Archive for the ‘Public Policy’ Category


U.S. Energy Dept plans $4 billion in loan aid for renewable energy

The U.S. Energy Department on Wednesday unveiled a plan for up to $4 billion in loan aid for renewable energy companies to help rejuvenate a program that faced harsh political attacks over past failures of federally subsidized projects.

The Obama administration’s draft plan would provide loan guarantees for innovative projects that limit or avoid greenhouse gas emissions.

It will specifically focus on advanced electric grid technology and storage, biofuels for conventional vehicles, energy from waste products and energy efficiency.

“We’re back in business,” Peter Davidson, executive director of the department’s loan programs office, told Reuters. “We really want to go back to … doing very valuable work for our economy going forward.”

Davidson said he hoped to have the loan offering finalized by June, with financing awarded possibly by the end of the year or early 2015.

Although the program was never officially closed, Davidson said it entered a “quiet period” after the expiration of funding from the 2009 economic stimulus that backed solar, wind and geothermal projects, including now-bankrupt solar panel manufacturer Solyndra.

But with billions of dollars in loan authority still available, the agency has resumed its push to support innovative technology.

Earlier this month, the DOE announced it had revamped the review process for its automotive loan program in hopes of attracting new applicants.

The move followed an offering last year of up to $8 billion in loan assistance for fossil fuel projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Opponents have argued the federal government should not be investing in private companies.

Following the high profile collapse of Solyndra, which was awarded a $535 million loan guarantee, the program faced criticism from Republicans that it had favored political allies of Obama, and backed bad bets.

The Obama administration denied these accusations, saying it awarded loans based on the merits of the projects.

Davidson said that only about 3 percent of the department’s loan portfolio had suffered losses, far below the amount that Congress budgeted for when it created the program.

The department credits the program with helping to jumpstart private investment in industrial scale U.S. solar power plants and hopes to replicate that success with new renewable energy technologies that are on the cusp of financial viability.

“That’s our mission. We go in and demonstrate to the commercial markets that a new technology works,” Davidson said. “Then we get out and the commercial market comes in.”

With a larger, more experienced staff, as well as a more automated application system and more streamlined screening process, Davidson said he believes the reviews will go more smoothly than before, when they were criticized for being inefficient.



Mitigation of Climate Change – Part 3 of the new IPCC report


By Brigitte Knopf, published on Real Climate

Global emissions continue to rise further and this is in the first place due to economic growth and to a lesser extent to population growth. To achieve climate protection, fossil power generation without CCS has to be phased out almost entirely by the end of the century. The mitigation of climate change constitutes a major technological and institutional challenge. But: It does not cost the world to save the planet.

This is how the new report was summarized by Ottmar Edenhofer, Co-Chair of Working Group III of the IPCC, whose report was adopted on 12 April 2014 in Berlin after intense debates with governments. The report consists of 16 chapters with more than 2000 pages. It was written by 235 authors from 58 countries and reviewed externally by 900 experts. Most prominent in public is the 33-page Summary for Policymakers (SPM) that was approved by all 193 countries. At a first glance, the above summary does not sound spectacular but more like a truism that we’ve often heard over the years. But this report indeed has something new to offer. Read More…


White House Doubles Down on Green-Tech Loan Program


Ernest Moniz

The Obama administration is reviving a green-technology loan program that became a magnet for GOP political attacks following the bankruptcy of Solyndra in 2011.

Solyndra was among a number of green-energy or auto companies backed by the Obama administration that either collapsed or struggled badly, turning the program into a punching bag for Republicans and sparking GOP-led congressional probes.

But the White House and its allies have long said the program has been a big success in the main despite some flops.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, on the job since mid-2013, has been a staunch defender of federal green-tech loan programs and now his plan to revive them seems to be picking up speed.

On Wednesday Moniz said that the department would probably throw open the door to new applications for renewable-energy project loan guarantees during the second quarter of this year, a somewhat more precise forecast than his previous estimate of “relatively soon.” Read More…


New Tax Bill Includes Wind Energy Credit

Wind turbines in Central Washington near EllensburgSenate Finance Committee leaders unveiled a new draft of a bill to extend tax breaks Thursday morning, a version that includes the renewable energy production tax credit (PTC) that benefits the wind energy industry.

The PTC was included in the new “chairman’s mark” that Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the panel’s chairman, and Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), its top Republican, introduced for markup Thursday morning. It was not in the first draft announced Tuesday.

The credit was included thanks to an amendment introduced by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.). It would extend the PTC for two years, the same period as most of the credits in the legislation.

“The wind PTC is an economic engine in Colorado that supports thousands of jobs in our state and tens of thousands more across the country,” Bennet said in a statement. “This extension will boost Colorado’s diverse energy industry and help us remain competitive in the global and changing economy.” Read More…


DOE Refreshes $16B Green Car Loan Program

teslaThe U.S. government’s controversial green car loan program is getting a makeover, which could unleash its remaining $16 billion in allocated funds. During an event Wednesday, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced that the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) Loan Program, which allocated loans to green automakers between 2009 and 2011, will be improved in a few key ways.

First off, the program will now offer loans to vehicle parts makers, as well as automakers, that are making fuel-efficient parts like next-generation engines, new types of powertrains, light-weight auto materials, fuel-efficient tires and even advanced electronics. While the program was already open to those companies, the DOE says it is now clarifying the inclusion. That should be good news for companies like EcoMotors, a startup that is commercializing a fuel-efficient engine in China.

The DOE also says that it will be much more responsive to loan applicants and will offer them a better support system. To that end, the DOE launched a new way for applicants to apply for the program, which the DOE says is easier, faster and delivers quicker feedback. Read More…


5 Things You Need to Know About BC’s Carbon Tax Shift

Commentary by Alan Durning and Yoram Bauman, Originally published by Sightline Daily

When British Columbia enacted a carbon tax shift in 2008, many thought other jurisdictions would follow soon with their own ways of cashing in their carbon. Seven states and four provinces were working out the details of a huge carbon cap-and-trade market called the Western Climate Initiative. Candidates Barack Obama and John McCain were campaigning for president with promises of clean energy on the double quick; Senator Obama even pitched carbon pricing in his stump speech. Ottawa was murmuring about following the lead of Washington, DC, with a carbon cap or tax of its own.

Then history took a turn: financial collapse, bailouts, Tea Party, climate science denial, 2010 midterms, the fiasco at Copenhagen. The front in the war on climate disruption shifted from grand policy to fighting Keystone XL, coal trains, and other dirty-fuel infrastructure. Momentum abated for comprehensive laws at the state, provincial, and federal level that would gradually but persistently wean companies and households from fossil fuels by charging a small but rising fee for carbon pollution. Read More…


Controversy Over Coal Terminals: Should the Northwest Export Coal?

A WCTA Debate Summary by Michelle Ranken.

Seattle, WA – March 12,  2014 –The controversy over coal terminals in Washington State proved to be a heated debate topic at the Perkins Coie-sponsored breakfast event which overlooked Seattle’s beautiful waterfront downtown.  Moderator Hal Calbom of Sustainable Media Group guided the discussion between Mike Elliott, a Washington State Legislative Spokesman for the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen and Jan Hasselman, a staff attorney with Earthjustice’s Seattle office.

Mike Elliott, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen

Mike Elliott, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen

The debate began with Mike Elliott, a proponent of export expansion in Washington State.  He argued that the proposed state-of-the-art multi-commodity facilities (Gateway and Millennium Projects) for coal exports would be the single largest trade investment opportunity in the region, a $1.5 billion private investment, a potentially huge competitive asset to Washington’s trade infrastructure.  Elliott’s emphasis was not so much on the  commodity of coal itself, but on the importance of trade and job growth in Washington State, as one quarter of jobs in Washington rely on exports and it is the most trade-dependent state in the nation.  For these reasons he argued that it is essential to improve trade infrastructure to remain competitive domestically, as well as on the global stage.  Elliott noted that the U.S. is already exporting coal from eleven plus ports (Great Lakes, East Coast, and Gulf States) and there are currently “zero” coal export facilities on the U.S. West Coast.  Elliott discussed his opinion of the potentially negative effects of the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), which would pursue an unprecedented process involving the environmental review of any product made or transported through Washington.  SEPA will involve overstepping boundaries, Elliott contended.  In a rhetorical question that summed up his thoughts nicely, Elliott wondered, “Are there other job opportunities [in Washington State] for blue-collar people, other than tech industries?” Read More…


Washington State Legislative Update – Week 7

Olympia,WAUPDATE March 13, 2014 - The legislative bodies are finalizing the supplemental budget and are working on other final outstanding issues.  The budget negotiators released their proposed supplemental budget but did not include renewal of the technology sector Research and Development (R&D) incentive program.  They did, however, end on a positive note with the Governor’s Clean Tech fund remaining funded at the current levels.

In spite of enormous efforts by a variety of stakeholders the legislature was unable to move forward on proposals to extend the solar incentive program or leased energy systems such as roof-top solar.  Additional work through the interim is expected in this area.

Compressed National Gas/Liquefied Natural Gas (CNG/LNG):  The legislature passed SB 6440, which would clarify tax policy around CNG and LNG infrastructure development, specifically for transportation purposes.

March 9, 2014 – The Legislature is rapidly heading towards the end of session, scheduled for Thursday March 13th. The House and Senate have both signaled that they will finish on time and adjourn Sine Die on Thursday. Both Chambers have passed Supplemental Budgets and final negotiations are under way. Friday also marked the final Chamber cutoff with all bills, that are not budget related, needing to be passed out of the opposite chamber or they are considered dead for this session. Next week will be spent reconciling any differences between the House and Senate on both budget and policy bills that are in dispute between the Chambers.

The only issues still in play are the RD tax credit legislation. At this point it appears that the Senate will pass a 9-month extension and create a study to assess the impact of this tax preference and make recommendations for next session. This is obviously not ideal but it does allow the issue to stay alive and continue the discussion in to next session.

Another issue that has come forward is SB 6440, concerning compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas used for transportation purposes. This Legislation could impact how LNG and CNG are taxed for transportation purposes. This will probably tee up the discussion for next session as well.

Bill Tracking Report – Week 7

Report prepared by Boswell Consulting


Energy Secretary Predicts 30-40% Renewable Energy

ernest-monizFour new nuclear reactors are under construction in the U.S., the first plants to be built in 30 years. Yet U.S. Secretary of EnergyErnest Moniz says when it comes to nuclear power in the U.S., “the long term trajectory remains quite uncertain.”

Moniz speaks to Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson on a wide range of energy issues and says he expects wind, solar and other renewables to make up 30 to 40 percent of the country’s energy mix by 2030.

On the importance of nuclear power to the U.S. energy future

“Nuclear power, clearly, is one of the important so-called zero-carbon options. It does not emit carbon dioxide, obviously, as does fossil fuel combustion. So our view remains that A, we need to go to a low-carbon energy system over these next 10, 20 years. The solutions for a low-carbon system will look different in different places. Some countries, including industrial countries, will not have nuclear. Others will continue to grow it because it is one of the low carbon options, and different societies have different public attitudes but they also have frankly just very, very different core energy resources. So it will be multiple solutions in multiple places and nuclear power, I expect, will be part of that mix.” Read More…


Washington State Legislative Update – Week 6

Olympia,WAThe Legislature is moving in to the final phase of session with opposite House committee cut off Friday. Non-budget bills must have passed out of the opposite chamber policy committee or they are dead for this session. In other words House bills must pass out of Senate policy committee and vice verse.

Both the House and Senate presented versions of the General Fund and Transportation budgets. They will pass these versions out of their respective chambers and then final negotiations between the two chambers will proceed, hopefully concluding with a final budget deal by March 13. The Legislature will spend most of next week on the Floor passing opposite chamber bills and negotiating final concurrence language on any disputed legislation.

Momentum around solar issues associated with the incentive program and system leasing (HB 1301/ HB 2176) appear to have stalled and it does not look like any further Legislative activity will occur on this issue.

The High Tech RD tax incentives remain alive however the Senate proposed narrowing the program to just companies with less than $50 million in revenue. This has caused enormous controversy and could cause the entire program to die this session.

Bill Tracking Report – Week 6

Prepared by Boswell Consulting

Events & Meetings