Energy Law Blog

On July 18, 2019, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued Order No. 860.  The order requires entities with or seeking market-based rate authority (sellers) to submit certain data related to FERC’s market power analyses, including its indicative screens and asset appendices, into a “relational database” maintained by FERC.  The order also requires the submission of information associated with long-term firm sales.  When changes occur to data previously submitted, the relational database must be updated monthly by sellers.  The database will be used to, among other things, develop asset appendices and indicative screens for FERC filings that require a market…
Faced with the onset of another wildfire season, and seeking to avoid both the prospect of utility-caused wildfires and the impacts of utilities’ Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) to avoid them, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) recently took wide-ranging actions to expand the penetration of microgrids in California and enhance reliability and resilience of electric service.  The decision  partially  implements Senate Bill 1339 (SB 1339) and the CPUC’s related three part rulemaking (Rulemaking 19-09-009).  The CPUC’s decision focuses on behind the meter applications and directs California’s large Investor Owned Utilities (IOUs) to, among other things, develop standardized pre-approved system…
On June 9, 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a regulation precluding construction authorization for pipelines approved pursuant to Sections 3 and 7 of the Natural Gas Act (NGA) until FERC acts on the merits of any timely-filed requests for rehearing or the time for filing a rehearing request has expired.  Parties seeking to construct new interstate pipeline facilities likely will contend FERC’s regulation is overbroad and burdensome.  They may contend that it imposes unnecessary delays on the construction of critical energy infrastructure already approved by FERC and found to be in the public interest.  The regulation precludes…
On May 28, 2020, the IRS proposed long-awaited regulations that address key areas of uncertainty in existing guidance for Internal Revenue Code Section 45Q (45Q) carbon capture and sequestration tax credits. Although some questions remain unanswered, the regulations are a significant step towards reducing regulatory uncertainty and fostering a functional market for 45Q credits. This article will focus on the regulations’ key takeaways for transaction structuring, while also highlighting technical clarifications of significant import for this nascent industry. Recapture One of the most significant questions facing potential participants in the 45Q market was whether and how the IRS would address…
On May 21, 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or “Commission”) approved two orders by 3-1 votes revising its methods to estimate electric, natural gas and oil utilities’ returns on equity (“ROE”).[1]  Return on equity is one of the most contentious issues in cost-of-service proceedings before FERC, and FERC’s guidance is unlikely to alter that.  In many important ways, the guidance significantly deviated for electric utilities and pipelines, which raises a number of issues regarding whether such deviations are supported by each industry’s risks. Revised Guidance for Calculating ROEs FERC guidance was provided in two separate orders. …
On May 1, 2020, President Trump issued Executive Order 13920 (“Executive Order”), which prohibited certain transactions involving bulk-power system electric equipment manufactured or supplied by persons owned by, controlled by, or subject to the jurisdiction of a foreign adversary that poses an undue risk of catastrophic effects on the security or resiliency of U.S. critical infrastructure or the national security of the U.S.  The Executive Order poses several potential problems for electric industry participants, particularly renewable generation owners, developers and investors, which will likely cause uncertainty in equipment procurement decisions.  The Executive Order and its potential issues are discussed below.…
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or “Commission”) issued on April 16, 2020 two orders[1] largely denying requests for rehearing of its prior decisions that, among other things, subjected to minimum offer price thresholds energy resources participating in PJM Interconnection, L.L.C.’s (“PJM”) capacity market which receive so-called “State Subsidies”.[2]  FERC  reaffirmed that a resource within broadly-defined categories (e.g., renewable resources) receiving State Subsidies must offer capacity in PJM’s forward capacity market at or above an administratively-established price floor (i.e., the minimum offer price rule, or “MOPR”), regardless of such a resource’s actual incremental costs.  Potential and likely…
Members of the Sheppard Mullin Energy, Infrastructure and Project Finance Team wrote an article published in the March 16, 2020 edition of Tax Notes Federal regarding the practical impacts on tax equity financing for renewable energy projects of a private letter ruling (“PLR”) published by the IRS in late 2019.  The PLR addressed normalization and loss disallowance rules applicable to public utilities.  These rules have posed significant challenges to public utilities that want to own renewable energy generation facilities, make efficient use of the tax benefits they provide (via the tax equity market) and recover their costs from ratepayers. In our experience…
Last week the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) continued to issue orders, notices, and guidance related to the current novel coronavirus pandemic, the health and safety of FERC and energy industry employees, and the continued reliability of the U.S. energy sector.  A summary of FERC’s relevant actions are provided below, including information regarding FERC’s operating status, extensions for filing deadlines and efforts to ease regulatory burdens during this crisis. Essential Services Joined with the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (“NARUC”) in urging all state authorities to designate utility workers as essential to the nation’s critical infrastructure. FERC and NARUC…
A Washington state federal court recently addressed claims relating to rates that cryptocurrency mining companies pay for electricity in Grant County, Washington. The court rejected all of the miner’s legal claims. The dispute focused on the rate classification that this utility applied to crypto miners as explained below.  Due to various risks, the electric utility assigned the miners to a newly created rate class referred to as “Evolving Industries,” resulting in a higher rate class for the miners.  The miners were I-“rate” with this decision. This decision is just one facet of the interplay between energy companies and blockchain technology,…
On Thursday, March 26, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) announced and issued a Memo establishing an agency-wide temporary enforcement policy suspending or staying a broad array of enforcement efforts for certain environmental regulations and requirements in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Memo states that EPA recognizes that “the pandemic may affect facility operations and the availability of key staff and contractors and the ability of laboratories to timely analyze samples and provide results.”  In light of this, the Memo states that EPA will “focus its resources largely on situations that may create an acute risk or imminent…
On February 20, 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“Commission” or “FERC”) issued several orders narrowing New York Independent System Operator, Inc.’s (“NYISO”) buyer-side market power mitigation rules in its mitigated capacity zones,[1] including NYISO’s proposal to exempt up to 1,000 megawatts (“MW”) of renewable resources from NYISO’s buyer-side market mitigation rules in a capacity auction year (“NYISO Renewable Exemption Order”).  The Commission’s actions will significantly impact renewable resources in NYISO, PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. (“PJM”), and potentially other organized markets.  Rejection of the proposed MW exemption will hinder renewable resources’ participation in NYISO’s capacity auction by: (i)…
On February 19, 2020, the IRS published two guidance documents (links here and here) of significant legal and commercial importance to the nascent market for carbon capture and sequestration production tax credits set forth in Section 45Q of the Internal Revenue Code. Although there are certain differences, the guidance bears striking similarity to existing guidance relied upon by participants in the existing wind production tax credit (Wind PTC) tax equity market. Because of the highly developed state of the Wind PTC market, the similarities make it likely that existing Wind PTC deal structures could be adapted for the 45Q…
On February 20, 2020, the California Energy Commission approved its first community solar system under the 2019 Energy Code, which allows developers of new homes within Sacramento Municipal Utility District (“SMUD”) to meet mandatory solar energy system requirements through solar agreements with SMUD instead of installation of solar panels on new homes. Builders opting to utilize the SMUD Neighborhood SolarShares® program (“SolarShares  Program”) are required to enter into signed agreements with SMUD.  CC&Rs must be recorded for the benefit of, and enforceable by, SMUD to bind future homeowners to the SolarShares Program requirements.  Participating homeowners are required to pay a…
On February 20, 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“Commission” or “FERC”) issued several orders narrowing New York Independent System Operator, Inc.’s (“NYISO”) buyer-side market power mitigation rules in its mitigated capacity zones,[1] including NYISO’s proposal to exempt up to 1,000 megawatts (“MW”) of renewable resources from NYISO’s buyer-side market mitigation rules in a capacity auction year (“NYISO Renewable Exemption Order”).  The Commission’s actions will significantly impact renewable resources in NYISO, PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. (“PJM”), and potentially other organized markets.  Rejection of the proposed MW exemption will hinder renewable resources’ participation in NYISO’s capacity auction by: (i)…