DOE funding is available for these awards in fiscal year 2010.  DOE anticipates making up to 4 awards totaling up to $21.45 million, and expects matching funds from public and private investment of $22 million or more.

Successful applicants will be awarded financial assistance to support the implementation of an integrated renewable energy deployment plan for a community, and the construction of renewable energy systems.

Completed applications are due September 3, 2009. DOE will select awardees by the end of November 2009.

To access the application form and the official funding opportunity announcement:

  1. Go to the FedConnect web site.
  2. Click the Search Public Opportunities link.
  3. Enter "DE-FOA-0000122" as the Search Criteria Title.
  4. Click Search.
  5. Click on the Title link of DE-FOA-0000122

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).

Wind Energy Promotion Act Introduced in Congress

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Representative Tim Walz and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson have introduced the Wind Energy Promotion Act, which will make it easier for individuals and small groups to take advantage of tax incentives that encourage wind energy production. Walz, a freshman member of the Agriculture Committee, said he heard about the need for the legislation while he was holding a series of Farm Bill forums throughout southern Minnesota in February and April.

Rep. Walz visits the Bingham Lake Wind Farm to discuss energy policy.
Rep. Walz (4th from left) visits the Bingham Lake
Wind Farm to discuss energy policy.

"Raising capital for wind energy projects is difficult, because many residents of rural America do not qualify for the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit (PTC), which is one of the major incentives to promote wind energy production," said Walz. "This legislation will expand renewable energy production by leveling the playing field for individuals in rural America who are looking to enter the industry. Everyone wins if we pass this legislation."

"We think it is unfortunate that our tax code makes it easy for corporations to receive the Production Tax Credit, but not for individuals in rural America who wish to do the same," said Chairman Peterson. "I'm pleased to join Congressman Walz in introducing this legislation to make our tax code fairer and to bring the benefits of renewable energy investments to more of our rural citizens."

Currently, the PTC provides a 1.9 cent-per-kilowatt-hour tax credit for individuals who invest in wind energy generation. However, only passive income—such as income from investments—may be offset by the PTC; someone who merely invests in a wind farm cannot receive the PTC unless they have other sources of passive income to offset.

The practical effect of this passive loss restriction is that currently, PTCs are only useful to corporations and to individuals with large amounts of taxable investment income. As a result, most wind energy investments today are made by foreign multi-national companies and not by groups of Americans who want to join together to produce renewable energy.

The Walz-Peterson Wind Energy Promotion Act would make it easier for Americans to invest in wind energy projects by expanding the eligibility of who can receive benefits from the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit. This legislation would not limit the ability of the current beneficiaries of the PTCs to continue receiving them.

The Wind Energy Promotion Act would amend the tax code to allow up to $40,000 of the PTC to be used against ordinary income. This "passive loss exemption" is similar to a $25,000 passive loss exemption that currently exists to encourage investments in oil and gas development and real estate.

The Wind Energy Promotion Act also addresses the relationship of the PTC to the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). Because allowing the PTC to apply to ordinary income will force some middle-class taxpayers to file for the AMT, this legislation would change the tax law to eliminate the effect of the AMT on income derived from using the PTC.

Details of the Wind Energy Promotion Act are available in the document links below.

Department of Energy Announces $93 million to Support Wind Energy

Steven Chu discusses ARRA with President Barack Obama at DOE
DOE Secretary Steven Chu with President Barack Obama

WASHINGTON, D.C. - April 29, 2009 - Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced that $93 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) will be used to support the development of wind energy projects. “Wind energy will be one of the most important contributors to meeting President Obama's target of generating 10 percent of our electricity from renewable sources by 2012,” according to Secretary Chu. “The projects funded by this opportunity will advance wind technology so that it can reliably supply a substantial portion of our nation's electricity. They will also help in creating more new jobs and expanding a clean energy economy.”

The funding will leverage the Department of Energy's national laboratories, universities, and the private sector to help improve reliability and overcome key technical challenges for the wind industry. These projects will create green jobs, promote economic recovery, and provide the investments needed to increase renewable energy generation.

The funding includes these allocations:

  • $45 million for wind turbine drivetrain research and development and testing of the performance and reliability of current and next generation wind turbine drivetrain systems. This project will improve the country's competitiveness in wind energy technology, lower capital costs of wind systems, and maintain a high level of wind energy capacity growth.
  • $14 million for technology development in the private sector. The aim is to improve the quality and use of advanced materials for turbine blades, towers and other components. This will also fund development in process controls for lamination, blade finishing, trimming, grind, painting, materials handling and inspection.
  • $24 million for wind power research and development among a consortia between universities and industry to focus on critical wind energy issues including advancing material design, performance measurements, analytical models, and improving power systems operations, maintenance and repair, and component manufacturing.
  • $10 million for the DOE National Wind Technology Center in Colorado to support testing current and next generation wind turbine technology and upgrades to the electrical distribution system.

Chu, who is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and former director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, made the announcement while touring the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado. NREL will receive ARRA funding for a variety of other renewable energy research projects:

  • $68 million for a Research Support Facility to create the nation's most energy efficient office building at the same cost of low efficiency commercial construction today. It will achieve LEED Platinum and 50% energy use reduction over standard commercial office buildings.
  • $19.2 million for Renewable Energy and Site Infrastructure to use solar and potentially geothermal and fuel cells to replace power currently purchased from utilities and reduce our carbon use.
  • $13.5 million for upgrades to the Integrated Biorefinery Research Facility to create a continuous process research and development capability to develop commercial scale cellulose to ethanol technologies.

Read the full press release from the Department of Energy.

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