Although the new year is less than a month old and Congress has only been in session a handful of days, there’s a lot to talk about regarding renewable energy policy.
In mid-January, the President signed the FY 2014 Omnibus Appropriations bill. This included funding for the entire federal government through September 30th of this year. Despite immense fiscal pressure, several renewable projects of note received at least some funding including the following:
- With an estimated $7.8 million in grant funding and $40 million in loan guarantees likely to be forthcoming for a Notice of Funding Available in 2014, the Omnibus allocated an additional $3.5 million for loan guarantees to further support the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Eligible REAP projects in the past have included biofuel production equipment, flex-fuel pumps, and anaerobic digesters for electricity production.
- The bill provides for the transfer of up to $45 million from the Department of Energy to confirm its commitment to the Navy’s biofuel program.
- The Biorefinery Assistance Program, has a current Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) out for its remaining $76 million in carryover funding to support up to $181 million in loan guarantees for eligible commercial biorefinery developments or retrofits. However, of the six conditional commitments still in the program pipeline, some are expected to either not close or be reduced.
In addition to enacting the Omnibus Appropriations package, The President and his Administration have several rulemakings on the docket for the year that can help deploy and promote renewable energy on public and private lands.
U.S. EPA has a full plate with more than 140 items on its radar, including regulations tightening carbon dioxide emissions from both new and existing power plants. These could ultimately prove to be the biggest federal drivers for renewable energy production in the coming decades. The rule for future power plants—proposed in September, 2013—should be finalized by year’s end. This proposal would essentially prohibit new coal fired power plants from being built, unless plans included a mechanism to capture and sequester much of the plants carbon emissions underground. A similar proposal for existing power plants is set for release in June 2014, to be finalized in June the following year.
The U.S. EPA will also have to determine what levels to set for the year’s Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). Late last year the agency proposed scaling back targets for the first time since the program was established in 2005, requiring that refiners blend just 15.21 billion gallons of renewable fuels into the nation’s fuel supply.
The Interior Department plans to establish a competitive bidding process for solar and wind energy projects for the first time. The regulations planned for May for commercial solar and wind energy development on federal lands would establish competitive bidding procedures for sites within designated leasing areas, would define qualifications for potential bidders, and would structure the financial arrangements necessary for the process. In the past, BLM has only processed applications on a first-come, first-served basis, which has led to numerous delays.