Grid of the Future: Opportunities, Challenges, and Solutions in Corporate Energy Procurement

Fundamental changes in the way that the electric utility and power sector operates, interacts with customers, and relates to its regulators are occurring on a massive scale and at an unprecedented pace. Covington is committed to exploring these transformations affecting the power sector, helping our clients to understand and navigate the changes, and fostering collaborations to respond to the evolving nature of the power grid.

To this end, Covington has hosted a series of conversations with key thought leaders in industry and government to address the ramifications of these transformations. The first two conversations in the fall of 2015 focused on both the technology that underlies and enables these changes, and the response of the regulatory framework to the rise of distributed generation and a far more nimble and customer-oriented array of electricity services. A summary of these conversations can be found here.

On October 5, 2016 Covington, in collaboration with the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) and Advanced Energy Economy (AEE), hosted a conversation devoted to the issue of corporate energy procurement. Senior representatives of corporations, utilities, developers, government agencies and NGOs participated in person and by webinar. Followers on Twitter joined the conversation at #CovingtonGOTF. Highlights of the discussion appear below with a link to the full audio replay.

October 5, 2016 – Covington’s Washington, DC Office Corporate Procurement & Renewable Energy: Market Overview (click here for the recording)

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FERC Considering Changes to Standards of Review for Acquisitions and Mergers

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently launched an initiative that could result in significant changes to the standards used for analyzing whether mergers and acquisitions are in the public interest.  In a September 22, 2016 Notice of Inquiry (NOI), FERC identified several broad areas in which its current policies may need reform, made a few suggestions and asked for public comment.  Depending on the comments received, a formal rulemaking initiative could result.

Given the significant volume of acquisitions of securities and facilities in the electricity industry that require FERC review, this NOI may mark the first step in policy changes that would affect a wide range of industry participants. Continue Reading

“Financial CHOICE Act” Approved by House Financial Services Committee

On September 13, 2016 the Financial CHOICE Act was approved by the House Financial Services Committee by a vote of 30-26.  The bill would overhaul regulation of the financial markets and is an important development for derivatives market participants, including energy companies.  For example, the bill would alter the functioning of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”), by:

  • Requiring development of procedures governing no-action and other exemptive relief, including a requirement that the commissioners have the opportunity to review any responses to a request for relief.
  • Require notice-and-comment before issuance of policy statements, guidance, interpretive rules, or other procedural rules.
  • Allowing for judicial review of CFTC rules, along the lines of that allowed for Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) rules.

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EU Adopts New Guidance on Environmental Claims

The EU recently published a Guidance on Compliance Criteria on Environmental Claims (“Environmental Claims Guidance”).  The Guidance is intended to support economic operators and EU Member State enforcement authorities in  their application and implementation of the principles of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (“UCP Directive”) to self-declared environmental claims and related graphics and imagery.  The UCP Directive establishes principles to prevent unfair commercial practices that may harm the commercial interests of consumers. Continue Reading

Upcoming European Chemical Restrictions in Apparel Raise Concerns

The European Commission intends to ban the use in apparel of hundreds of Cat. 1A and 1B carcinogenic, mutagenic and toxic for reproduction substances (“CMRs”) within the next year. To do so, the Commission expects to use the so-called “fast-track” procedure to ban CMRs under Regulation 1907/2006 (“REACH Regulation”), instead of the standard procedure for prohibiting substances. Historically, the fast-track procedure has been reserved for mixtures that contain CMRs and are intended for the general public.  The Commission has indicated that its proposal to ban the use of CMRs in apparel is a “test-case” of its intention to also ban Cat. 1A and 1B CMRs in articles (i.e., objects) intended for consumers on a regular basis in the near future.  This fast-track procedure allows less scientific input from the European Chemicals Agency (“ECHA”) and industry, and the related restrictions would create significant barriers to international trade.  Continue Reading

OEHHA Requires Proposition 65 Warnings for BPA, Including for Items Sold Over the Internet

California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) recently took a further step toward expanding the scope of state Proposition 65 regulations to out-of-state online retailers that sell into California when it issued an emergency regulation under Proposition 65 for canned and bottled foods and beverages containing bisphenol A (BPA).[1] The emergency regulation provides recommended “safe harbor” warning language for products containing BPA, a substance commonly used to line food containers, including metal cans, bottle caps, and jar lids, and requires retailers—including online retailers if the products are offered for sale in California—to place warnings at checkout areas explaining that exposure to BPA is known to cause reproductive harm to women. Continue Reading

Strict DoD Sourcing Requirements for PV Devices

As part of an ongoing Department of Defense (“DoD”) effort to increase its energy efficiency,  late last month the U.S. Army committed to develop its largest renewable energy project to date — a 65MW  wind and solar  project at Fort Hood.  This ambitious project will need to comply with the latest DoD rules regarding sourcing requirements for photovoltaic (“PV”) devices.  We previously analyzed the proposed rule issued by DoD in May 2015 that placed stricter sourcing requirements on PV devices.  Toward the end of last year, DoD issued a final rule implementing the requirements of the proposed rule with relatively minimal, but still notable, changes.  The solicitation for the Fort Hood project was amended to add the updated DFARS clause implementing this final rule.  The final rule tightens the sourcing restrictions for PV devices and may raise some compliance challenges for contractors. Continue Reading

U.S. Supreme Court Confirms FERC’s Broad Jurisdictional Reach over Demand Response and other Activities that Affect Wholesale Electricity Markets

In FERC v. EPSA, issued on January 25, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in a 6-2 decision, that FERC has jurisdiction under the Federal Power Act (FPA) to regulate demand response transactions in wholesale electricity markets administered by independent system operators (ISOs) and regional transmission organizations (RTOs).  The Court also upheld, as reasoned decision-making, FERC’s determination that ISOs/RTOs should pay the same compensation (i.e., the market clearing price) to generators and demand response resources participating in the day-ahead and real-time energy auction markets.  In so holding, the Supreme Court may have paved the way for FERC to provide regulatory incentives for other emerging electricity transactions and practices that blur the historical distinction between FERC-regulated wholesale sales and state-regulated retail sales. Continue Reading