On August 3rd, 2015, President Barak Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the final version of the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The CPP sets the first national standards to address carbon pollution from existing power plants and demonstrates to the global community that the United States is willing to take action to combat climate change. The CPP uses Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act (CAA) to set state-specific carbon dioxide (CO2) emission reduction targets with an overall nationwide reduction of 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. While setting these targets, the CPP is designed to allow states maximum flexibility in how they achieve their individual objectives.
On Thursday, September 22nd, ACORE presented the US-Canada Renewable Energy Forum, with the support of the Canadian Consulate in New York, Brookfield Asset Management and Phillips Lytle, LLP. Held during Climate Week NYC, the forum discussed recent policy developments and worked to identify opportunities for collaboration and cross-border projects to increase the development of renewable energy in the United States and Canada. The forum was attended by over 70 people representing a diverse mix of financiers, developers, policy experts, government representatives and NGOs.
One of the biggest developments in the renewable energy marketplace in the last 12–24 months has been the rapid growth in corporate renewables purchases. A vanguard of commercial and industrial companies is now playing an increasingly important role in the evolution of renewables—both in terms of their growing share of the market and their increasingly sophisticated needs and procurement approaches. As a result of this influence, ACORE worked with PwC to survey companies headquartered in the U.S. to better understand what is driving corporate renewables purchases, and what is holding companies back from doing even more.
With most residential rooftop area in the U.S. unsuitable for traditional PV panels, the community solar model provides many customers a cost effective alternative for “going solar.” Community solar brings policy benefits like net metering, similar to rooftop installations, and models have developed, and continue to evolve, that allow customers to access community solar through their incumbent utility, as owners in a cooperative group, or as a nonprofit.
On March 17, the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE) hosted its annual Renewable Energy Policy Forum, where speakers and attendees came to a broad consensus that consistent policy is the missing link in the national renewable energy playing field. Industry leaders noted that many had looked to the Clean Power Plan (CPP) as a source for political guidance. However, now that the climate rule has been put on hold, uncertainty remains. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) affirmed that the recent tax extenders for wind and solar will allow for the renewable industry to strategically prepare for upcoming years. But in order to achieve a more stable tableau for all renewables, Congress must agree on comprehensive tax reform – the Senator called the current tax code “a rotting dead carcass” and a “monument to yesteryear.” Business leaders also agreed that even negative consistent policy is preferable to inconsistency – and long-term consistent policy is not yet part of the American play book.
This year’s annual National Renewable Energy Policy Forum, hosted by ACORE, took place on the heels of an important policy update for key technologies. In December 2015, Congress approved a combined tax and budget package giving wind and solar what amounts to between five and seven years of policy “certainty” for investors and developers. But tax policy is only one part of the equation. We got another important boost that same month from the successful international climate meetings in Paris where 129 nations came together and, in essence, agreed to move to a low-carbon economy. But just a few weeks later, the Supreme Court issued a surprising stay of EPA’s carbon-cutting regulatory initiative, the Clean Power Plan, which threw sand in the gears of an implementation effort that was just gaining momentum. The stay is likely to delay implementation efforts by more than a year, even as states respond in dramatically different ways. In the meantime, it will be up to the renewable sector and its allies to maintain the public and private sector momentum behind the shift to renewable generation.
Below is our quick overview of the key discussions and leading news stories emerging from this year’s Policy Forum. Three major stories reported on from this year’s Policy Forum:
Fortune 500 companies are at an all-time high in terms of value – some $17+ trillion dollars as of this time last year. The explosive growth of tech businesses in particular, Google, Amazon, Apple and many more, has set the standard for modern capitalism in terms of profits and advancement up the Fortune list. But one key to success for these companies has flown relatively under the radar: the sustainability-driven push towards using renewable energy.
This past March, the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE) used day one of its annual National Renewable Energy Policy Forum to highlight the work being done by corporate leaders to power their operations increasingly using clean, renewable energy. With over 150 companies having signed the White House’s American Business Act on Climate Pledge – covering $4.2 trillion in annual revenue and a combined market capitalization of over $7 trillion – Corporate America's commitment to clean energy is undeniable and growing rapidly. ACORE’s Corporate Procurement Working Group Executive Meeting: “Advancing Corporate Energy Solutions,” hosted many of these businesses, and highlighted several critical challenges and opportunities ahead of the sector as this trend continues.
After COP21 in Paris, there are still many questions being posed: how will the U.S., and the world, meet these ambitious emissions reductions targets? Will time run out before we can cut emissions enough to avoid the irreversible consequences of climate change? Should the U.S. turn to other technologies like nuclear generation to meet emissions targets? To answer these questions, many leaders from around the world are looking to Denmark to study how this small country has become a leader in implementing renewable energy solutions and serving as a catalyst for change. Within Denmark, one needs look no further than Samsoe for inspiration.
Over the next two weeks, leaders from around the world will convene in Paris for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP21. This year, there is renewed, if cautious optimism about the possibility of a binding agreement among governments to act on this critical global issue.
But there’s another side to the climate change story that’s being written not in parliaments or at diplomatic summits, but in boardrooms and corporate executive suites.
I was speaking with a friend the other day when she asked, “What’s going on with renewable energy tax extenders this year? Are the PTC and ITC going to be extended?” As we know, the Production Tax Credit (PTC) expired at the end of 2014 and the 30 percent Investment Tax Credit (ITC) will expire at the end of 2016. That’s in addition to a dozen other energy credits affecting biofuels, electric vehicles, and energy efficiency that have also expired.