January
CleanTech Roundup

Clean Energy Trust’s monthly cleantech roundup recaps the most relevant information on the cleantech sector, from policy changes to technology updates and investment news. It’s all things clean energy, finance, policy, and technology.

National Clean Energy News

On January 21, the DC circuit court denied a stay on EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) rule. Opponents of the rule, led by the state of West Virginia, were suing to have the implementation of the rule delayed until it had been litigated in the courts. While this delay was denied, the courts also expedited hearings on the rule itself, speeding up the legal process. While this ruling was generally expected, it removed one of the few remaining arguments against state governments developing an implementation plan for the CPP.

 

On January 25, the Supreme Court upheld FERC’s Demand Response rule, Order 734. This rule had been struck down by a lower court, which had ruled FERC overstepped its FERC’s authority. While demand response is expected to play an increasingly important role for the grid going forward, power generators who had brought this legal challenge oppose demand response because it cuts into their profits. Demand response programs offer incentives for customers to avoid using electricity, which reduces the need to produce power from more expensive sources. These programs enhance reliability of the grid and hold down power prices. The Supreme Court’s upholding of this rule is a major victory for the demand response industry. Read more about what demand response is and why it’s important on our blog.

 

In addition, the Senate is currently working on bipartisan energy legislation, known by the catchy acronym “EPMA”. The bill has been changed many times since its inception to achieve bipartisan support, and includes a number of different provisions:

“The bill would create or improve several programs designed to increase energy efficiency in buildings, require significant upgrades to the electrical grid including large-scale storage systems for electricity, expedite liquid natural gas exports, loosen permitting rules for construction of natural gas pipelines on federal lands, provide subsidies for hydropower and geothermal, and permanently authorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund.” (Govtrack)

For more, check out this New York Times article, as well as the sponsor’s summary of the bill.

 

State News

In late December, the Nevada PUC changed the state’s net metering rates for distributed generation customers, bringing the booming residential solar market in the state to a grinding halt. Surprisingly, they failed to grandfather in existing systems to the prior rates, which meant that for many customers, distributed generation projects that were saving them money became uneconomic overnight. This set a terrible precedent for business development, since it created uncertainty as to whether other states might retroactively change their rules as well. Major residential solar installers including Solar City have left the state as a result. Following a public outcry, the Nevada PUC is reconsidering the grandfathering of existing customers in the state.

 

On January 28, the California Public Utilities Commission voted to preserve retail rate net metering. This ruling was a big victory for the residential solar industry, maintaining California as the most attractive market in the country. It also stands in stark contrast to the December ruling in neighboring Nevada.

 

Recommended Reading

Greentech Media breaks down Bloomberg New Energy Finance’ recently analysis showing record clean energy investment in 2015.

 

The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas has in recent years grown its auto sector footprint. Companies positioning themselves to compete in the future autonomous vehicles market are partnering and investing in companies in the autonomous vehicle and ridesharing space. This year, General Motors announced a $500 million investment in ridesharing service Lyft, while Google is partnering with Ford to build self-driving cars.

 

GTM Research published a report indicating non-battery “balance of system” costs of grid-scale storage are expected to drop 40 percent by 2020.

By Alex Foucault | February 3, 2016