After covering Obamaâs Cimate Action Plan and some sharing some reflections on the challenge and impacts of climate change, John went back to his roots: âAs a prior financier, Iâm very interesting in understanding how project finance can drive renewable energy developmentâ. While the government has generally focused on getting technology over the early valley of death, now some of that technology is getting to grid parity. Noting early work green banks and MLPs: âWeâve got to get these to work for renewablesâ.
Tax Reform Paves the Way for a Carbon Tax?
Phil Sharp of Resources for the Future spoke from the cuff: âAs a former member of Congress and recovering politician, Iâm happy to be invited anywhereâ to a laugh from the audience. âWhile âcarbon taxâ is not on the lips of anybody in Washington, I believe that there is some potential for passing a carbon tax in this country.â Itâs not because of the green agenda, but because other forces want significant tax reform. Repealed taxes need to be replaced somehow and carbon revenues are attractive.
Solving One Problem and Creating Another: Fulfilling Californiaâs RPS and the âDuck Chartâ
Michael Pickers, who is both the Senior Advisor to the Governor for Renewable Energy Facilities and on the board of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, recalled a prior detractor who questioned whether âCalifornia could ever reach its RPS goals when the permitting process is so onerous?â Yet âregulatory risk is not the limit to building renewables in CaliforniaâŠand every success [meeting and exceeding RPS standards] sets you up for your next political challengeâŠand now we have too damn much electricity.â He showed what he affectionately called the âduck chartâ, a predicted CA ISO load curve for 2015 that dips during midday due to over-generation of solar plants. This poses a challenge to dispatchable generation who will need to be curtailed at midday in the projected 2015 scenario.
From Tax Equity to MLPs: âWe need a smart transitionâ
Dan Reicher, former Assistant Secretary of Energy and now at Stanford, quickly summarized the challenge to tax equity financingâitâs high cost, unreliable, has only short-term authorization, and is only available to accredited investors. The solution is clear in MLPs and REITs. Developers expect ~7% cost of capital under MLPs, which is about half of the current rate. âWe canât cut the ITC and PTC just yet when we implement MLPsâŠWe need a smart transition [from tax equity to MLPs].â
About the author:
Matt Lucas is a PhD student at UC Berkeley researching alternative materials and processing methods for solar cells. He's also a leader with the campus energy club, BERC