Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Overheard at the Energy Bar Association Annual Meeting

WASHINGTON — More than 400 FERC officials, energy lawyers and stakeholders attended the Energy Bar Association’s annual meeting last week. Here’s some of what we heard.

Energy Efficiency ‘Most Expensive’ Form of Energy?

energy bar association solar ferc

Nemtzow | © RTO Insider

David Nemtzow, director of building technologies for the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), described energy efficiency as “a Swiss Army knife.”

“The benefits are multiple. … For some people and some users and some policymakers, the environmental benefits are central to energy efficiency. For others, it’s the economic savings. For others, it’s the jobs. It’s all the above.”

Campbell | © RTO Insider

Bill Campbell, general counsel and head of sustainability and structuring for Equilibrium Capital, doesn’t agree with those who say that energy efficiency is the cheapest form of energy.

“We say that because we focus on the amount that’s paid in incentives. In fact, it’s probably the most expensive form of energy on the planet, but that’s OK. The reason it’s the most expensive form of energy on the planet is that every time you subtract a unit that’s saved with energy efficiency, the utility would lose the retail price of that unit. … Recognize that that just establishes the competitive marketplace for efficiency.”

Community Solar Gardens Overhyped?

energy bar association solar ferc

Paulson | © RTO Insider

Minnesota attorney Jeff Paulson, who represents community solar developers, is bullish on distributed energy. But he has heard the naysayers.

“There is a commissioner in the Midwest, who shall go unnamed, who has referred to community solar gardens as ‘the new kale,’ because of the rapid growth in popularity, and [because] we’re attributing so many … benefits that are supposed to be derived from introducing them on your system,” he said. “Maybe some of the talk about community solar gardens is a little hyperbolic. But that doesn’t mean — like kale — that there aren’t some benefits to still be derived.

“It’s a tough market out there right now [for developers] trying to do avoided-cost deals or trying to do utility-scale [projects] in states that are not favorably inclined toward that. This is a huge market opportunity.”

Paulson said he’s been frustrated with the pace of Minnesota regulators’ actions on community solar.

“There’s a lot of good things being done [in Minnesota]. There were [also] a lot of disputes. There was a lot of process,” he said. “I will say that 18 months into that regulatory process I was sitting at the table in front of the commission just screaming for them to shut the heck up and stop trying to make this program perfect. Get it defined. Let us get out in the field and start building projects and getting the financing.”

Incoming EBA President Calls for ‘Civility’

Weishaar | © RTO Insider

Robert Weishaar was elected as the EBA’s new president, succeeding Emma Hand. In lunchtime comments after the transition, Weishaar praised Hand for making “diversity and inclusion a focal point” of her term as president. He pledged to continue the work of Hand and President-elect Matthew Rudolphi, who led a task force that developed what he called the “strong diversity and inclusion initiatives” adopted by the EBA.

“EBA remains dedicated to the value of diverse perspectives,” said Weishaar, an attorney with McNees Wallace & Nurick who represents industrial consumers and owners of cogeneration facilities. “While not losing sight of that core value, we need to focus on another. The current dynamics of our profession and the challenges currently facing our country also demand a recommitment by all EBA members to collegiality and civility in our profession and in our day-to-day [actions].”

Rich Heidorn Jr.

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