SEU 2019 survey: Uncertainty mounts in the clean energy transition

Author: Published: Feb. 26, 201 Utility Dive

Utilities are still moving to a cleaner, more distributed power system, but are increasingly unsure about regulation and market structures

The Status of US Solar Manufacturing, One Year After Tariffs


Greentech Media checks in on the solar companies that, under threat from tariffs, announced plans for U.S. solar module manufacturing.

A year after the administration announced solar tariffs, some plants are now opening, some are still in the works and one has been scrapped.

A year after the administration announced solar tariffs, some plants are now opening, some are still in the works and one has been scrapped.

Photo Credit: Hanwha

On Tuesday, JinkoSolar will officially open its Jacksonville, Florida solar module factory.

The Chinese company announced that plant in January of last year, roughly a week after the Trump administration unveiled its final tariffs on crystalline silicon solar cells and modules. It was the first of a string of such announcements as foreign manufacturers stared down the threat of trade duties, which took effect last February.

It’s been months since many of those announcements became public, so Greentech Media checked in on the progress. It turns out that some manufacturing pants are online, some are still on the way and at least one plant has been scrapped.

In announcing Section 201 tariffs, President Trump promised they would buoy U.S. solar manufacturing and create “lots of really great jobs with products that are going to be made in the good old USA.” So far, the results have been mixed.

Jinko, Hanwha and LG 

Though the official opening is Tuesday, Jinko began pilot production at its plant in November of last year. On the company’s third-quarter earnings call, CFO Haiyun Cao said the plant is expected to be fully ramped by early 2019. A spokesperson for Jinko confirmed that hiring was on track, with more than 100 people employed so far.

The plant should ultimately reach 400 megawatts in solar module capacity and employ about 200 people. Jinko declined to comment on further manufacturing expansions in the U.S. or abroad.

Hanwha Q Cells provided few details about the progress of its Whitfield County, Georgia module factory. The company did confirm that the project will be 1.7 gigawatts when fully ramped. When it announced the project, Hanwha said capacity would exceed 1.6 gigawatts and construction would be finished in 2019.

“This is an existing building, so the build-out was faster than a greenfield kind of plant,” Taylor said. “The equipment has been installed and is being fine-tuned.”

Some pilot production has already begun, with full manufacturing scheduled to commence in mid-2019. Taylor would not confirm whether that meant Q2 or Q3. Once fully ramped, the plant will have the ability to produce 500 megawatts of solar modules per year.

Though Taylor said the plant is “highly automated,” LG is in the midst of hiring and expects to bring on 159 employees. LG said it has no additional plans for expansion of its solar manufacturing.

Heliene’s ups and downs

A Minnesota factory built by Canadian firm Heliene was the first foreign-owned manufacturing plant to begin rolling modules off the line post-tariff announcement. Production began in the last week of August, and the plant is now fully ramped to its 140-megawatt capacity.

Ahead of production, Heliene said the plant would create 130 jobs in the state’s Iron Range region. So far there are only 97 employed at the plant, but President Martin Pochtaruk said that number will increase when a fourth crew starts working weekends in May.

As the Minnesota operations grow, Pochtaruk said Heliene’s Canadian manufacturing has declined; its Canadian plant is operating at half its 250-megawatt capacity.

Back in the summer, Heliene had plans to take over another 75-megawatt manufacturing plant in Oregon, formerly owned by Suniva. Pochtaruk said the company canned the project this fall because it determined operational costs were too high. Heliene doesn’t have any other current plans for more manufacturing capacity.

The outcome of SunPower’s SolarWorld acquisition

A recent financial filing showed just how much SunPower paid for the assets of SolarWorld Americas: $30.1 million. The California-based company bought the bankrupt SolarWorld along with its Hillsboro, Oregon manufacturing plant in a possible bid to garner enough favor with the administration to gain a tariff exemption.

In September, SunPower got it, allowing the company to save up to $2 million a week in tariffs. Now the company is moving ahead with its plans to manufacture in the U.S. CEO Tom Werner said the company moved equipment in November and December and produced its first module in Oregon before Christmas.

The CEO said the plant will ramp to full production in the next few months, and SunPower will ship its first product out of Hillsboro before March 1.

“Then we’ll look at further investment toward the middle of the year, where we would perhaps make other modules there,” Werner said. “There is potential for partners to use that facility as well, or to have us make modules for them.”

According to Werner, discussions for those partnerships are still in preliminary stages.

Silfab expansion

“We’ve actually divided the building in half while we add the second line,” Atkins said. Through automation, modifications and upgrades on existing equipment, he added that Silfab has doubled the number of modules it’s able to push out of the existing line, up to 1,500 per day.

Silfab said it worked to keep Itek’s employees, training them in any changes made during the updates. The plant continues to employ between 80 and 90 employees and Atkins expects that number to grow to  approximately 120 when the second line goes into operation.

While Atkins said Silfab is “100 percent committed to the North American market and North American manufacturing,” he expressed skepticism about peers in the industry who he feels are dragging their feet on shipping made-in-the-U.S. products.

“There’s a lot of talk about new facilities coming online, but we have not seen some of those modules or some of those projects,” Atkins said. “Until real modules are rolling off the line, I could tell you we have gigawatts of capacity, but it doesn’t mean anything.”

Silfab has another expansion coming soon, slated for the middle of 2019. The equipment has already been ordered, according to Atkins, and now the company is choosing whether to expand in Bellingham, elsewhere in the U.S. or at its Canadian site. The company wants a location close to both labor and ports so they can deliver product quickly.

As for whether or not Trump administration tariffs spurred Silfab’s expansion plans, Atkins said they “certainly accelerated our interest, but I wouldn’t say it had a specific bearing on our focus on the U.S. market. Silfab’s core focus is working with North American residential installers, and to do that, we want to make sure we’re servicing them from the North American market.”

First Solar moves forward, REC Silicon plant shutters

Construction is about halfway complete at First Solar’s 1.2-gigawatt Ohio plant, which will produce the company’s tariff-exempt Series 6 modules. According to a spokesperson, construction on the shell of the facility is complete. Production tools will move into the building in the third or fourth quarter of 2019. Full production should kick off in Q1 2020, slightly after FirstSolar’s April announcement that targeted production in late 2019.

As those plans chug toward completion, some companies have also blamed tariffs for cutting down manufacturing in the U.S.

REC Silicon has been hanging on for months amid dwindling profits tied to Chinese tariffs on polysilicon. The company announced this month its Moses Lake, Washington plant would shut down. Francine Sullivan, REC’s vice president of business development, said the company believes the shutdown is only temporary.

Though polysilicon tariffs are not specifically tied to the Section 201 tariffs, the company had worked with the administration to resolve all solar-related tariffs together. Since 2014, U.S. polysilicon manufacturers have been hard hit by duties from China, a significant market. Sullivan said REC remains hopeful the administration will work toward a resolution.

“We are hopeful that the current ongoing trade talks will lead to us regaining market access in China,” she said in an email. “We are also hopeful that the market will improve later this year, which should allow us to restart the Moses Lake plant.”

Twenty years later: What’s the state of U.S. energy markets?

Author: Direct Energy Business  Published: Feb. 26, 2019


Virginia regulators deny Walmart request to leave Dominion utility service

Virginia regulators on Thursday refused to let Walmart leave its incumbent utility service in the state to shop for electricity on the open market, writing it would raise costs too much for residential ratepayers who cannot choose their power supplier.Walmart’s exit from the services of Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power would cost residential ratepayers nearly $70 million over 10 years, the State Corporation Commission (SCC) said. That “cost shifting” is not “consistent with the public interest,” they wrote.

Interview With Ted Trabue Managing Director of Washington Office of DCSEU

Author: Ronald Bethea Published: 2/25/2019

Topic of Discussion:

!. If goal of the green bank is to accelerate energy efficiency improvements and the deployment of clean energy technology by leveraging private investment, removing upfront costs, and increasing the efficiency of public dollars. Then when will the residential Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) be implemented forDC low and moderate home owners in DC that meet the 80% AMI and qualify for the Solar For All, but do not have the money to come out of pocket to repair their roofs?

2. Looking at the Green Bank Report  prepared by the  Coalition for Green Capital which indicated that the District need to  be capitalized with 105 million dollars The study identified $1.8 billion dollars of investment necessary to achieve the goals of the District’s Clean Energy DC Plan, but on October 9. 2018 former chair of the Public Service Commission Betty Ann Kane testimony indicate that The Sustainable Energy Trust Fund was going to collect 256.6 million a 151.6 million that the needed. So my question  to you is out of the 13 million DCSEU has received  from DOEE for the Solar For All Program how much money is budget for roof repair and electrical work for low and moderate income residents in wards 8,7,6, and 5?

3.What’s happening now? Has anyone indicated how much money that has been budgeted for community engagement with black owned media in DC?

Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE), Mayor Bowser’s office, and DC Council are working to:

  • Appoint the seven voting members of the Green Bank’s governing Board for the Council to confirm — by April 2019.
  • Continue reaching out to financial and clean energy experts and community leaders to inform the Green Bank’s design and portfolio of projects — throughout 2019.
  • Hire an Executive Director and other key staff — by Summer 2019.
  • Establish accountability structures, performance targets, financing tools, and clean energy programs for the Board to approve — by Fall 2019.
  1. If the composition of the Green Bank’s governing Board, and the portfolio of financing tools and programs the Green Bank ultimately offers, will determine whether it truly becomes a facilitator of clean energy for all. How do you fill about 35 cents out of each dollar collected from district electric and gas rate prayers must be deposited in a African American Owned Bank and in operation in the District of Columbia and that bank would serve as the residential PACE bank of Washington DC?


  1. What  type of workforce development programs had DCSEU developed?


  1. How much funding has DOEE provided DCSEU for workforce development training?


  1. What role will DCSEU play in training with the new Technical High School located in Southeast Washington DC.


  1. Please explain the points systems that DCSEU has developed that seems to favor solar development company not based in DC according some of the local companies?


EPS Ep. 7: Demystifying the Green New Deal with Greg Carlock

Attacks On Wind And Solar Power By The Coal And Gas Industries

Author: Dave Anderson  •  Published: February 19, 2019  Energy And Policy Institute

Wind and solar power projects are under attack by coal and gas companies that fear competition from the booming renewable energy industry.

Below are examples from the past year of the fossil fuel industry’s war on renewable energy projects.

Who killed the Wind Catcher project?

In July of 2018, AEP announced the cancellation of the Wind Catcher project, a multi-state effort to build what would have been the nation’s largest wind farm. The move came after the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) denied approval of the project, which had been previously approved by regulators in Arkansas and Louisiana, as well as by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The Texas Industrial Energy Consumers (TIEC) was among the intervenors who opposed the Wind Catcher project before the PUCT. In its motion to intervene, TIEC said that its members involved in the case “include United States Steel.”

A list of United States Steel subsidiaries and joint ventures found in the company’s most recent annual report includes Chisolm Coal LLC, Kanawha Coal LLC, Ontario Coal Company, and Stelco Coal Company.

TIEC was represented in the Wind Catcher case by the law firm Thompson & Knight.

“We are counselors to Texas Industrial Energy Consumers (TIEC), a trade association representing approximately 50 of the largest energy consumers in the state,” according to the firm’s website.

“Many TIEC companies are leaders in oil and gas production and refining, and in all forms of manufacturing, including high-tech, pulp and paper, and virtually every type of chemical manufacturing,” Thompson & Knight’s website also says.

Other TIEC members identified in a filing in a separate case last year included the Chevron Phillips Chemical Company, ExxonMobil Power & Gas Services, Kinder Morgan, Phillips 66, and Valero Energy.

The PUCT’s order in the Wind Catcher case noted that while AEP projected nearly $1.5 billion in net benefits for consumers over the life of the project, opponents found the project would result in net costs.

TIEC “argued the net cost could exceed $1 billion,” according to the PUCT order.

“The bulk of the evidence in this proceeding casts doubt on the assumptions SWEPCO [an AEP subsidiary], who bears the burden of proof, used to determine that benefits to consumers are probable,” the PUCT said, and much of that “evidence” came from TIEC.

The PUCT’s order cited the arguments of TIEC more than those of any other intervenor in the case. It was preceded by a “Proposal for Decision” by an administrative law judge that mentioned “TIEC” 135 times.

One of TIEC’s arguments was that AEP overestimated the value of Wind Catcher’s carbon emissions benefits by $550 million, and that those benefits should be negated due to President Trump’s efforts to roll back the Clean Power Plan and the unlikelihood of a carbon tax being imposed anytime soon. The PUC and administrative law judge both echoed TIEC’s arguments on this issue.

Ironically, AEP opposes a carbon tax and the utility has also backed special interest groups, such as the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity and Utility Air Regulatory Group, involved in fighting the Clean Power Plan, the Obama-era EPA rule that sought to set limits on carbon pollution from power plants.

The fossil fuel industry opposed Wind Catcher in other states too, including opposition in Oklahoma from the Windfall Coalition, backed by the gas producer Harold Hamm and other fossil fuel funded forces.

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) fought the project in in ArkansasLouisiana and Oklahoma. The group is backed by the Koch brothers, and has also had financial ties to coal producers like Alpha Natural Resources and, in Oklahoma, Peabody Energy. AFP included the death of the Wind Catcher project on a list of its victories in 2018.

Anti-Wind Catcher campaigns were also run by dark money groups that used names like “Protect Our Pocketbooks,” “Renewable Arkansas” and “Renewable Louisiana.” Protect Our Pocketbooks employed lobbyists in Arkansas and Louisiana known for their work for the gas industry.

As previously reported by the Energy and Policy Institute, Americans for Affordable Energy, the group behind Renewable Arkansas and Renewable Louisiana, was incorporated in North Carolina by the fiancee of the director of research for the Hawthorn Group. The Hawthorn Group is known for its role in deceptive political campaigns backed by fossil fuel and utility interests.

The coal industry is fighting new renewable energy projects in Ohio and Indiana 

Coal producer Murray Energy secretly paid for an attorney and consultant to represent two local residents in their fight against the Icebreaker pilot offshore wind power project on Lake Erie before the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB).

The same lawyer and consultant that Murray Energy paid to fight Icebreaker are now employed by the Ohio Coal Association in its battle against AEP’s plan to invest in 900 megawatts of new wind and solar power before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

The attorney, John F. Stock of Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan, and Aronoff, previously represented a shadowy coal-backed group called the Campaign for American Affordable and Reliable Energy (CAARE) in a number of wind power cases before the OPSB. CAARE’s requests to formally intervene in several of those cases were denied, and since then Stock has been representing a growing number of anti-wind activists in Ohio and Michigan.

Stock is currently representing anti-wind activists in fights against the Seneca, RepublicBlack Fork, and Buckeye/Champaign wind farms in Ohio. He’s also popped up in the docket for the Firelands Wind project, where he is not publicly representing anyone yet.

Stock did not respond to an earlier request for comment from the Energy & Policy Institute on who is paying is for his work on the Seneca and Republican wind farm cases.

Stock also has requested to intervene in a lawsuit challenging Ohio’s restrictive wind turbine setbacks, which have effectively halted new wind farm development in the state since 2014, on behalf of anti-wind activists in Seneca County who support the current setbacks.

The Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Coalition and local residents who filed the lawsuit challenging the setbacks as unconstitutional under Ohio law are fighting Stock’s efforts to intervene in the case.

“… if the Seneca Residents are permitted to intervene through the same counsel that represents coal industry interests, systematically attempts to intervene in wind-energy matters, and regularly appeals pro-wind decisions, this straight-forward declaratory judgment action will become protracted litigation unnecessarily,” they said in a court filing.

“… the identity of other clients that the Affected Residents’ counsel represent in separate, unconnected litigation is utterly irrelevant to whether the Affected Residents are entitled to intervene in this action,” Stock said in a response to their challenge.

Elsewhere, the coal-producer Alliance Resource Partners is fighting a proposal by the utility Vectren to build a 50 megawatt solar farm in Indiana.

Anti-wind activists team up with front groups for the fossil fuel industry

The Institute for Energy Research (IER), a group that has received funding from the Koch brothers and coal industry, has continued its campaign against offshore wind power, a campaign that dates back to the fight over the Cape Wind project.

In 2018, IER opposed federal funding for the Icebreaker project and attacked plans to develop wind turbines off the coast of Maryland.

IER regularly promotes the views of top anti-wind activists like John Droz of the Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions, Lisa Linowes of the Industrial Wind Action Group, and Sherri Lange of the North American Platform Against Wind on its blog,

Robert Bradley, the CEO and founder of IER, personally defended prominent anti-winders like Kevon Martis of the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition and the Ohio-based consultant Tom Stacy last year, after their ties to fossil fuel industry front groups were exposed by clean energy advocates.

Lisa Linowes also joined the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) as a senior fellow in 2018. TPPF is behind what the Texas Observer dubbed an “anti-wind crusade” in the Lone Star State. The group received nearly $2 million from the Charles Koch Foundation in 2017 alone.

Many other state-based groups backed by the fossil fuel industry are involved in attacks on wind power 

Other groups involved in attacks on wind power projects include the Manhattan Institute in New York, a think tank backed by ExxonMobil and the Koch brothers.

The Caesar Rodney Institute, which has received funding from dark money portals tied to the Kochs, was behind a website – – and banner airplane ads opposing offshore wind in Delaware and Maryland.

The Koch-backed John Locke Foundation continued to claim that the Amazon Wind Farm interferes with military operations in North Carolina on its website

The fossil fuel industry fears competition from renewable energy will hurt its bottom line

Many of the fossil fuel interests involved in attacks on wind power have disclosed the financial risks of competition from renewable energy.

“Fuel conservation measures, climate change initiatives, governmental requirements for renewable energy resources, increasing consumer demand for alternative forms of energy, and technological advances in fuel economy and energy generation devices could reduce demand for the crude oil and natural gas we produce,” Continental Resources, the oil and gas company helmed by Harold Hamm, said in its most recent annual report to investors.

“Alliance has served as a coal supplier to Vectren,” Alliance Resource Partners said in its petition to intervene in the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) case where it’s fighting Vectren’s solar project.

If the IURC allows the solar project to proceed, it will impact Alliance’s “prospects for providing future coal supply to Vectren,” the coal producer said.

“OCA’s active members supply coal to AEP and other Ohio electric generators to fuel their coal-fired generation plants,” the Ohio Coal Association said in its motion to intervene against AEP’s wind and solar power proposal.

“OCA and its members, therefore, have a direct interest in ensuring that low-cost, reliable coal-fired generation is not squeezed out of a competitive market by high cost and highly-subsidized renewable generation sources,” the Ohio Coal Association said.

The Ohio Coal Association and members like Murray Energy have backed the Trump administration’s efforts to bail out uncompetitive coal and nuclear power plants. Analysts on both sides of the debate on that issue have found the latest iteration of Trump’s bailout plan could cost consumers billions of dollars.

Top photo courtesy of the Beyond Coal and Gas Image Library. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 

Supreme Court Clean Water Act case could have big impact on coal ash disposal

Dive Brief:

  • The Supreme Court on Tuesday announced it will hear a broad case on the Clean Water Act that could have major implications for utility infrastructure, particularly coal ash disposal facilities.
  • The case, County of Maui, Hawaii v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, concerns whether the CWA applies to pollution that seeps through groundwater before entering navigable waterways subject to the law. It focuses on a wastewater treatment facility in Hawaii, but lower courts have also provided split decisions on how the CWA applies to such pollution from coal ash facilities.
  • Last year, federal circuit courts ruled that pollution from ash facilities owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority and Dominion Energy did not violate the CWA because they were not point sources of pollution. In the Tennessee case, the court said the proper avenue to address the pollution is the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) — another federal law facing litigation.

    Dive Insight:

    Though the Supreme Court case focuses on discharges from a wastewater treatment plant on Maui, the eventual ruling could have broad impacts on permitting for a variety of energy projects that can release diffuse pollution.

    Arguments in the County of Maui case reflect similar issues at stake in the coal ash cases. The county argues that wastewater pumped out of the plant does not violate the CWA because it travels through groundwater — not subject to the federal law — before it reaches the Pacific Ocean. The Hawaii Wildlife Fund says the law still applies.

    The EPA weighed in on the side of the environmental group during the Obama administration, arguing the CWA has long applied to groundwater if there is a direct hydrological link to a navigable waterway. But the Trump administration is now reviewing that finding and could recommend the court reverse the precedent.

    How the court decides could influence billion-dollar disposal decisions for coal ash facilities across the U.S. When TVA lost a lower court decision regarding coal ash at its Gallatin plant in 2017, it estimated the cost of moving the waste to a lined landfill at $2 billion.

    TVA won a temporary reprieve last year from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit when it reversed that decision, holding that “migration of pollutants through groundwater” is excluded from the CWA.

    A similar situation played out at Dominion’s Chesapeake Energy Center, where the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals last year struck down a lower court ruling that arsenic pollution from ash facilities at the plant violated the CWA.

    In that case, the three-judge panel said a “simple causal link” between the groundwater pollution and pollution found in navigable waters “does not fulfill the Clean Water Act’s requirement that the discharge be from a point source.”

    Instead of the CWA, the courts in both cases said this type of groundwater pollution falls within the regulatory scope of RCRA. That law is the foundation of the nation’s first federal regulations on coal ash, finalized during the Obama administration, but it is also the subject of legal uncertainty.

    Last July, the Environmental Protection Agency announced it would roll back the rule following a court challenge from utility companies, giving states the authority to set disposal standards. But then, in a different case decided in August, the D.C. Circuit Court ruled that the original, Obama-era rule was not protective enough.

    Environmental groups in October filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, arguing it should vacate the offending parts of the EPA coal ash rule and force utilities to take cleanup actions immediately. EPA filed a response in late January, arguing that throwing out the rule could “compromise the reliability of the electric grid,” and asking the court to allow utilities to continue compliance efforts for its weakened rule.

Tracey Woods AABE VP Of Operations Talks About Upcoming 2019 Capitol Hill Day 26th And Policy Summit 27th and 28th

Author: Tracey Woods     Published: 2/19/2019  American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE)


On February 26th  27th and 28th, 2019 the American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE) will host its first Capitol Hill Day and Energy Policy Summit at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.  The Summit is a biennial event that brings together legislators, policymakers, energy industry leaders, and Black and Brown community stakeholders.  The objectives of this gathering are to provide a platform for discussion on current and emerging energy policies and to advocate for equitable outcomes for communities of color.

The Energy Policy Summit is the brainchild of David Owens, the former Chairman of the Legislative Issues and Public Policy (LIPP) Committee on the AABE Board, and a former Sr. Vice President at the Edison Electric Institute (EEI).   Owens realized that there needed to be a forum at the Federal level for the deliberation of energy policy with a focus on impacts on under served communities.  These communities tend to be overwhelmingly Black and Brown.

There will be twelve sessions spanning one and one-half days focusing on energy issues with significant consequence.  In keeping with its mission, AABE is determined to ensure that communities of color are engaged in these discussion and subsequent decisions.  The specific sessions include:

  • The Future of the Nation’s Energy Infrastructure
    • Leaders from the US Dept. of Energy have consistently framed the context for the summit by discussing the state of America’s energy security, and the administration’s energy policy objectives.
  • Regulatory Perspective: FERC in the 116th Congress
    • With an increasingly changing energy landscape, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) over the next several years will confront issues impacting LNG export expansion, generation capacity, advancements in storage technology, and transmission security. This session will examine the FERC’s priorities; review key decisions over the previous two years; and identify potential critical junctures for regulated entities.
  • Policy Examination—Low to Zero by the Year… An Examination of the Nation’s Commitment to Climate Change and Environmental Responsibility
    • With states and cities passing aggressive carbon emission goals— energy producers, generators, providers, consumers, and others, are under increased requirements to adopt low-to-zero emission fuel sources. Hear industry experts discuss the application of policy at the operations level, including how policies impact consumer energy costs, energy efficiency, and issues of climate change.
  • Energy as a National Security Asset: Advancing an All-the-Above Strategy
    • In 2018, the Administration proffered a strategy to protect the nation’s diverse energy resources as an issue of national security. Representatives from leading energy trade associations will discuss the proposal, impacts on climate change, and the future of energy production, generation, and use.
  • The Future of Transportation, Vehicle Electrification, and Transportation Infrastructure
    • Industry and policy experts discuss the mechanics of developing the nation’s transportation future, covering vehicle manufacturing, infrastructure development, equitable access, and the role of federal policymakers.

Policy Examination—Understanding the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA)

  • Enacted in 1978 to encourage competitive generation and energy diversification, PURPA has been an effective tool in developing renewable markets. However, many see the law as outdated and counterintuitive to today’s markets and consumer benefit, requiring long-term contracts impacting costs. Proponents of change additionally argue the one-mile rule, important to small generation incentives, allows for significant abuse. Hear policy and industry experts discuss PURPA’s purpose, practical impacts, and the future of PURPA in the 116th Congress and beyond.
  • Addressing Issues of Energy Equity
    • Residential “EE” receives relatively little attention compared to major projects like the retrofit of the Empire State Building in New York City. While it seems like a small thing to make one home energy-efficient, the aggregated potential for energy savings in homes is enormous. In fact, household energy use represents almost 25 percent of total energy consumption in the United States, according to the American Council on Energy Efficiency. Single family homes account for about 80 percent of residential energy consumption, 15 percent is used in multi-family homes, and five percent in mobile homes. If we could fully deploy conventional energy efficiency in the residential sector, according to McKinsey and Company, we could achieve a 28 percent cut in annual energy consumption in the residential sector, thereby saving consumers $2.2 billion on their energy bills. That is a win all around, for American households as well as for job creation and the environmental impact of reducing carbon emissions and other pollution. So what are the barriers that prevent this from happening?
  • Emerged and Emerging Energy Technologies—A Review of Grid, Battery, Exploration, Nuclear and Other Energy Innovations
  • Trade Policy and the Energy Industry—Identifying Policy Connections
    • Discovering direct and indirect connections between energy and trade—Is the energy industry insulated from international trade conflicts?
  • State Round-Up—Energy and Power in the Various States: A Legislative and Regulatory Review
    • A review of legislation, regulations, and ballot initiatives in the various states—and perspectives through 2020
  • Washington Round Up—Energy and Power and the 116th Congress
    • US House & US Senate Committee Representative and Staffer discuss energy priorities and prospects for advancement, passage, and implementation
  • Minorities in Energy—A Roundtable Discussion and Report on An Act to Promote a 21st Century Energy and Manufacturing Workforce
    • An Act to Promote 21st Century Energy and Manufacturing Workforce, authored by Rep. Bobby L. Rush, Chairman, Subcommittee on Energy and Power, House Energy & Commerce Committee, “directs the Secretary to prioritize education and training for energy and manufacturing-related jobs in order to increase the number of skilled workers trained to work in energy and manufacturing-related fields when considering awards for existing grant programs.” This discussion will detail developments to date and next steps.

A Reformed Electric Vehicle Tax Credit Is a Step Forward

Author:   (OPINION)  Published: 2/13/2019 Morning Consult

The federal electric vehicle tax credit was established with one goal: Grow the nascent EV market. While we have seen considerable expansion, we are not close to a fully mature market and the benefits that come with it. To ensure the continued growth and eventual stabilization of the market, the electric vehicle tax credit must be reformed.

Due to their economic and environmental benefits, electric vehicles are poised to take over the global auto industry. It’s estimated that by 2040, 55 percent of all new car sales will be EVs.

Current models of electric vehicles tend to be more expensive than internal combustion engine vehicles. The added cost is primarily from the cost of EV batteries.

But over the last 10 years, dramatic advancements have led to steady decreases in cost and improvements in battery performance. In 2010, lithium-ion batteries cost $1,000 per kilowatt hour. By 2017, the cost had dropped to $200 per kWh. Projections show by 2025, batteries will cost $100 per kWh.

This threshold is widely considered the point when EVs become cost-competitive with ICE vehicles. After that, EVs become cheaper — and that’s when things really get interesting. A reformed tax credit will continue to help consumers with the upfront costs and bring the benefits associated with EVs to even more Americans.

Implemented about a decade ago, the credit provides consumers with a $7,500 tax credit to purchase a qualified electric vehicle; however, the credit is capped at 200,000 vehicles per manufacturer. Once any manufacturer hits 200,000 in electric vehicle sales, the credit begins to phase out.

Although the cap was well-intentioned — it was put in place to avoid a permanent credit — it has put the manufacturers that have invested the most money and time into developing these vehicles at a direct disadvantage with their competitors. Once a manufacturer hits the cap, its models become uncompetitive with other EVs and with ICE vehicles. This reduces consumer choice, slows down EV adoption and dampens the American auto industry’s efforts to compete with the vast electric drive investments being made in Germany, China and elsewhere.

The state of Georgia experienced this firsthand. After eliminating a $5,000 credit and replacing it with a punitive electric vehicle tax, sales dropped by roughly 90 percent. If the market were to shrink like this across the country, it would push back our efforts to advance EV technology by years, cede American leadership in automotive technology to other countries, and put into doubt the long-term sustainability of our auto manufacturing industry.

In the years since the credit was implemented, electric vehicles have become a more common sight on roads throughout America. The credit has provided a purchase incentive for consumers while encouraging private companies to make ongoing technological improvements, resulting in better-performing electric cars that are both more affordable and increasingly convenient to own.

With few moving parts and no need for oil changes, electric vehicles require less routine maintenance than their gas-powered peers. EV drivers also save on fuel costs. The most recent numbers show the average gallon of fuel is $2.25, while the electric equivalent hovers at $1.18.

The auto industry is changing, and the future is electric. A reformed tax credit is critical to establishing a strong domestic market capable of producing affordable electric vehicles that can compete on a global scale. Inaction will bring recent advances to a grinding halt, and America will voluntarily step down from its historic role as a leader in the automotive industry.

Private companies have invested billions of dollars in this industry already. Consumers have shown their demand for these cars when they are well-engineered, properly priced and meet range requirements. A reformed electric vehicle tax credit would be a strong step for a new Congress intent on building a more environmentally conscious economy, while protecting American jobs and technological leadership.


EV Tips For Winter Weather

Author:  John U’Ren Published 2/14/2019 Plug In America

The polar vortex is in full swing and drivers everywhere are finding out their cars don’t love the frigid temperatures. All cars, both gas and electric, use more energy in cold weather, which yields reduced gas mileage and shorter EV range. For most EV drivers, this isn’t necessarily a big deal, especially if your electric range is more than twice your daily commute. Nonetheless, this extreme weather has brought with it some unique hurdles for EV owners. Fortunately, there are some easy steps you can take to mitigate these challenges. Here are some tips for EV drivers to help handle cold weather.

If you have an enclosed garage at home where you can charge your EV, definitely do so. By charging your car indoors, you can prevent ice build up on the vehicle and keep the battery warmer. EV batteries are like humans—they are most comfortable at 70 degrees and a warmer battery will garner more driving miles.

You can do one better by preconditioning the cabin before you begin your trip. Most EVs allow you to schedule this in advance and it has two benefits. One, you get to climb into a warm car on a cold day! No waiting for the heater to warm up or the seat heaters to kick in. Two, your battery warms up to its optimal operating temperature. You get to drive farther more comfortably—what’s not to love? By preconditioning while plugged in at home, you’ll leave for work 100% charged with a warm pack and cabin.

If you aren’t able to precondition your cabin, try to use the seat warmers over the cabin heat if range is an issue. The seat warmers generally use less energy than the cabin heater and can be felt immediately.

Of course, Murphy’s Law can strike at any time. In order to prevent a serious emergency, there are a few basic steps you can take to ensure a safe trip.

Make sure your vehicle has its standard level-one charging cord on board in case you need to stop for an emergency charge. This is one area where EVs have a clear advantage; you can recharge your car from any standard wall outlet in a pinch. And be sure to carry warm clothing,  a bit of food, and a phone in case your car becomes immobilized–just as you should in a gas car during extreme weather.

Lastly, reducing your speed in hazardous driving conditions not only makes for safer driving, it also increases your EV’s range. In addition, EVs have the benefit of being able to carefully control torque from a standing start, compared to gas cars that have zero torque at zero RPM and have to be revved up to start moving. With slick, icy roads, it’s much easier to avoid spinning out from a standing start in an EV and easier to slowly climb a hill. If you try going slowly up a hill in a gas car, you’re likely to stall the engine.

Tip for Gas Car Owners
Unfortunately, gas car owners can’t refuel their vehicles from the comfort of their garages. With the cold weather sapping their gas mileage, they’ll have to make more frequent visits to the gas station in the frigid cold. Gas cars also run into the issues of both the thickening of oil and ice in the fuel line, either of which can be complete show stoppers. Below -20 degrees, oil is too thick for the oil pump to effectively circulate; likewise, any moisture present in the fuel lines or fuel tank can freeze, blocking the line and clogging the fuel pickup. The freezing cold can also cause the 12-volt lead acid battery to fail, requiring the vehicle to be jump started. The only way to avoid these issues is to get an EV.

Black History in the making “The Hightowers Petroleum Company Story

Authored By: Hightower Pertroleum Company Publidhed : February 13, 2019

OUR HISTORY:  Over 58 Years of Business Excellence Stephen “Steve” Hightower founded Hightowers Petroleum Co. in 1984, continuing a family legacy of entrepreneurism that began in 1957 with the establishment of the family’s cornerstone business. From those humble beginnings and through persistence, drive and determination, Steve methodically began to grow his wholesale fuel distribution business into an energy solutions enterprise that today is recognized throughout North America for its customer service, integrity, creative fuel distribution model and expert handling of complex upstream and downstream issues.

“Our success as a business was, is and will always be dependent on delivering the RIGHT energy solutions for every single ONE of our customers.”

Steve Hightower, President & CEO,

Hightowers Petroleum Co.


No matter your industry or fleet size, increasing efficiency and productivity are universal priorities. Busy fleet managers, over-the-road (OTR) truck drivers and members of your sales team have enough responsibilities without having to devote extra time to routine fleet-related administrative tasks.

We capture Level-3 transactional data which provides the highest level of transaction analysis and detail available.

Hightowers Petroleum Co. offers two benefits-loaded retail card solutions that can be customized to suit your specific company’s fueling needs. Fleet managers will appreciate the wide range of useful transaction and tracking features, while drivers will welcome the simplicity associated with not having to submit paper receipts and detailed expense reports for reimbursement.

HPC Fleet Solutions, Mastercard Fleet Card, Wex Card Program, Hightowers Petroleum Co. 3577 Commerce Drive, Middletown, OH 45005, 513-423-4272

Save money on fuel management expenses, establish a never-fail fueling policy, gain tighter control of spending, and enjoy a rebate (high volume users) with our WEX card program.

  • Assign cards to driver or vehicle
  • Get 24-hour, AAA emergency roadside assistance
  • Control card level authorization
  • Set dollar limits, per transaction
  • Block merchant category
  • Simplify Fuel Purchase
  • Eliminate unauthorized use

Detailed Reporting

  • • Driver ID/vehicle pin number
  • • Total gallons
  • • Price per gallon
  • • Odometer readings
  • • And, much more
  • One Consolidated Invoice
  • • Includes all transactional data
  • Best-in-Class Support
  • • Via nation’s top transport fleet card provider

Eliminate “red tape,” endless piles of receipts and reduce administrative costs with our smart fleet and procurement Card solutions… guaranteed to simplify your fleet’s management and life.

  • Unique data interface seamlessly ties into your fleet management software
  • Delivers highly-customizable purchasing and information management
  • Wide acceptance of a variety of merchandise and services
  • Fuel only options
  • Comprehensive vehicle telematics, including fuel purchases, vehicle maintenance and drivers’ travel expenses
  • Procurement only (P-Card) offerings:
  • Automatically reconcile statements
  • Ensure financial integrity with purchase control


Universal Acceptance

  • • 10,000+ truck stops
  • • 200,000+ gas stations

BusinessLink MasterCard® cards are issued by AMSouth® Bank. Comdata® is an authorized representative of AMSouth® Bank. Comdata®


Here are just a few recognitions Hightowers Petroleum Co. has received.

Trees Or Solar Panels? Environmentalists Question Georgetown’s Solar Farm

Author: Jacob Fenston  Published WAMU


Georgetown University is planning to built and buy energy from a solar farm in Charles County under an arrangement with Origis Energy. ehpien / Flickr

Georgetown University has a bold plan for cutting greenhouse gas emissions: by later this year, it will get nearly half its electricity from solar power. However, building the new solar farm in Charles County, Maryland to power the university will require clear cutting 210 acres of forested land.

“I’m very much in favor of solar, but the solar needs to be properly sited,” says Bonnie Bick, a self-described forest activist, and the political chair of the Southern Maryland Sierra Club. She wants Georgetown to reconsider the solar project, and find a location that wouldn’t involve removing hundreds of trees.

The site in question is in Nanjemoy, Maryland, on a peninsula that juts into the Potomac River. The area is covered with forests and dotted with a few active farms.

Georgetown officials defend the project.

“The proposed offsite solar project would reduce greenhouse emissions equivalent to planting more than 429,000 trees, which is the amount of carbon sequestered by approximately 30,000 acres of forest,” said a university spokesperson in a statement, declining an interview.

Georgetown is contracting with the solar company Origis Energy for the project. Origis will build the solar farm and sell the energy to the university under a long-term power purchase agreement.

Edwin Moses, who is overseeing the project for Origis, says the math is clear, in terms of carbon emissions and climate change. The solar project will produce 32 megawatts of energy, roughly equal to the electricity needed to power 4,400 homes. That clean energy will displace electricity produced by burning fossil fuels.

“Origis is extremely confident the tradeoff is a good one,” says Moses.

In D.C. and Maryland, 18 percent of electricity comes from coal, 38 percent comes from natural gas, and most of the rest comes from nuclear, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Renewables account for less than 5 percent of the region’s energy mix.

But Bonnie Bick says the project creates a false choice between clean energy and trees.

“The question is not forest or solar, it’s where is the proper place to install solar?” Bick says.

She suggests that Origis and Georgetown could find a better location, one that isn’t covered with forest. Forests, after all, have value beyond just sequestering carbon — they’re also valuable habitat for birds and other wildlife.

The Nanjemoy Peninsula is designated an “important bird area” by the Audubon Society because it contains “a large block of contiguous forest.” The peninsula is 81 percent forest, 11 percent agricultural land and 4 percent wetland. It is home to a “highly diverse assemblage” of birds that need large, connected forests to successfully breed, according to the Audubon Society.

“We maximize our benefit with solar when it is placed on a property of low value, such as a capped landfill,” says Bick. Another suggestion: couldn’t Georgetown put panels all over its campus?

Edwin Moses says that smaller, scattered solar installations are much more expensive. He says the site in Charles County is a good one. The land in question is zoned for agriculture, and has been periodically logged in past years. “The land is already subject to timbering,” says Moses.

The Maryland Public Service Commission has already approved the solar project. The Maryland Department of Environment scheduled a hearing for Feb. 27 in Charles County, after local activists raised concerns.


September 18, 2017 – Georgetown and Origis Energy USA today announced a power purchase agreement to develop a 32.5-megawatt offsite solar power system that will provide almost 50 percent of campus electricity needs and help the university fulfill its sustainability mission.

The project reinforces Georgetown’s June 2017 announcement with other leading American universities reaffirming support of the Paris Agreement on climate change and the transition to a clean energy economy.

It also significantly contributes to Georgetown’s ongoing effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from campus operations.

Once the solar power system, developed, built and owned by Origis Energy, is constructed in La Plata, Maryland, it will provide for nearly half of Georgetown’s electricity load for campus operations.


“This strategic partnership with Origis supports Georgetown’s carbon footprint reduction goals while providing long-term energy price stability,” said Robin Morey, vice president for planning and facilities management.

Pending approval from the Maryland Public Service Commission and local permitting, the off-site solar facility will be located on 518 acres in Charles County, Maryland.

The Origis Energy design calls for the use of approximately 105,000 solar panel modules and will interconnect to the South Maryland Electric Cooperative transmission system.


The project will create approximately 200 jobs during construction, which is anticipated to start in early 2019 and be completed by summer 2019.

It is also expected to reduce carbon emissions equivalent to 28 million pounds of coal or planting over 600,000 trees – the amount of carbon sequestered by approximately 30,000 acres of forest.

“Our team is humbled to support Georgetown University’s pursuit of environmental excellence and leadership,” said Johan Vanhee, managing director of business development for Origis Energy. “We commend the university’s solar energy leadership in the nation’s capital and its mission to contribute to renewable energy intelligence globally.”

Throughout the term of the solar project’s Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), Origis Energy will support undergraduate scholarships for students with demonstrated financial need.


The scholarship initiative is part of the Origis Energy Foundation project to create philanthropic programs suited to the needs of the communities in which the company’s solar installations are constructed.

“We are grateful to the Origis Energy Foundation for its generous support of our academic mission, which includes admitting the most qualified students regardless of their ability to pay,” Morey says.

Since the late 1970s, Georgetown’s financial aid policies meet the full need of eligible students – regardless of their ability to pay – through a combination of grants, scholarships, employment and loans.


The new power purchase agreement follows a spring 2017 agreement with Community Renewable Energy (CRE) to install the largest rooftop solar system installation in the District of Columbia to date.

The on-site solar panels, in construction on six buildings this academic year, also will increase the university’s sustainability efforts and reduce costs as well as serve low-income residents in the city.

CRE will own the panels, environmental attributes and any incentives the system may provide, while Georgetown will use the power at a guaranteed price.

A portion of the revenue generated by that solar project will create a “community investment fund” to support clean energy projects in low-income areas of the District.


Powering tomorrow: grid modernization

A combination of factors usher in a new power landscape

Everywhere you look, there are unique dynamics at work. Infrastructures, components and equipment are aging. Weather events and natural disasters cause billions of dollars of infrastructure damage. Cyber threats are on the rise. Renewables’ share of generated power grows yearly. Customers expect to interact with utilities for more control of their electricity use thanks to the prevalence of connected devices. State and federal governments continue to introduce new energy legislation. All the while, an aging workforce across many industries is creating recruitment difficulties.

Every power challenge is unique, with its own set of complex variables. As these factors converge, complications amplify to a point with only one viable option: utilities must modernize to keep pace with change.

How utilities can manage change on the horizon

The future of power generation is responding to the fundamental shift in how consumers use power and how utilities provide it. Renewables like wind and solar are increasingly responsible for greater shares of generated power. Smart grid technologies deliver real-time and up-to-the-minute information. Batteries now provide more than reserve power, with load shifting and the sale of power back to utilities becoming real cost saving and revenue enhancement options.

These shifts in generation and consumption mean utilities must work to modernize operations. And those who embrace new technologies and connected devices stand to see efficiency gains and improved profitability.

Data and analytics garnered from intelligent technologies and connected devices are laying the groundwork. However, new system components often introduce unforeseen compatibility and management issues. So utilities not only need modern solutions – they need modern solutions that work with what they’ve already got.


There is a growing need for more sensors throughout the grid to advance grid reliability which is driving the demand for new communicating sensing solutions with higher accuracy and seamless installation on to the existing grid.

Bennett Wallace, General Manager, Energy Automation Solutions

A foundation that supports change

Utilities are being asked to do more than ever, with less than ever. Managing more power sources with less budget, serving more people with fewer people and doing it all more efficiently and sustainably with less margin for error.

To help address these challenges, utilities benefit from a partner with a proven track record of creating smart, adaptable power systems. At Eaton, every product and service we offer is built on a foundation of intelligence, experience and security.

Scalable intelligence

With a firm grasp on power and the challenges ahead, Eaton is ready to take on your most complex system issues with a host of modernization technologies that yield a more resilient and secure grid through advanced intelligence. Look to Eaton for more residential and commercial connected devices, including Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) solutions for factories and businesses to increase efficiency and scalability, while saving time and money.

Manufacturer-agnostic know-how

Modernizing your system doesn’t mean starting over. You’ve put time and resources into your infrastructure, so it’s essential to work with a provider who understands the complexities of other manufacturers’ equipment. Eaton devices and software solutions integrate with your existing infrastructure to mitigate risk and reduce costs with turnkey solutions that provide everything — from generation to transmission and distribution to the “on” switch.

Cyber-secure technology

As connected tech expands, so do security risks. Today’s customers look to suppliers who provide products that comply with the industry’s latest cybersecurity standards. Eaton responded with the first research and testing facilities approved to participate in UL’s Data Acceptance Program for cybersecurity and maintains technologies that meet the UL 2900 Standard for Software Cybersecurity for Network-Connectable Products.

The power of three: how we solve complex grid challenges

Whether you’re looking to automate your system, incorporate new IoT-enabled equipment or manage and service your entire infrastructure, we can help. We’re the single point of contact to design, build, manage and maintain your grid modernization project — and we’re at our best when complex challenges arise. From complete system overhauls to consulting on individual aspects of grid improvement, Eaton solves intricate problems across the entire utility landscape.

Automation and control solutions

Many devices on the market enable utilities to improve reliability and reduce costs. However, energy generation is an ever-changing landscape; power providers must turn to advanced adaptive automation solutions to deliver value. But when adding devices to the system gets complicated, how can you decide what works for your infrastructure and implement new solutions effectively?

Eaton proactively determines your best solution and offers controls to empower intelligent decisions — saving you time and money. With the most advanced power engineering software solutions and services across the globe, we:

Workers in power station control room
  • Find flexible metering solutions for every department — from billing to engineering — for uniform support across all service territories
  • Increase productivity, optimize asset efficiency and enable applications and analytics for the future with smart apparatus, including enterprise-level software and secure communications
  • Reduce maintenance costs, maximize cybersecurity and assist with NERC CIP compliance by managing all system activities remotely with industry-leading software

With technologies that enable customers to transform, protect, connect and build an electrical foundation, Eaton’s automation and control solutions help you optimize asset efficiency, improve system reliability and reduce costs.



With 125 billion connected devices projected to occupy the grid by 2030 and a 600% rise in IoT cyberattacks from 2016 to 2017 alone, providing power isn’t enough. It must be offered reliably, safely and securely. That’s why cybersecurity is at the core of our power platforms. Eaton products are built to meet stringent third-party safety standards, such as UL’s Data Acceptance Program for cybersecurity and its 2900 Standard for Software Cybersecurity for Network-Connectable Products.

When installing equipment, there’s no room for error. We make certain our products and software fit your system — no matter the devices you already have installed — and offer recommendations on Eaton devices to maximize productivity and ROI. Through equipment built to withstand harsh environments and maximize service life, we:

Turnkey substation high voltage components
  • Reduce setup costs, labor and commissioning time of new, replacement and existing substations with ultra-flexible modular solutions, life extension and modernization solutions
  • Simplify system configuration and adapt to changing assets with scalable microgrid and energy resources controls
  • Turn grid-support and backup devices into revenue centers via collaborations with tech powerhouses like Microsoft and others

No matter your specific needs, we have the intelligent devices, dependable monitoring and safety equipment to help – along with the people to back it up.


Turnkey solutions & engineering services

When modernizing your utility system, your plan is as essential as the devices you install. That’s why our Engineering services teamtakes a 360º approach – reviewing risks, technical requirements and deliverables – to ensure projects are on time and on budget.  And thanks to our zero-incident safety culture and comprehensive safety policy (that includes input from everyone from division safety managers to customers), environmental health and safety is top-of-mind every step of the way.

With more than 1,500 experts trained on leading manufacturers’ equipment across 60 locations in Canada and the U.S., Eaton optimizes systems that are safer, more reliable and powerfully efficient. Through our breadth of services, we:

  • Facilitate savings, resilience and energy independence through microgrid and distributed energy resources that assimilate generation sources on a common grid
  • Simplify engineering and design for safer, more reliable and cost-efficient turnkey projects with engineer/procure/construct (EPC) engineers who are experts in upgrades and designs for grid modernization, substation design/build, hydroelectric plant systems and controls, mission-critical facilities and many others
  • Provide unparalleled expertise in the latest tech trends and innovations with system engineers who are heavily involved in industry activities, seminars, workshops and technical societies

Our engineering services team diagnoses complex problems, identifies ways to improve performance and transforms concepts into practical, efficient solutions. As the single point of contact who manages complex grid upgrades, Eaton alleviates concerns from start to finish and maintains a 24/7 on-call service team that’s focused on solving the most complex issues whenever, wherever they arise.


We’re here for your most complex grid modernization challenges

When challenges get complex, we shine. Eaton has a long-standing track record of service and solving tough challenges with a team of pioneers driven to reimagine and reshape critical categories in the utility industry. Our leading-edge products and solutions change the outlook of utilities and improve their customers’ lives. We harness the latest advances in smart connected devices and optical sensors to offer new levels of performance today while addressing build capacity for tomorrow. So whether you need a point solution, help managing renewables, smooth IoT integration, or someone to consult and collaborate with at scale, put our extensive expertise and expansive portfolio to work.

More for you

We can help you prepare the grid of the future

Our Electrical Engneering Services and Systems team provides tailored solutions for grid modernization to help you with every stage of a power system’s life cycle. And, our portfolio of services and solutions will align with your operational goals to keep your power system safe, cyber secure, efficient, reliable and ready for IoT.

Puerto Rico proposes largest solar, storage buildout in US with 20-year draft resource plan

Dive Brief:

  • The publicly-owned Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) released on Jan. 23 a draft of its 2019 integrated resource plan (IRP), adding cleaner energy resources to the island’s grid over the next 20 years.
  • The utility’s plan to add over 2,220 MW of solar and 1,080 MW of battery storage would also phase out its use of coal and bunker oil, expensive energy fuels the island imports. PREPA plans to build three liquified natural gas import terminals, despite legislative efforts in Puerto Rico to move to 100% renewables last year.
  • PREPA, which had more than $9 billion of debt before the 2017 Hurricane Maria knocked out power for the island, noted in the IRP the potential privatization of its generation assets. PREPA’s $9 billion debt consolidation deal last summer was expected to clear the way for its privatization.

Dive Insight:

The draft includes scenarios for the largest build-out of solar and battery storage in the country, according to the environmental advocacy group Sierra Club.

Puerto Rico’s IRP identifies microgrids that “could be owned by the utility or private entities,” including eight self-sufficient zones of resiliency, called MiniGrids, ensuring local resources can serve loads during and after major storms.

PREPA worked with Siemens’s network planning subsidiary, Siemens Power Technologies International, to forecast various scenarios in its IRP.

Siemens investigated nearly 80 long-term capacity expansion plans, of which a final set of 32 plans were recommended.
Credit: PREPA


Placing an emphasis on the first five years, the plans include a maximum amount of renewable generation integration along with distributed resources and hardening the transmission and distribution grid to successfully segregate it into MiniGrids.

“This is essential in order to mitigate, manage and enable timely recovery from a major storm, while shifting the traditional generation from largely heavy fuel oil and distillate fuels to cleaner natural gas,” the IRP states.

PREPA’s draft IRP shows the potential of investing in utility storage with a mix of two-, four- and six-hour lithium-ion batteries.

Siemens reviewed the potential of customers going completely off the grid, anticipating that residents would need solar and at least a 6-hour battery to fully self-supply.

The island’s Sierra Club chapter and other Puerto Rico activists continue to resist plans to privatize the utility, in order to maintain the residents’ control of the public utility’s actions. Environmental and consumer advocates have also worked to transition the island to more affordable, cleaner alternatives than fossil fuels, and are pushing back on the development of any new gas facilities, according to Sierra Club.

The utility is expected to file its finalized IRP by Feb. 12.

President Trump Signs 2018 Farm Bill, Legalizing Hemp

Cannabis Business Times
President Trump Signs 2018 Farm Bill, Legalizing Hemp

President Donald Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill Thursday afternoon, signaling the official nationwide legalization of industrial hemp—a moment long-awaited by the cannabis industry.

Earlier this year, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell inserted language from his Hemp Farming Act of 2018 into the Farm Bill to federally legalize the cultivation and sale of industrial hemp, which is defined as cannabis that contains less than 0.3-percent THC. Congress passed the $867-billion agricultural legislation Dec. 12, effectively removing hemp from the list of controlled substances and allowing states to regulate its production, commerce and research with approval from the USDA.

“The 2018 Farm Bill is an 807-page document. Hemp is discussed only a few times throughout this document; however, the impact on the industry is epic,” said Dr. Jenelle Kim, co-founder and lead formulator at JBK Wellness Labs. “Ultimately, the Farm Bill will end the era of hemp prohibition and would deem that hemp is an agricultural commodity and is removed from the Controlled Substances Act where it is no longer mistaken as a controlled substance, like marijuana.”

“Business can be a great agent of social change.”

-Patrick Rea, CEO and co-founder of Canopy Boulder

The Drug Enforcement Administration will no longer be able to interfere with the interstate commerce of hemp products, Kim added, which will open the doors for banks, merchant services, credit card companies, e-commerce sites and advertising platforms to do business with hemp companies.

“The Farm Bill is a monumental first step for the hemp industry and a big win for U.S. agriculture,” said Jonathan Vaught, CEO and co-founder of Colorado-based biotech company Front Range Biosciences. “It allows farmers to legally grow hemp throughout the country, fueling job growth domestically and keeping the United States competitive in the global market. Allowing hemp production sets the stage for this fledgling industry to flourish as raw materials from hemp—oils, grain and fiber—can be used in a wide array of products like dietary supplements, super foods, clinically-approved drugs and fiber as a building material. The Farm Bill is also a major win for the cannabis industry as it further demonstrates the utility of cannabis as a crop.”

The cannabis industry now looks ahead to increased investment, research, cultivation and sales in a hemp market that Brightfield Group estimates will reach $22 billion by 2022.

“Business can be a great agent of social change,” said Patrick Rea, CEO and co-founder of Canopy Boulder, a seed-stage business accelerator and venture fund for the cannabis industry. “This is an example of a highly in-demand market that needed the government to engage in order to unlock its potential. Time will tell how administrative agencies like the USDA and FDA will regulate hemp products, but we can expect heightened business and investor interest in the space.”

Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill, legalizing hemp in All 50 States

Author: Eric Sandy and Melissa Schille Published: December 17, 2018

Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill, legalizing hemp

Industry stakeholders anticipate increased investment into the industry, as well as massive growth in hemp research, cultivation and sales.

Congress federally legalized hemp with the Dec. 12 passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, opening a market that Brightfield Group estimates will reach $22 billion by 2022.

The $867 billion agriculture law cleared the Senate Dec. 11 with a 87-13 vote before gaining approval in the House Dec. 12 with a 369-47 vote. The bill has been sent to President Trump, who is expected to sign it into law.

The Farm Bill removes hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and allows farmers to pursue federal hemp cultivation permits, while individual states can regulate the industry within their borders as they see fit. Already, 40 states have established hemp cultivation “pilot programs” for industrial and commercial purposes, although the plant has been strictly regulated.

“This is absolutely world history! What the Congress did … is going to change the future for this industry and the world,” said Dr. Bomi Joseph, founder of Peak Health Center.

Hemp cultivation became illegal in the U.S. in 1937, under provisions in the Marihuana Tax Act, which was drafted by prohibitionist Harry Anslinger. In the intervening eight decades, American culture has steadily warmed to the idea of reviving the agricultural commodity and its many commercial uses.

“With the Farm Bill of 2018 …, the restrictions around growing industrial hemp could be lifted by the end of the year,” said Ari Sherman, president of Evo Hemp. “This bill will also help clarify that resin products derived from hemp, like cannabinoids, will be legal on a federal level. Many people will benefit from this bill, including farmers, manufactures, retailers and consumers. Small family farmers will be able to make a sufficient amount of income off a small amount of land. This bill will open up advertising opportunities for hemp product manufactures. Retailers will be given more freedom in the variety of hemp products that they carry. Last, consumers will be given access to all domestically grown hemp-based products.”

“It is excellent to finally have definitive rules governing the sale of CBD products in the United States,” added Sasha Kadey, CMO of Greenlane. “There are huge demands for these products as many Americans find great benefit in their use. A clear, legal path to bring these products to market with all the appropriate checks and balances that ultimately result in consumer safety is a huge win for consumers, law-abiding businesses and the U.S. Economy.”

The legislation will supersede the recently expired 2014 Farm Bill, which had granted states the ability to create those hemp production pilot programs. The manufacture and sale of hemp-derived CBD, however, was strictly regulated and sometimes left out of states’ medical cannabis market frameworks.

Now, with hemp set to be treated as an agricultural product, the U.S. FDA or state departments of agriculture will provide oversight of the plant’s cultivation. Further along the supply chain, industry observers eagerly anticipate guidance on hemp-derived CBD.

“While the Farm Bill presents exciting opportunities for U.S. agriculture and the hemp industry, it is still unclear what the final status of CBD will be,” said Jordan Friedman, CEO and co-founder of Zodaka, a cannabis payment platform. “[I am] curious to see how the progress of CBD-specific legislation is affected by this milestone.”

In July, the California Department of Public Health issued a state policy prohibiting hemp-derived CBD in food products, which aligned with the FDA’s stance. Policies are now likely to shift, as federal and state regulators embrace hemp legalization—and cannabis companies will have new opportunities, as well.

Hemp is primarily a cheap source of CBD, which as become a hot commodity, and the passage of the Farm Bill ensures that people who farm and create products with CBD are protected from prosecution, Joseph said. “A lot more investment is going to pour in for new food products based on hemp.”

U.S. hemp companies may now be able to list on U.S. stock exchanges, as well, added Khurram Malik, CEO of Biome Grow. Previously, they have been limited to Canadian exchanges when looking to go public.

“It’s a pivotal moment we’ve been preparing for, and a hallmark in the history of hemp,” said Matt Oscamou, co-founder of Weller, a manufacturer of CBD-infused snacks. “CBD awareness has picked up over the last several months, and the bill answers some of the questions that retailers and consumers have been continuously asking. Ultimately, this legislation gives the market a unique opportunity to grow by decriminalizing hemp and hemp CBD, thus removing a road block to institutional capital.”

The federal legalization of hemp will also undoubtedly attract investors and businesses from outside the U.S.

“We’re hoping that this bill can help us expand our supply chain by looking for hemp farmers in the U.S. for our CBD products to supplement our current hemp imports from Europe,” said Stuart Titus, CEO of Medical Marijuana, Inc. “In the next few years, hemp will once again become the valued commodity it once was just a few generations ago. As a company, we’re utilizing hemp as a source for CBD, but we look forward to the U.S. taking advantage of hemp’s many other industrial uses, such as a source of building and construction materials, material for bio-composite purposes, clean biofuels, as well as a viable source of nutrition.”

More retailers will likely start integrating CBD products into their stores, as well, making them available for consumers who have been eager to try CBD, but who may not have been educated on the products or able to find a trusted brand.

“The Farm Bill is just the first step, but it’s undoubtedly a big one,” Oscamou added. “We’re looking forward to leading the way with true innovation in this emerging category, utilizing FDA-compliant processes to ensure consumers know exactly what they’re getting every time their daily stresses rear up.”

Hemp legalization will also lend support to what is already becoming a multi-billion-dollar American agriculture industry, according to Bruce Perlowin, CEO of Hemp, Inc., a U.S.-based hemp cultivator.

“As an example, we project that a massive back-to-the land movement will be in full force by mid-summer of 2019 … because the back-to-the land population will now have a solid economic basis in industrial hemp to rely on,” Perlowin said. “This will be an incredible boon for the American small family farm. Our strategy has been to partner with farmers across the country in states where hemp cultivation and manufacturing is legal, to provide them with the infrastructure needed to make a profit off this incredible crop.”

“While how long it has taken is disappointing, it is exciting to see hemp back in the fold as a main cash crop opportunity for American farmers,” added Jeffrey M. Zucker, co-founder and president of Green Lion Partners. “Hemp is an environmentally friendly, sustainable resource that is incredibly versatile. In addition to this being a win for farmers, it is a boon for Americans as a whole to receive expanded access to hemp products.”

And cultivating hemp can also help eliminate contaminants in the soil, Joseph added.

“Hemp is very useful for ‘phyto-remediation,’” he said. “Hemp has the highest ability to ‘bioaccumulate’ and degrade harmful contaminants in soil, water and air. Toxic heavy metals and organic pollutants are great targets for hemp phyto-remediation … Hemp will absorb [pollutants] voraciously, neutralize them and break them down into harmless components. This is a very exciting environmental benefit to hemp cultivation that is hardly mentioned.”

Hemp research will likely also ramp up as restrictions on the plant are loosened.

“The health and wellness industries are in for a major overhaul with the massive research and development and exploration into CBD, CBG, CBN and 113 other cannabinoids, as well as some 300 terpenes found in the industrial hemp plant,” Perlowin said.

“Hemp is incredibly versatile, and for so long it’s had a bad reputation because of the stigma around marijuana,” added Derek Riedle, publisher of Civilized. “For decades, the government hasn’t been able to distinguish between the two plants—it’s like having a twin brother who breaks the rules, but you get in trouble, too. Now that the realities of cannabis are coming to light, we will finally be able to unleash the full potential of hemp here in the U.S.”

And with a federally legal industrial hemp industry across the U.S., the passage of the Farm Bill could also represent a step toward the federal legalization of marijuana, according to Dan Anglin, DEO of CannAmerica.

“This news is substantial for all of America’s hemp and CBD companies, and as a veteran of the more complicated THC-marijuana industry, I’m encouraged about what this could mean for the federal future of marijuana and cannabis products in the U.S.A

Vertical Farming/Hemp Farming

Ralph talks to Dickson Despommier about “vertical farming,” how to raise farm crops in tall inner-city buildings.  And hemp lobbyist, Eric Steenstra, tells us about his ongoing efforts to convince Congress to make hemp farming legal.

about his ongoing efforts to convince Congress to make hemp farming legal.

dr dickerson


Dr. Dickson Despommier is a microbiologist, an ecologist, and emeritus professor of Public and Environmental Health at Columbia University. For twenty-seven years, he conducted research on cellular and molecular parasitism and held lectures and courses on Parasitic Disease, Medical Ecology and Ecology. From one of these courses, he founded the root for his idea of raising crops in tall buildings; vertical farming. In 2010, he published his widely received book: The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century.

Eric Steenstra


For the past decade, Eric Steenstra has been the Executive Director of the Hemp Industries Association, a non-profit trade association representing businesses, farmers, researchers and investors working with industrial hemp.  In 2000, Mr. Steenstra pioneered the cofounding of Vote Hemp of which he remains President.  Under his leadership, Vote Hemp has become the nation’s foremost hemp lobbying organization, working towards full re-commercialization of industrial hemp.

Audio Player

Asheville’s Blake Butler new executive director of N.C. Industrial Hemp Association

Author:  Community Bulletint:  Published:   

Blake Butler

Press release from the North Carolina Industrial Hemp Association:

The Board of the North Carolina Industrial Hemp Association (NCIHA) is pleased to announce the appointment of Blake Butler as Executive Director. Butler, a partner in Adapt Public Relations in Asheville, will fill the duties on a part-time basis until the end of the year and then transition to full-time beginning January 1, 2019.

North Carolina finished 2017 with more growers, acres, and processors than any other state in its first year of hemp production. With possible federal legalization of hemp on the horizon, it’s critical that North Carolina positions itself in this emerging industry.

Said NCIHA President Marty Clemons, “Blake joins us at a time of great transition for the industrial hemp industry and the NCIHA. We are confident he is the voice we need as we all work together to add more value for Association members and make North Carolina the industry gold standard.”

The NCIHA is a 501(c)(6) trade organization with over 1,000 members that represents all the stakeholders helping to build a thriving hemp industry in North Carolina. It was also responsible for the lobbying effort behind the passage of the North Carolina Industrial Hemp Pilot Program in 2015.

With experience in politics, media, and public relations, Butler brings a diversity of experience to this position. Additionally, he is the co-founder of HempX, which has organized hemp educational events and workshops in multiple Southern states since 2015.

“Bob Crumley, Jeff Cartonia and some of the early adopters have done an incredible job in growing this organization,” said Butler. “I plan to build on that success and continue to work with hemp farmers, entrepreneurs, and businesses across the state.”

The Association will move its offices to Asheville, with plans to open an additional office in Raleigh early next year. To learn more about the NCIHA and how to become a member, visit

Is the Utility-Scale Solar Industry in a Finance Bubble?


“It can’t run red-hot forever.” Industry experts voice questions and concerns about dirt-cheap, shorter-term PPAs.

Residual value used to be “the gravy” on top of existing PPA returns. It’s now being treated as a primary revenue stream.

Residual value used to be “the gravy” on top of existing PPA returns. It’s now being treated as a primary revenue stream.

The utility-scale solar market has gotten “frothy” in the last year and a half.

A flood of new investors, like pension funds and insurance companies, now view solar as a stable asset. That “wall of money” going after a smaller pool of projects has created a market so competitive that many sponsors are willing to accept lower-than-average returns. Power-purchase agreement prices have also fallen to new lows, and contract terms have gotten shorter.

Industry financial experts say, taken together, those trends have led to a mispricing of risk for what Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables has called “dirt-cheap, shorter-term PPAs.” Now, sponsors are looking at a market with tight returns and potentially risky exposure to a project’s post-PPA residual value.

The phenomenon has some in the industry concerned about a renewables pricing bubble — where a reliance on future modeled electricity pricing may shock the market.

“There’s no shortage of uncertainty about what residual value will look like. What has become a more relevant trend is the extent to which asset owners’ returns are reliant on residual value as opposed to the revenue they generate during the power-purchase agreement term,” said Cory Honeyman, director of solar research at Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables. “That is a risk factor that has not been covered to the extent that it should within the market.”

While nearly everyone GTM spoke to agreed there’s some reason for concern, the extent of those feelings varied. Some see these themes as big and important unknowns. Others say they’re a consideration, but ultimately just a part of the industry’s push for continued growth.

“A Wild West situation”

According to WoodMac’s latest solar project finance report, the number of active asset owners in the utility-scale solar market has steadily increased in recent years. Sixty-eight new sponsors entered the market in 2017, the highest number ever, according to WoodMac’s tracking (the firm has not released a number for new entrants in 2018, but expects it to be comparable or higher).

At the same time, Keith Martin, an attorney at Norton Rose Fulbright specializing in tax and project finance, said 2018 brought a “general pullback” on projects from developers, due to tax reform and tariff uncertainty.

“You had this wall of money looking for projects and not finding many of them,” he said.

That’s led to stiff competition for the projects that do exist.

“Here’s the analogy that sits in my head when I think about this: It’s kind of like a Wild West situation. Everyone is out there fending for themselves. You have all these investors that are like, ‘How do I get my hands on the next solar project?’ Everyone is bringing their knives out, whatever they came to the fight with,” said Richard Matsui, CEO at kWh Analytics, a firm that specializes in risk management for solar investments. “The aggressive guys win the deal right now.”

What “aggressive” means for newer investors — which often have lower costs of capital — is a willingness to accept lower returns, which puts pressure on everyone else in the market to shift their standards as well.

“We’re in part of a cycle where people tend to overpay for things, ultimately,” said Chris Archer, who leads the team at Macquarie Capital that invests in clean energy.

“The volume of capital that’s come into that market…has really raised the risk profile.”

Who that risk impacts the most depends on a project’s financing — and who’s left holding the bag at the end of its functional life.

From “gravy” to a main dish

That risk stems in part from changing expectations for power-purchase agreements.

“The number of projects with long-term busbar PPAs has not been growing as rapidly as the capital side has been growing,” said Matsui. “In fact, PPAs are getting shorter.”

Shortened PPAs mean that a project has a tighter window to hit its required returns, which usually range from 6 to 8 percent. What’s more, PPA prices are dropping to new lows, with a handful of deals now signed at less than $25 per megawatt-hour.

To cope with the impacts of those trends, the WoodMac report notes, project sponsors are increasingly relying on over half of their returns coming from the post-PPA period, otherwise known as residual value. That forces sponsors to take a gamble on merchant power price forecasts that extend 15 to 20 years in the future.

WoodMac’s Honeyman said residual value used to be “the gravy” on top of existing returns. It’s now being treated as a primary revenue stream.

Davis said investors are “pricing operating assets to perfection” to make sure projects pencil out economically.

“Everything has got to line up in order to achieve…somewhat modest returns, which doesn’t give you a lot of room for problems,” he said.

And the market, which is still maturing, is likely to change in the next two decades.

“Personally, I think these assumptions that are being made are far more aggressive than what the investors think they are getting from a risk standpoint,” Davis added.

Today’s gambles

Project finance experts say the market dynamics have pushed project sponsors to bank on returns that may be overly reliant on forward electricity price curves which may not come to pass.

Katherine Ryzhaya, chief commercial officer at solar developer Lightsource BP, said that, because merchant prices may not meet expectations, her team is more careful in dealing with projects that may rely on residual value.

She said Lightsource has continued to focus on 20- and 25-year deals. “That’s still our view that those are the better deals, rather than putting all our chips in the merchant market.”

“Our general market view is that the merchant curves are aggressive,” she added. “Do we [cut] merchant exposure here for our internal models? Yes, we do. And we’ll give a more substantive [cut] to projects that have longer merchant exposure.”

Several firms create the electricity price forecasts that developers and investors use, including Wood Mackenzie (the parent company of Greentech Media). WoodMac’s current model shows prices remaining mostly flat through the 2020s; the firm projects price growth in the 2030s.

But Robert Whaley, a principal analyst in North American power and renewables for WoodMac, said those curves rely on the assumption of a carbon price starting in the late 2020s. That, along with WoodMac’s gas price assumption, is the most significant variable in its pricing model. But if Congress doesn’t pass a carbon price in the next decade — and tangible federal momentum is currently severely lacking — Whaley said prices over the next 20 years remain “much flatter.”

Because of those variables, Whaley said the firm provides several high and low cases, with a price spread.

“It’s quite wide, looking at all the variables. That’s why we try to provide sensitivities so people can get a sense of how volatile these forward projections are,” he said. “The model itself is based in reality as much as we can make it.”

But Whaley also noted that developers seem so eager to get into the market before the projected price growth kicks off that they may be willing to take a loss on near-term contracts to crowd out the competition.

“They’re making some gambles today off of project price growth in the future,” he said. “Obviously, it’s risky, because of all the variables we talked about.”

Though Whaley presented the price curves as a range that’s subject to change, many said the sponsors that use the price projections are relying on growth.

“The market is behaving as if that’s gospel truth,” said Matsui at kWh Analytics.

The fallout

When working in tandem, the themes now shaping the market have created challenges and uncertainty for utility-scale solar. But Davis suggests any potential “bubble” may just be par for the course.

“Potentially, there is a bubble, and you can say that about many markets over time,” he said. “If you look at the renewables sector, you’ve had…a favorable regulatory environment in terms of incentives. You’ve had a declining cost curve that has been supportive of continued penetration in the markets. You’re starting to see a little bit of an evolution toward becoming more merchant-like.”

Some view the current environment as more of a maturation of the industry than an atmosphere of pressure that could lead to a burst bubble. But however one characterizes the current environment, several in the industry say growing pains are coming.

“I would expect, somewhere along the line, some fallout in the industry,” said Davis. “It’s just like an engine: It can’t run-red hot forever.”

Looking ahead, Davis said industry players “need to instill some discipline back into the market.”

Ryzhaya at Lightsource agreed that the market will need to find a way to modulate. She said it needs a strong market signal from investors that the lower cost of capital will also go to longer PPAs. At the same time, she said it’s up to the entire industry to innovate for a new array of counterparties and to get comfortable with the current risk profile for projects.

“It seems that, hopefully, it is a temporary phenomenon, but it also seems like developers whose business model it is to sell into the froth are doing that at extraordinary levels,” said Ryzhaya. “Developers and long-term capital providers need to find a balance between shorter-term contracts and merchant exposure.”

Archer at Macquarie said that in the long-term, the conditions don’t necessarily equate to a threat to the industry, but they do mean change.

“It’s like anything: It’ll take some kind of shock to sort it out,” he said. “There was a bubble in U.S. housing in 2004. It took until 2008 for it to actually burst.”