California utilities are concerned that a transportation electrification framework proposed by the state’s Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) could actually slow down the state’s progress with putting electric vehicles on the road, according to comments filed with the agency last Friday. The framework, proposed by the CPUC’s energy division last month, would require utilities to file 10-year plans for investing in EV infrastructure. But the proposal’s limitations on investments that can be made before the plans are finalized amount to “an effective five-year freeze,” according to San Diego Gas & Electric. Several parties have filed a motion with the commission asking for a stay against the proposed framework and time to pitch alternative frameworks of their own.
Solar developers working in the U.S. have spent years refining their plans to secure the federal Investment Tax Credit for as much of their pipeline as possible by “safe-harboring” projects in advance of the step-down taking place. As long as developers meet certain criteria, projects brought online after the step-down begins can still secure a 30 percent tax credit. But even the most carefully laid plans didn’t account for COVID-19. As of March 10, most cases of the virus have been reported in China, the epicenter of solar manufacturing. Extended factory shutdowns in February had the solar industry bracing for possible impact. For many U.S. solar developers, spending 5 percent of a project’s total cost on modules and other equipment became the preferred safe-harbor method. Now, some industry watchers worry that delays caused by COVID-19 may force companies to choose between running down their module supply stowed in warehouses or making force majeure claims on some projects.
Renewables will soon cover one-quarter of total electricity capacity in the U.S. as an influx of nearly 50 gigawatts comes online within three years, according to recent analysis of government data by Sun Day Campaign. The Virginia-based campaigner group pointed at figures published by federal energy watchdog FERC last Thursday, showing that the lion’s share of net capacity additions in the U.S. by the end of 2022 will be wind (26.4 gigawatts), solar (19.973 gigawatts), and natural gas (21.09 gigawatts). As of December 31, 2019, only one new oil generator was being developed in the U.S., and there were no coal plants under construction. On the other hand, 690 utility-scale (rated 1 megawatt or greater) of solar projects totaling 19,973 megawatts were under construction at the close of 2019.
The Solana Energy Alliance, which opened for business in 2018 as the first CCA in San Diego County, is on the verge of bumping up its rates to practically the same level as San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E). A combination of factors has put a financial burden on the CCA’s operations including steeper exit fees that all CCA customers across the state have to pay and the market demand for renewable energy leading to an uptick in costs. The Solana Energy Alliance currently offers a default plan, made up of energy sources that are 50 percent renewable and 75 percent carbon-free, to customers that is 3 percent cheaper than the rate offered by SDG&E. To improve the financial figures, the city staff has proposed shaving the discount compared to what SDG&E charges. The five members of the city council — who also serve as board members of the CCA — discussed will vote March 25 on which direction to take.
Legislation in Arizona would establish recycling requirements for end-of-life solar panels, directing manufacturers to create a recycling program or face a per-panel fee at point-of-sale. HB 2828, introduced last month by Arizona Rep. Mark Finchem, enacts a landfill ban on solar panels and electric vehicle batteries and requires them to be recycled at approved processing sites. The bill covers solar panels in residential, commercial, and industrial use. The bill has passed out of the Arizona House Natural Resources, Energy, and Water committee and the House Rules Committee. The bill will next go before the full House chamber for a vote.
A proposal to pump water out of Nevada’s fragile Walker Lake to generate hydropower to sell in California won preliminary approval from federal regulators. Last Friday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a preliminary permit and granting priority to file for the proposed Walker Lake Pumped Storage Project. The permit doesn’t authorize developers to move dirt or build at the proposed site, but it gives Premium Energy Holdings, LLC., of Walnut, California, approval to continue studying the idea. Premium Energy says the project could generate 2,000 megawatts capacity that could be attached to the grid and moved to Sylmar, California, near Los Angeles. But in Nevada the idea is generating widespread opposition from native people, residents in Mineral County, and environmental groups.
Intermountain Power Agency (IPA) has awarded Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS) a contract for two M501JAC power trains. The gas turbines will go into the Intermountain Power Plant in Delta, Utah, and become part of the facility’s transition to natural gas, hydrogen-gas mix, and, ultimately, 100 percent renewable hydrogen power generation. From 2025 to 2045, the hydrogen capacity will be systematically increased to 100 percent renewable hydrogen, according to a press release. The renewed generation facility will be owned by IPA and operated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.