Category Archives: Renewable Energy

Trump Administration Repeals Obama-era Fracking Rules

The Trump Administration’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) published in the Federal Registry on December 29, 2017 a revision to reverse a 2015 rule that contained strict standards for how one performs hydraulic fracking on public lands.

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/12/29/2017-28211/oil-and-gas-hydraulic-fracturing-on-federal-and-indian-lands-rescission-of-a-2015-rule

For the Administration, this is part of their ongoing effort to rollback regulations and to encourage domestic energy production that will reduce energy costs for businesses.
This final rule is a rescission of most of the Obama-era rule whose effective date was June 24, 2015, which contained standards for fracking operations on public lands, including identifying the chemicals and the nature of the mixture of water, sand and chemicals injected to loosen shale oil and gas from rocks where it has adhered. It also contains standards to reduce the chance of contact between the mixture and underground supplies of drinking water.
This brings the debate about fracking back to the fore.

While oil and gas companies and their supporters want greater freedom to perform fracking operations, environmentalists were split. Some wanted an absolute ban on fracking, as they desire a carbon-free future and have an energy future dominated by renewable energy. Others understood that promoting natural gas, which emits greenhouse gases at about half the rate of coal, and enabling it to be plentiful and cheap in order to displace coal, leading to progress in meeting climate change goals and eventually be replaced by renewables as its costs decline in the future. Obama Administration leaders took this latter tack, encouraging fracking to reduce energy prices, yet protecting the environment and public health, too.

In opposition to this, oil and gas developers argued their fracking processes were continually improving over time and there was little evidence of harming drinking water supplies. These groups sued to stop the 2015 fracking regulation without success. With the new administration more sympathetic to oil and gas company concerns, it was a matter of time until the Obama rule would be repealed or altered. Oil and gas companies understood that many states had its own regulations protecting drinking water supply and the local environment, and were willing to comply with each state’s rules as they work in those states.

CCES has the experts to keep you up-to-date with technical interpretations of federal and state and city rules on energy and make sure you get the best information. Marc Karell, P.E., Principal of CCES will speak about recent new New York City energy rules at the New York State Bar Association Annual Meeting on Thurs., Jan. 25 at 9:20 am. See http://www.nysba.org/am2018/ for more details.

USEPA Announces 2018 Renewable Fuel Standards

On December 12, 2017, the USEPA published in the Federal Register final volume requirements and associated percentage standards for its renewable fuel standards (RFS) program for calendar year 2018, as well as the biomass-based diesel volume requirement for 2019. See: https://www.epa.gov/renewable-fuel-standard-program/final-renewable-fuel-standards-2018-and-biomass-based-diesel-volume

As can be seen in the table below, he annual volume quotas for how much renewable fuel must be added to gasoline and diesel are virtually unchanged from 2017. These values set national standards for distributors to reduce the overall use of petroleum-based fuel.

Final Volume Requirements                     2017            2018            2019
Cellulosic biofuel (million gallons)           311               288                 –
Biomass-based diesel (billion gallons)       2.0                2.1              2.1
Advanced biofuel (billion gallons)              4.28              4.29              –
Renewable fuel (billion gallons)               19.28            19.29              –

The reaction to this was mixed. Many had feared that the USEPA would reverse the trend and lower significantly the required introduction of various biofuel, which current leadership sees as a hindrance to business. For them this is a victory.

However, many in the renewable fuel industry saw keeping requirements pretty much flat as harmful to business growth. The National Biodiesel Board and the governor of at least one corn-growing state complained that keeping requirements flat would harm many U.S. business sectors, including farmers, producers, truckers, and consumers.

Meanwhile, the petroleum industry was also disappointed with the flat RFS volumes of the coming year, and that the USEPA’s failed to repair a flawed program that answers to corn and other interests.

CCES has the energy experts to help you assess your fuel and electricity sources to maximize financial benefits and to strategize to ensure you have reliable fuel sources. Contact us today at karell@CCESworld.com or at 914-584-6720.

Address Your Peak Demand To Really Reduce Costs

It used to be that a building utilized an electricity meter, which recorded how much electricity was entering the building during a month (billing cycle), it would be recorded, and the building owner would be charged for that electricity used (in kilowatt-hours). Simple: the more usage, the more one would pay. But some time ago that changed for many utilities. As the economy grew and technology grew, electricity demand rose greatly. However, keeping up with the growth in demand became a challenge due to more farflung buildings and infrastructure upgrades to provide power. For many utilities, it is possible that they cannot deliver electricity to all users in an area, especially during peak demand, which is a hot, summer afternoon when there is maximum usage of air conditioning. Technology has made this worse. For example, people can be comfortable and well air conditioned in their offices and with their smart phones, at the same time, start their air conditioners at home, so the house is comfortable when they walk in.

Being thus challenged, utilities began to confer an additional charge to certain customers for peak demand in addition to the electric usage charge. Having a very high demand (in kilowatts) for a short period – even for just 15 minutes – in a one-month cycle can become very costly. In fact, utilities often charge for peak demand on a sliding scale, with the highest such charges being conferred in the summer. Therefore, while a robust energy audit to reduce usage is a good thing, such an audit should reveal opportunities to also reduce that peak demand, as well.

To address the issue of peak demand, first study your electric bills and see for yourself what your peak demand charges are. How high are they? What rates does your utility use? What has been your historic peak electric rate (peak kW) and how does it vary by season? Once that is better understood, here are some inexpensive, but effective strategies to reduce the peak energy costs, yet still serve your building power needs.

Let’s use an actual example. A large building’s July electric bill indicates a peak demand of 136 kW during one short period due to several rooftop air conditioning units cooling most of the building, many rooms being lit, and a number of laptops, flatscreen TVs, and other plug load operating. The building owner pays $35 per peak kW, a very high rate

Reduce Usage – Reducing usage, of course, not only reduces that charge, but also your peak demand and charge. Simple example: a building replaces 100 fluorescents of 40 watts each with 100 LEDs of 16 watts each. Assuming 50 hours/week of operation, the reduction is 2.4 kW in peak demand and 520 kWh in usage per month. At $35/kW and $0.08/kWh, savings is over $125/month, with three-quarters of this from reducing peak demand. If building can de-lamp fixtures or dim LEDs, savings would be greater.

Modify Scheduling – This building is incurring this high peak demand cost because it is operating many energy intensive processes simultaneously. Modifying the schedule can alleviate this problem of multiple equipment operating, if certain equipment can cycle off during peak hours. Can the rooftop units be rotated such that there is no period when all are operating simultaneously? In other words, operate a couple of them earlier in the day and have them turned off during a particular hot period, but the rooms have been cooled sufficiently for comfort. A building management system (BMS) can be programmed to effect such a solution, such as turning off certain rooftop units during peak times and dimming certain lights, especially those near windows receiving sunlight. For example, a “typical” 20-ton rooftop unit has a demand of 24 kW of power (the actual number depends on its efficiency). If a BMS can ensure that 2 units are not operating at all times, then that peak demand of every unit being on would be reduced by 48 kW. At $35/kW, this would reduce the peak charge by $1,680, well worth the effort. And this is for one month, although the rate represents the summer months, so over one year, the savings would not be this figure times 12.

A related example of scheduling to reduce peak demand is to implement an HVAC scheduling program taking into account the predicted weather to turn on certain units during the night, even if the building is unoccupied, instead of a custodian turning on all of the units at the start of the day. This is applicable to both cooling (air conditioning) and to electric heating. Operating an electric heating unit when it may be very cold at night and the building is not occupied may increase usage slightly, but will reduce the need to use it during occupancy, and, thus, given high demand rates, will reduce peak demand and thus, reduce overall electric costs, even if overall usage rises slightly.

Peak Shaving – Another way to reduce electric demand in a peak period is to create electricity during other time periods to use during what would normally be your peak demand. During periods of low electricity demand, the building can charge batteries with electricity from the grid. Then during times of high electric demand, the building can use the stored electricity instead of having it provided then. Between the capital costs of the batteries and the loss of some electricity in time, this can be a costly option, but it may be economical if the building pays a high peak demand rate. This can also be applied specifically to cooling. Chillers can create ice at night, which is a cooling energy storage. Air can then flow through the ice to provide cooling for the building during a period of peak use, while using little electricity (just for the fans, not to make the cool air).

Alternative Energy – Renewable power, such as solar PV and wind can help reduce peak demand charges, as such sources of power does not require electricity from the grid. Whatever electricity is produced by the solar array is less to be supplied by the utility. Two negatives. One, such systems are expensive to install. Also, they depend on the presence of sun (or wind). If there is a hot day calling for a high cooling demand, but it is also cloudy, then the solar panels cannot produce the needed electricity to meet the basic building demand. Thus, there is no reduction in peak demand from the utility, and the building owner pays the same high demand charge as before.

CCES has the expertise to help your building or company reduce your energy costs, whether it be the usage or the demand portion. We can help you devise strategies to fit your needs for reliable power, while minimizing those high demand costs. Contact us today at karell@CCESWorld.com or at 914-584-6720.

Update on Energy – October 2017

October 2017 has been an eventful month in US energy news.

Trump Administration Takes Steps to Repeal Clean Power Plan

On October 10, the Trump Administration’s USEPA submitted a proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which mandates 32% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030, undoing a signature achievement of the previous administration. The proposed change would repeal the CPP entirely, not just the portions that the Administration disagrees with. While the agency has said it will submit a future ”carbon” rule, it did not give any details of when that might be. Therefore, many think this represents repeal, but not replace, of CPP. While some commentators believe the CPP usurps the rights of states to regulate energy and would force a shift from coal, others say that CPP does provide states flexibility on how to comply with the greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction requirements. Even USEPA Administrator Scott Pruitt acknowledges that GHGs must be regulated due to the “endangerment” rulings made by the Supreme Court in 2007 and 2014; greenhouse gases meet the legal definition of an “air pollutant”, and the Clean Air Act requires its regulation to reduce emissions.

However, the impact of a repeal of CPP, if it survives the inevitable lawusits, is hard to determine. The US has already succeeded in reducing GHG emissions by 13% in the last 9 years, mainly because of a shift from coal to natural gas and growth in renewable energy (both due to market prices). Certainly more and more companies are learning that using cleaner fuels and energy conservation result in major, multiple financial benefits. The recent major storms, some of which were acknowledged to be exacerbated by Climate Change, impact businesses. Between these two, it will be interesting to see how business interests react to the potential elimination of the CPP and disincentives toward clean and renewable power.

USDOE Directs FERC to Issue Rules Supporting Nuclear, Coal

On September 29, USDOE Secretary Rick Perry directed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to undertake rulemaking to enable generation assets in regional transmission organizations and independent systems operators to receive payments for reliability and resiliency benefits viewed as uncompensated under current market rules. If adopted, the proposed rule would provide revenue to coal and nuclear generators by allowing cost-based recovery, independent of normal market forces counteracting market forces that have recently have exerted significant downward pressure on rates. Coal producers and nuclear facilities would receive payments just for being “there” in case of an emergency, even if they are not used to supply a utility with electricity. Secretary Perry considers this a security issue, as making coal and nuclear sources more viable would raise the reliability of the US’s electric grid in case of market changes and its resiliency in case of severe storms or conditions. Others feel that this is a way to support the coal and nuclear industries; pay fees for not producing electricity. The proposed rule must be implemented by FERC, not USDOE; thus, it may take some time to go into effect.

Utility-Scale Solar Costs Fell 29% Last Year

A recent National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) report showed that utility-scale solar costs fell 29% last year to roughly $35/MWh. This continues a trend as utility-scale solar power purchase agreement (PPA) costs have dropped nearly 75% since 2009. The report can be found: https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy17osti/68925.pdf. The USDOE Laboratory based its study on 189 PPAs nationwide totaling nearly 11,800 MW. The cost decline is attributed to lower equipment component costs, improving efficiency of converting sunlight to electricity, and lower labor costs. The NREL study indicates that USDOE’s SunShot Initiative (https://energy.gov/eere/sunshot/sunshot-initiative) has already reached its 2020 cost target for utility-scale solar systems three years early. The report offered that the rate of cost reduction is declining; however, the growing flexibility given by new battery storage projects attached to utility-scale solar will only grow utility-scale solar project’s value.

CCES can help your company with technical issues concerning energy whether it be how to maximize financial benefits of being more energy efficient and how to have your energy system serve you more reliably and resiliently. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

U.S. Climate Change News October 2017

Trump Administration Takes Steps To Repeal the Clean Power Plan. On October 10, 2017, USEPA Administrator Scott Pruitt submitted to the Federal Register proposed legislation to repeal the Clean Power Plan, President Obama’s signature legislation to significantly reduce U.S. greenhouse gases (GHG) by developing stringent GHG emission standards for power production. As coal-fired power plants cannot reasonably meet these emission standards. The USEPA believes it is unfair to have legislation to target a particular fuel type, and began the repeal process to encourage growth in coal usage from U.S. mines. This is quite controversial as coal, a high emitter of GHGs, as well as other and toxic compounds, is still a major source of energy in the U.S. electric industry. By encouraging coal production and use, the U.S. would be hard-pressed to meet the Paris Climate Accord goals, although President Trump has already announced that the U.S. will leave the Accord anyway. In addition, much has been written that this move may make little difference, as other economic factors makes coal a non-ideal choice as a fuel for a utility (see below), such as the declining cost of building and operating a renewable plant. The public has 60 days from initial publication in the Federal Register to comment after which the USEPA must respond before making the repeal official.

States, Cities And Private Businesses Put U.S. Halfway To Paris Climate Accord Goal. According to a study released on September 25 by New Climate Institute and the Climate Group, efforts to address climate change by states, cities and corporations have already put the U.S. halfway toward its Paris Accord climate goal despite the current Administration’s attempt to reverse recent federal efforts. The study estimated that such efforts will cause GHG emissions to drop by 12-14% below the 2005 baseline by 2025. The study, based on certified data from the Carbon Disclosure Project, found that U.S. private sector commitments were the biggest factor in reducing GHG emissions. The decline in emissions are being caused mainly by these commitments of switching from fossil fuel combustion to renewable power.

First State-Wide, Economy-Wide Carbon Tax Is Proposed. Earlier this year, a bill was introduced in the Massachusetts House and another in the Senate that would establish a tax on fossil fuels with the goals to reduce GHG emissions and return the proceeds to consumers and businesses. https://malegislature.gov/Bills/190/H1726. Both bills would impose an initial tax of $10 or $20 per ton of CO2 emissions, rising to $40 per ton in the future. Several years ago, the USEPA estimated that the cost of a ton of GHG emissions was about $42 per ton, which was why they chose this endpoint. It was understood it needed to be approached gradually. Both bills require refunding of some or all of the tax proceeds to households and businesses.
It is estimated that should either bill become law the price of gasoline and heating fuel in Massachusetts would eventually rise by about 35 cents per gallon. The bills contain rebate programs to incentivize energy efficiency, rewarding businesses or households that reduce energy usage per employee (or member), not just energy usage as a whole.

Currently, Massachusetts enforces GHG reduction rules targeted to power plants. However, with electric generation comprising just 28% of GHG emissions in Massachusetts, legislators felt it was time to regulate other sectors, as well, particularly, the transportation sector, which accounts for about 30% of statewide GHG emissions.

While certain business groups are concerned about competitiveness and disproportionate impacts, the bills have many co-sponsors. Therefore, it is likely that some such bill will pass and with a sympathetic governor, a carbon tax would become law in Massachusetts, perhaps signed in 2018, going into initial effect in 2019.

CCES has the technical experts to help you assess your energy needs and help you be more energy efficient, which has many financial benefits, including preparing for future carbon taxes or monetization of GHG emission credits. Contact us today and we can help at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

Why Energy Should Be Incorporated As Part of Your Company’s Strategy

It’s approaching the end of the year, which means self-evaluation of your company. What went well; what did not. What can be changed or should be incorporated to ensure growth moving forward? Historically, companies focus on sales and profits. Look at the headlines in major business journals: “XYZ Reports Auto Sales Jumped by X% In 1 Year”, etc. Expenses are pretty important, but the one that most companies seem to focus on is labor, as in how can it be lowered (lay off workers, increase automation, etc.). While companies cumulatively spend billions on energy annually, that expense is considered a fixed expense with little need for managing. This is a mistake. Companies can reduce energy costs and at the same time reduce risk and improve resilience.

Energy should be more important to a corporation given the fixed supply of it and issues involving regulations due to environmental, climate change, and business trends. Companies can now make choices about its energy sources and usage that it could not have made before with impacts on profit, costs, and flexibility. This is exemplified by the shift in the U.S. from traditional industrial manufacturing to more IT, cloud-based services by corporations, where energy costs can be a potential deal breaker.

Sources

Companies now have many more options of where energy comes from than before. A major new force is renewables. Solar, wind, hydro have been around for a while, but major technological advances now make building an operating a solar PV farm comparable to purchasing electricity from the local utility or running your own cogen. With the growing number of states who want to achieve a higher percentage of power derived from renewables and utilities wanting to get more facilities to become independent because of infrastructure concerns, incentives exist to sweeten the pot even more if one wants to invest in renewable power.

Another approach is to look at site-specific approaches and restrictions. You have a specific facility in a certain country or region. What are the sources of energy that are most easily accessible and plentiful in that region? Companies should make sure that equipment is capable of using that fuel or be ready to invest in new plants to secure that energy source. And they should take the long view. Which fuels may be impacted by future climate change rules or by future shortages for political or technical reasons?

Usage

Obviously, reducing usage of a fuel critical for your operations will reduce costs. But doing so will also improve your operational flexibility. If there is a looming shortage of a critical fuel, and you use less of it than your competitors, that flexibility puts you in a more commanding position, needing less. Being able to use more than one type of fuel for critical operations is beneficial, too, and gives your firm tremendous flexibility to ride price upheavals.

An overlooked issue in minimizing energy usage and improve flexibility is treatment of heavy equipment. Boilers, AC equipment, electric generators all need to be maintained and replaced at the appropriate times. It is a positive investment to perform retro-commissioning to maintain that the equipment is operating as you wish it; for you, the owner, to get your money’s worth. Also overlooked is proper training. Sometimes the first to be let go are maintenance workers; they appear not to contribute to the “bottom line”. But good maintenance people and managers (overseeing good procedures) can lengthen the effective life of equipment and keep down usage and costs very effectively.

How-To

A key to getting energy to be taken seriously as a top-of-the-line corporate interest is to have the top person, the CEO, involved. He/she should understand the importance of managing energy in a robust way and what the benefits are to the company’s moving forward. There may be doubters in the C-suite, including people who may not want Energy to “elbow its way” into decision making. But if the CEO understands the ultimate value of considering, tracking, and managing energy sources and usage, then those doubters can be silenced. So invest time in educating the entire C-suite, but particularly the CEO and update him/her on developments.

Make sure that energy is tracked as well as other business items, such as sales, workforce, profits, etc., and is included in business reports. Make sure that gains and benefits are explained and recognized.

CCES can help your company develop a robust energy program to serve your company. Its infrastructure, as well as technical evaluations of strategies to raise its value in the company and to demonstrate financial benefits. Contact us today at karell@CCESworld.com or at 914-584-6720.

Some Environmental Legal Updates – August 2017

Things change so quickly, but here are a few new items that have gone on this summer. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt had been very vocal about how he feels EPA regulations have hurt industry and job creation. Since taking office, he has quietly begun an effort to repeal or not to enforce several Obama-era environmental rules.

On July 3, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit nixed EPA Administrator’s Scott Pruitt’s attempt to delay a rule limiting methane leaks at oil and gas facilities. The rule requires companies digging for natural gas to plug leaks of methane, which would help them recover natural gas they can sell, as well as reduce emissions of a potent greenhouse gas and air pollutant. As part of his effort to ease regulations for industry, Pruitt decided, instead of having the rule repeal, to instead achieve the same end by suspending the rule’s compliance deadlines. The EPA had argued that the Clean Air Act allowed the EPA to do this (temporarily suspend a rule) while considering objections that could not have been raised prior to the rule’s issuance. However, the court found the claim to be false. The objections were clearly shown to have been raised earlier.

Pruitt’s actions to repeal or reduce enforcement of rules have been done very quietly without proper public notice or comment. The Administrative Procedure Act requires EPA to seek and respond to public input before taking major deregulatory steps. But Pruitt has been attempting to bypass that requirement by suspending rules indefinitely without public comment, instead of repealing them. Suspension can only occur for rules before they go into effect. Therefore, he has been successful in only suspending rules that had just been promulgated at the end of the Obama Administration, but had not gone into effect yet.

Once a rule goes into effect, elements of the rule, such as what is compliance and when it goes into effect cannot be suspended or altered without a request for public comment, and serious review of such comment. This has not stopped the EPA from suspending compliance deadlines for several rules after those rules went into effective.

On July 18, 2017, the EPA published in the Federal Register its proposed rule on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Program: Standards for 2018 and Biomass-Based Diesel Volume for 2019. (https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2017-07-21/pdf/2017-14632.pdf). The proposed volume requirements represent decreases from current standards for cellulosic biofuel, advanced biofuel, and renewable fuel. Only the requirements for renewable fuel is essentially the same in 2018 and 2019 compared to 2017. Comments on the proposed rule must be received by August 31, 2017.

While the proposed reduction in the amount of renewable fuel is relatively small, many in the biofuels industry are concerned that it sends the signal to the market that the U.S. renewable fuel industry will no longer grow. The proposed volume requirements may undercut the Administration’s goal of reducing U.S. reliance on foreign energy and reviving U.S. manufacturing, despite President Trump’s repeated pledge to support the ethanol industry.

Please note that this should not be considered a legal interpretation in any way. For further information, speak to a qualified environmental legal representative to fully understand new or modified rules and how they may affect you and your firm. CCES has the technical experts to help you keep abreast of new rule changes at the federal and state level and how to address them to impact you as little as possible. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

Our Hang-up With Energy Rebates

I can’t tell you the number of times I have approached building owners or managers with great opportunities to upgrade energy systems (lights, HVAC, etc.) saving money right away and paying back the investment in a short time, and the first question I’m asked is “Are there any rebates?”. When I tell a client there are none for that or it is paltry, the building owner/manager actually ignores the many other benefits and is reluctant to do the project. If the payback of an upgrade is under 3 years and the ROI of investment is double digit percent growth per year anyway, why should a rebate “make or break” a project? I guess some people really enjoy “free money”, of part of the cost being paid by a government or utility. While a client and the engineer should look for all available applicable rebates, it is unreasonable to actually squelch a project due to its absence.

So that you understand why rebates may or may not be available in your area, here is some background. It is certainly contrary to business sense for a utility to pay a building to install and utilize technology that will cause it to use less energy (natural gas or electricity). Utilities offer rebates for either of two reasons. One is they are forced to by the state’s government or watchdog agency. These elected officials or people beholden to them know that being able to say that they saved a certain amount of a resource or utilized it more efficiently is what people want and a good thing for a politician to boast. A second reason is that the more energy a region uses, the greater the infrastructure costs are for the utility. In even modest utility districts, utilities are forced to spend billions of dollars in capital costs to upgrade, expand, or replace existing infrastructure (utility lines, gas lines, etc.). And, of course, to ensure they are up-to-date and safe. If infrastructure fails, and a power blackout results or a gas line explodes, the negative headlines, the anger of residents and businesses, and being hauled into legislative hearings over the failure, is something to avoid at nearly all costs. Therefore, the less energy used, the less that infrastructure needs to be upgraded and at a lower cost.

Therefore, it is important to do research on rebates. The availability and amount for different programs vary between utilities. In general, most rebates are universal for a utility. A rebate for LED lights resulting in decreased electric usage is valid throughout a utility’s district. However, some utilities designate some rebates as greater in different areas within the district. For example, in New York City, Con Edison’s Demand Response Program encouraging building owners to use their own generators and be off the grid during peak demand periods, has greater rebate payments for buildings located in a certain area which has seen the greatest growth in electrical demand (gentrification) and weakest infrastructure. And lower incentives everywhere else, including zones where infrastructure is fine. So look carefully at the conditions of a rebate.

Part of your research should also be on timing. Utilities and the commissions that oversee them often decide annually on rebates. They decide if they are effective or not, look at market conditions, and then adjust for the next year. A rebate at a certain level this year may go down (or up) next year or be eliminated altogether. For example, some utilities are reducing or eliminating LED lighting rebates. The price of LEDs has droped recently, plus it is more accepted. Many feel an incentive is no longer needed; savings and payback are sufficient without it. Your engineer (including this one!) should keep up with the latest trends and talk to those managing rebates.

I should add that I have seen the opposite reaction (occasionally) of building owners and managers feeling almost guilty about receiving a rebate for an upgrade. Nobody should feel this way. Most rebates come from charges that are in your monthly utility bill. You pay into a fund used for rebates. Therefore, when you do an upgrade, you are simply taking back the money that you have put in!

In summary, research or have your engineer research and go forward with any energy rebates that an upgrade qualifies for. However, don’t be hung-up on it. If a rebate (or tax deduction or other financial benefit) does not exist or is only worth a small percentage of the upfront cost, let it not stop you from doing the project. The vast majority of energy upgrade projects are very financially beneficial for building owners for a long-period of time even without utility or government rebates.

CCES has the experts and experience to help you get the maximum financial benefits from an energy upgrade, including being up to date on potential rebates and to get you through the application process. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

Future of Renewable Energy Investments

The young Trump Administration and the House of Representatives have published preliminary tax reform plans that will likely have an adverse effect on the future growth of renewable energy in the US. If enacted, these may be a dis-investment for new projects. While exact details are unknown, as this is published, the fear of future dis-incentives to build or finance a project itself has a chilling effect.

One matter that has not been discussed openly is the future of renewable energy tax credits. Currently, investments in solar and wind projects are eligible for an investment tax credit. However, over the next few years the credit, used for many solar projects, is scheduled to decrease to and remain at 10% beginning in 2022. The production tax credit for producing power from wind will phase out entirely in 2020. Might the Trump Administration accelerate the decrease in these incentives or eliminate them sooner? During his confirmation hearings, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said that he does not intend to accelerate the phase-out of the production tax credit.

Note that the current renewable energy credit programs result in tax credits that can only be used to offset taxes (not increase a refund). With the proposed major reduction in corporate and individual income tax rates and accelerated write-offs for business expenses, the value of renewable energy credits would therefore be sharply reduced (lower taxes to offset with credits from a renewable energy project). This could take away the financial incentive to invest in large-scale renewable energy projects.
The Trump Administration’s proposed tax reform also includes a border adjustment tax, raising the cost of imported material and equipment. Since many solar and wind farms components come from China, this could add to the cost of new projects, if adopted.

In another tax-related item concerning energy, 22 US Senators recently introduced a bill containing a proposed extension of EPAct (Section 179D of the IRS Code) until 2019 and beyond. EPAct allows a building owner (or significant contributor for tax-exempt buildings) to earn tax deductions for successful energy efficiency projects. EPAct has expired and is currently not in effect. The proposed bill contains changes to the old language, including new technology-neutral tax incentives for clean energy. If this version of the bill is enacted, the maximum deduction for energy efficiency projects would increase to $4.75/sq.ft., based on achieving a minimum of $1.00/sq.ft. deduction for achieving a 25% reduction against the ASHRAE 90.1-2016 standard, and an additional $0.25/sq.ft. for every additional 5% reduction above that. The proposed bill also contains a new provision, entitling building owners to achieve a tax deduction of up to $9.25/sq.ft. for comprehensive energy upgrades that exceed energy saving targets. While the old 179D allows minor deductions for small upgrades, the proposed version would reward a building owner that exceeds robust energy goals. It is unsure whether this new version of 179D will pass Congress and, if so, when.

In summary, while details are unknown, the proposed new tax reforms of the new Administration may potentially hurt renewable energy projects. At this early stage, it is unknown whether these proposals will be enacted and in what form. Might the changes be enacted and the renewable energy industry in the US be hurt in order to raise revenue to offset the many tax rate reductions the reform plan currently proposes or as a way to discourage renewable energy and encourage growth of fossil fuel plants? The answers are unknown, but the implications should be part of any company’s planning.

This is meant as a general overview based on publicly published material. Discuss specific implications for your business with your accounting or tax professional. CCES is here to help you with technical assessments of your energy usage and systems. We can present sound technical strategies to reduce your energy use and peak demand and save you considerable cost and provide other tangible, financial advantages, as well. Contact us today at karell@CCESworld.com or at 914-584-6720.

Some Thoughts About the U.S. Leaving the Paris Climate Accord

June 2017

Of course, this blog and newsletter stays away from politics. But I will make a rare exception here just because the name of our firm, Climate Change & Environmental Services, is so close to the news at hand: President Trump decided that the U.S. should pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement. I wish to share some thoughts about it. Please feel free to comment, in agreement or disagreement. Respectful comments are what our democracy is about.

First of all, the withdrawal was no surprise. While I am not a professional psychologist nor have ever met President Trump, it is pretty obvious that he is a narcissist. He thinks of himself and raising he ego first, second, and at all times. Part of that is he not a team player. He thinks of himself first with others to be used and tossed away, even his most loyal supporters, whether they be contractors working on his projects or his own government professionals who he has embarrassed by changing his story. Thus, he would never have accepted being part of a deal where he represented only one of 195 countries, even if it were the most powerful. He does not know how to abide by rules and compromise meant for many. And especially in a topic he knows little about and probably fed falsehoods by some advisors. Nobody should have been surprised.

That said, I have my problems with the Paris Climate Agreement, in line with many critics (and Trump supporters): that it has no punitive actions for countries that do not succeed in their GHG emission reduction goals. This is no different from the previous Kyoto Accord. For example, Canada not only did not reduce GHG emissions by its goal in that Accord, but raised theirs significantly due to its discovery in the ‘90’s of the tar sands in Alberta. With the windfall Canadian companies made from that, even punitives would not have hurt Canada. How much might they have been fined? And who would collect it? And this went on for other countries, too. Same thing with the Paris Climate Agreement. Who would have the nerve and ability to “fine” a country for not making its goals and how much? Billions? However, that said, an agreement is an agreement and even one with flaws is better – given the Climate Change crisis facing us all – than business as usual. So it was important to work through this framework, and a missed opportunity for the U.S. to lead in Climate Change response and technology.

I am heartened, however, by the response to President Trump’s withdrawal by leaders in the U.S.: mayors, governors, and many business leaders. They have said they will re-double their efforts to reduce GHG emissions and use renewable power. They see the many business advantages of doing so, and will continue to do so. Let’s hope that their efforts will help the many, many small businesses and smaller governments in the U.S. to have the motivation to move forward and to help make such technologies affordable to them. If this momentum can grow and people see the advantages of addressing Climate Change issues, then this withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement may turn out – unexpectedly – to be a positive for the U.S. after all.

CCES has the experts to help you be on the right side of things when it comes to a Climate Change program and to help your company or entity get the greatest economic benefits from doing the right thing concerning GHG emission reductions with the lease disruption in your operations. Contact us today for a free discussion at karell@CCESworld.com or at 914-584-6720.