Federal Agency Activity
If your business is a provider or end user of a renewable energy, efficiency, advanced transportation, or other clean energy technology, pending federal policy could affect your industry. Please review these highlights of upcoming legislation and consider taking action on issues relevant to your company. If you have any questions, please contact Lynn Abramson.
Executive branch actions
United Nations climate negotiations
Global climate negotiations occurred in December 2015 under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21).
- Status: A global agreement was finalized Dec. 12 in Paris.
- Key details: The agreement established binding commitments by all parties to make “nationally determined contributions” and create reporting mechanisms on greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, more than 20 nations joined together in announcing Mission Innovation, an international collaboration that seeks to double government funding for energy research and development (R&D) over the next five years. Simultaneously, 28 of the world’s wealthiest investors launched a separate but parallel initiative—the Breakthrough Energy Coalition—committed to investing billions of dollars in private-sector capital in the R&D of advanced energy technologies.
Fuel economy regulations
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently proposed fuel economy and emissions regulations for medium- and heavy-duty trucks. Action is expected in 2016 on passenger and light-duty vehicles, as well as airplanes.
- Status: The deadline for public comment on the medium- and heavy-duty rule was Oct. 1, and a final rule will be published in 2016.
- Key details: The rule addresses the second phase of regulations on medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. The standards are expected to result in significant fuel savings, carbon reductions, improved health, and greater energy security yielding $230 billion in total net benefits to society over the life of the vehicles.
- Status: Will commence in 2016 and be finalized by 2017.
- Key details: The midterm review will reassess regulations for light-duty vehicles for model years 2022-25 to determine if changes are needed.
- Status: At its most recent assembly in February 2016, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) released a proposed standard for carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft. In June 2016, the EPA released an endangerment finding concluding that emissions from aircraft pose a threat to the environment. The agency is expected to develop federal rules to curb these emissions.
- Key details: The ICAO previously agreed on goals of improving international fleet fuel efficiency by 1.5 percent a year through 2020, stabilizing net emissions from aircraft by that year and cutting emissions 50 percent from 2005 levels by 2050. The standard released in 2016 assembly proposes regulations for new aircraft designs starting in 2020.
Clean Power Plan implementation
The EPA’s Clean Power Plan sets national limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
- Status: The final federal rule was released in August. States are expected to submit final compliance plans (or initial proposals with two-year extension requests) by September 2016, and begin working toward interim emissions goals in 2022.
- Key details: The rule cuts carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants to 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. For each state, the plan establishes a target emissions rate—the amount of carbon dioxide that could be emitted per megawatt-hour of power produced.
Other items to track (no current actions pending)
Executive orders on clean energy
Executive orders issued by U.S. presidents give policy direction to federal agencies. The most recent orders pertaining to clean energy include:
Executive Order 13693: Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade
- Status: Signed 2015.
- Key details: Requires all federal agencies to obtain 25 percent of their electricity and heat from clean power sources by 2025, cut energy use in government buildings by 2.5 percent a year over the next decade, and expand the use of efficient vehicles.
- Status: Signed 2012.
- Key details: Sets a national goal of installing 40 gigawatts of new combined heat and power capacity by 2020.
- Status: Signed 2009.
- Key details: Requires a 30 percent reduction in vehicle fleet petroleum use by 2020 and ensures that federal buildings designed in 2020 or later are net zero for energy—that is, use as much or less energy than they produce—by 2030.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission proposed rules
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) proposed new rules in 2015 that could affect a variety of clean energy technologies. The U.S. Supreme Court is also considering a case challenging one of FERC’s rules.
- Status: The public comment period has ended on recent orders, and the agency is working on final rules.
- Key details: New rules would revise procedures for how distributed power generation, such as solar electricity and combined heat and power produced on-site at homes and buildings, could connect to the grid; allow sales of frequency response service, which balances system demand and power generation; and refine policies for wholesale energy sales.
- Status: In January 2016, the Supreme Court upheld a FERC demand response rule that had been previously been overturned in a district court.
- Key details: The case challenged a FERC rule requiring utilities to use demand response programs, which compensate customers who reduce their energy use during peak demand hours.
Quadrennial energy and technology reviews
The Department of Energy, in partnership with other federal agencies, has released a Quadrennial Energy Review (QER) and a Quadrennial Technology Review (QTR) outlining how the U.S. is preparing the electric grid to face challenges of changing resource availability, demand patterns, and environmental regulations while ensuring reliable and resilient power.
- Status: The first QER was released in April and the QTR was released in September.
- Key details: The two reports analyze changes to the nation’s electricity supply and examine emerging technologies that support the modernization of the utility sector through continued deployment of clean and efficient resources.
CEBN Government Policy
Highlights of upcoming legislation and policies