Emerging Markets Law

Showing 6 posts in Solar.

Solar Power Bill Passes in Georgia

In one of its last acts before adjourning for the year, the Georgia senate passed a solar power bill (H.B. 57) that will significantly relax the state's electric territorial act in a way that will make distributed solar power more accessible in the state.

Georgia is one of the few states in the nation where incumbent electric utilities have an exclusive monopoly on the ability to generate electric power.

Continue reading Solar Power Bill Passes in Georgia ›

President Signs Tax Extenders Legislation

President Obama has signed into law H.R. 5771, the tax extenders legislation styled as the "Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014".

As previously reported, the tax extenders bill extends the second generation biofuel producer credit through Jan. 1, 2015, extends credits for biodiesel and renewable diesel through Dec. 31, 2014 and extends the Section 45 renewable energy tax credits through Jan. 1, 2015.

Jonathan B. Wilson is a partner in the corporate law department of Taylor English Duma where he represents growing companies in finance, securities and technology matters.   He can be reached at jwilson@taylorenglish.com.

Senate Passes Tax Extenders Legislation

The Senate last week passed tax extenders legislation that includes an extension of most renewable energy tax credit programs through the end of 2014.

The Senate passed the bill, titled “Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014,” or H.R. 5771, by a vote of 76 to 16.

The House of Representatives had previously passed bill (entitled the "Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014," HR 5771) by a vote of 376 to 46 .  The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 76 to 16.  President Obama is expected to sign the measure into law this week.

The bill extends the second generation biofuel producer credit through Jan. 1, 2015.  Credits for biodiesel and renewable diesel are extended through Dec. 31, 2014, while the Section 45 renewable energy tax credit is  extended through Jan. 1, 2015. The bill would also extend the special allowance for second generation biofuel plant property through Jan. 1, 2015 and extend the excise tax credits relating to certain fuels through Dec. 31, 2014.

While the bill benefits taxpayers who already have qualifying projects in place, because it is being enacted at the end of the tax year (and will not guarantee any benefit to projects in 2015 and beyond) the measure does not add any certainty to the long-range viability of these projects.  Investors cannot predict whether Congress will continue to extend these measures after-the-fact in the future.

Senator Ron Wyden, D-OR., said in a statement from the Senate floor “Congress can pass this $41 billion bill, but it cannot change anything taxpayers did six, eight or 10 months ago. Those decisions have already been made, and those actions have already been taken. The only new effects of this legislation apply to the next two weeks,” he said. “That’s not nearly enough time for the important provisions in this package to catalyze growth among businesses or to support families in a meaningful way. It’s not enough time to put a dent in veterans’ unemployment, to start a clean energy project and hire new workers, or to help a student who’s on the fence about whether to enroll in college next semester.”

Most of the tax credit programs at issue had their birth in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which was supported by President George W. Bush.  Nevertheless, since the American Recovery Act of 2009, Republicans have tended to resist extending the provisions, often holding them in abeyance until the end of the year.  We have seen year-end tax extenders bills now for at least the past three years.

The next Congress should look at ways of making these provisions longer-lasting as a way of encouraging greater certainty to entrepreneurs and investors.

Jonathan B. Wilson is a partner in the corporate law department of Taylor English Duma where he represents growing companies in finance, securities and technology matters.   He can be reached at jwilson@taylorenglish.com. 

The History of Wind and Solar Power

solarpanelsThe New York Times ran a great piece over the weekend on the history of wind and solar power.

The piece describes the development of wind and solar generation in Germany and contrasts that development with the United States.  It accurately portrays the importance of government subsidies to fund generation and the different experience in Germany in comparison to the U.S.

Importantly, the article describes the problem of base load generation that persists as a chief problem for the economics of distributed generation.

The "base load" of the electrical grid is the amount of power that is almost always constantly in use.  Power usage may ebb and flow, but the base load never disappears.  (Think about all of the devices in your house - AC, lights, clocks, etc. - that never turn off.)

Providing base load power is the chief duty of incumbent electric utilities.  Utilities receive subsidies from the government (in the form of price controls and monopoly control over the electrical grid) that make it possible for the utilities to maintain base load power.

Interconnecting distributed generation to the grid, however, imposes additional costs on the utilities.  And, while distributed generation can help to meet peak demand for power (think of all the power required to support air conditioning on a hot, sunny day) distributed generation does little to support the base loan (imagine the power drop off from solar on days when there is heavy cloud cover)

For decades, utilities made additional profit margin on the swells in electric power needed on peak days.  If distributed generation from independent producers takes on that part of the power curve, the economics of the utilities changes.

There are no easy answers here, but it's interesting to focus on the challenge.

Our Clients Do Cartwheels

Not all of our clients do cartwheels, but some do.  Here's a clip of Troy Helming, CEO of client Pristine Sun, LLC, doing cartwheels (or back handsprings, depending on your point of view) after we closed a financing for one of Pristine Sun's solar portfolios.

Pristine Sun's Embedded Energy System™ operates like an "on-site" power generator on your property that utilizes clean renewable energy technology.  Pristine Sun installs, owns, operates and insures the solar, solar thermal and/or wind system on its customers’ property.

Solar Photovoltaic (PV) systems have a number of merits and unique advantages over conventional power-generating technologies. PV systems can be designed for a variety of applications and operational requirements; they are modular, easily expandable, and transportable. Energy independence and environmental compatibility are two attractive features of PV systems. PV systems can be used for either centralized or distributed power generation. The fuel (sunlight) is free and no noise or pollution is created from operating PV systems. In general, PV systems which are well designed and properly installed require minimal maintenance, have long service lifetimes and are very reliable, usually warranted for twenty-five years with a life expectancy of 50 years.

Can Crowdfunding Provide Capital for Rooftop Solar?

Bloomberg has a piece on SolarCity's efforts to bring crowdfunding to rooftop solar.  The article quotes the Solar Energy Industries association saying that U.S. homeowners installed 792 MW of solar power in 2013, an increase of 60 percent from 2012.

Crowdfunding is an intriguing model for residential solar.  On the positive side, it gives hyper-local investors the opportunity to invest in resources that are close to them.  Having a personal connection to the investor is a key element of most successful crowdfunding projects.

On the other side, however, solar projects can become extraordinarily complicated because of tax credits and other financial incentives.  In addition, especially in California where most residential solar is being deployed, state and local zoning and permitting requirements impose a high level of execution risk for the developer.  A developer that fails to get their local permits or a necessary utility interconnection agreement can end up fouling an otherwise-meritorious project.  That level of complexity is often difficult to disclose fully and clearly to crowdfund investors.

Developers that want to pursue crowdfunding would be well advised to make certain their offering documents have been vetted by lawyers who know their way around crowdfunding and the unique aspects of solar.

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