Even though communities are likely to reap many benefits from proposed renewable energy projects, local opposition can delay – or altogether thwart – the progress of renewable energy projects. Most renewable energy projects require some level of zoning or permit approvals to proceed, and garnering support is proving to be especially difficult. This final post of our three-part series on the 2020 renewable energy outlook (read the first post here and the second post here) examines how local opposition can form and what utilities can do to gain a community’s backing and trust.
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As federal tax incentives for wind and solar energy projects set to expire this year, project costs will increase, which is sure to impact the renewable energy market in 2020. Without these added financial benefits, strategic utility developers will need to pursue cost-effective development options and other available tax incentives to continue making the most of renewable project investments.

As one of several trends we recently introduced as part of our 2020 renewable energy outlook series, this post takes a closer look at developing projects on brownfields and capitalizing on other federal, state, and local tax incentives for developers.
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Renewable energy is the fastest growing energy source in the United States, and its development is expected to continue the growth trajectory well into 2020 and beyond. The outlook is bright, but utility companies looking to develop renewable energy can also expect 2020 to be a year of significant changes and challenges. This post is the first in our three-part series covering the renewable energy outlook for 2020 and introducing several key issues on the horizon and trends that we’ve observed.
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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo just signed into law an ambitious statewide climate change agenda – the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). The CLCPA focuses on greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction through adoption of renewable energy and energy sector mandates for GHG reductions, although the legislation leaves open the exploration of other means of GHG reduction and the expansion to economy-wide regulation. The legislation also focuses on adaptation mechanisms, including hardening infrastructure to withstand disasters. Commercially, the CLCPA goals present massive investment opportunities to help fund and develop this transformation. But investors are looking for incentives, and it remains unclear how future regulations will encourage future investments, rather than mandate them.
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Integrating green remediation and sustainable practices can accelerate site cleanups, reduce costs, lower emissions of greenhouse gases, and contribute to meeting state and local renewable energy standards. Commonly used technologies like pump and treat systems may be effective but are energy intensive and expensive to maintain.
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With city after city setting 100 percent clean energy goals and states following in lockstep, opportunities are growing for renewable energy companies to develop utility-scale projects. Project development includes the need for energy infrastructure such as transmission lines, for example.
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Developing renewable energy on contaminated lands has proven to be both effective and cost-effective for companies pursuing a new solar or wind energy project. The utility-scale solar farm constructed on the 120-acre Reilly Tar & Chemical Corporation Superfund site is a great example, and there are thousands more that are ripe for redevelopment.
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Permitting issues—including federal wildlife permits—are common hurdles for the renewable energy sector. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) sought to reduce these burdens by issuing new guidance in late 2017 to try to clarify that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) restricts only activities that intentionally harm protected species. But attempts at MBTA reform were quickly caught up in litigation between states, environmental groups, and the federal government, creating ongoing uncertainty for renewable energy and other infrastructure projects. And with the record-long government shutdown still in play, it may be even longer than previously expected until this regulatory reform is necessarily addressed.
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Streamlining environmental reviews and permitting for infrastructure projects is a major objective of President Trump. And one of the biggest permitting roadblocks that can come up in renewable energy, transmission line, resource recovery, and any other infrastructure projects is potential impacts to wildlife.
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On April 3, 2018, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) approved, with a number of substantial modifications, the Illinois Power Agency’s (IPA) first “long term renewable resources procurement plan” under the Illinois Future Energy Jobs Act (Illinois Public Act 99-0906, known as FEJA) enacted in December 2016. The ICC order resolves a number of issues regarding (i) long-term forward procurements of renewable energy credits (RECs) from new utility-scale renewable generation facilities, and (ii) the new Illinois Adjustable Block Program (ABP), Community Solar Generation (CSG) Program, and Illinois Solar for All Program (ISFA) mandated by FEJA.
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