Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Renewable Energy Law News - Week of June 10, 2013

First U.S. Grid-Connected Offshore Wind Turbine Launched in Maine

The United States' first grid-connected, offshore, floating wind turbine prototype was launched on May 31 off the coast of Castine, Maine. Led by the University of Maine, this project—supported by a $12 million Energy Department investment over five years—represents the first concrete-composite, floating-platform wind turbine to be deployed in the world.

The University of Maine and its project partners conducted extensive design, engineering, and testing of floating offshore wind turbines, followed by the construction and deployment of its 65-foot-tall VolturnUS prototype. At an eighth of the scale of a commercial installation, this project will collect data to validate and improve floating wind turbine designs, while helping to address technical barriers to greater offshore wind cost reductions.

Heavy hitters push US tax bill

A number of the largest renewable energy players in the United States have joined forces to lobby for tax changes to level the playing field for clean energy development.

Founding members of the coalition include First Wind, Vestas, Gamesa, OWN Energy, Everpower, Invenergy, Geronimo, Pattern Energy, juwi, Keybanc Utility, Power and Renewables, Terra-Gen Power and TradeWind Energy.

The group, called Financing America’s Investment in Renewables (FAIR), supports a change in a law that currently allows oil, gas, coal and other natural resources-based energy projects, but not renewable energy projects, to use master limited partnerships (MLPs), a business structure that facilitates investment in qualifying projects.

Such a change has been proposed in the bi-partisan Master Limited Partnerships (MLP) Parity Act recently re-introduced in both the US House and Senate.

An MLP is a business structure that is taxed as a partnership, but whose ownership interests are traded on an exchange like corporate stocks. This provides the state and federal tax benefits of a partnership with the liquidity of a publicly traded company.

Renewable energy assets are not currently eligible to use the MLP structure.

Colo. Gov. Signs Renewable Energy Expansion Bill Into Law

Gov. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., signed into law S.B.252, which increases the renewable energy standard (RES) for cooperative associations that provide wholesale electricity in Colorado and for large electric associations that provide service to at least 100,000 meters. The bill expands Colorado's RES to 20% by 2020, while capping retail cost increases at 2%.

The bill, "Setting Renewable Energy Standards for Rural Colorado," authorizes the co-ops to collect a monthly surcharge to offset the cost of meeting the target. Hickenlooper also signed an executive order calling for the creation of a panel to study if the goal is achievable and if ratepayers get enough protection from the rate cap on the surcharge.

S.B.252 expands access to wind, solar and other clean energy for rural Colorado at a time when major renewable investments are being made across the region.

"We believe that this legislation, while imperfect, is necessary to keep diversifying electric generation and reaping the associated rate, economic and environmental benefits," Hickenlooper said. "Vetoing this bill and waiting until the 2014 legislation session for a more perfect version would set Colorado back one year in our pursuit of a more diverse energy portfolio. We cannot afford to lose this valuable time, especially with the expiration of the federal production tax credit on wind generation at the end of this year."

According to Western Resource Advocates (WRA), large cooperatives, such as Tri-State Generation and Transmission, have bet heavily on coal as a primary energy source and predicted that S.B.252 could lead to skyrocketing energy costs.

Photo via Flickr

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