As the shift from fossil-based energy production to renewable energy sources continues, growth in renewable energy projects under development has been staggering. But moving projects from early-stage development to commercial operations requires navigating complicated methods of financing their development, construction, and operation via structures that vary depending on project ownership, size, technology, and the regulatory environment. 

In a vote that stretched into the evening, New Mexico’s legislature passed House Bill 41 by a 26-15 vote on February 13. The bill, which establishes a statewide program known as the “Clean Transportation Fuel Standards,” makes New Mexico the fourth U.S. state to enact a clean fuel standard (i.e., a marked-based set of policies designed to curb carbon emissions while incentivizing investment into renewable fuel projects and green vehicles). Oregon, Washington, and California have similar standards on their books.

On Dec. 19, 2023, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) seeking comments on whether it should revise its policy on providing blanket authorizations under Section 203(a)(2) of the Federal Power Act (FPA) for holding companies and investment companies that seek to invest in public utilities.  Blanket authorizations allow certain investment companies to buy and sell public utility securities without first obtaining FERC approvals.  In the NOI proceeding, FERC is re-examining what factors it should consider when evaluating what it means to lack control over public utilities for companies who seek to invest in public utilities.  While the NOI is directly aimed at “investment companies,” as defined in the Investment Company Act of 1940, FERC’s policy re-examination could have broader ramifications for other types of control analyses for FPA purposes. 

Although colder weather makes spring construction seem far away, farmers and landowners would be wise to assess permitting and in-field environmental studies ahead of spring planting needs.

An important consideration for any future development is compliance with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) Food Security Act’s Swampbuster Program and wetland permitting requirements under the Clean Water Act’s Section 404 Nationwide Permit Program.

The Food Security and the Clean Water Act both contain provisions associated with wetlands in agriculture use, known as prior converted cropland (“PCC”). However, between the two programs, determining what lands fit into the PCC condition, how that determination is made, and the purpose of that determination can be difficult to understand. Here, we discuss the PCC distinction under each program and outline key considerations for landowners and developers.

In the bustling landscape of consumer goods, caffeinated beverages stand out as a daily staple for millions of Americans. A recent shift towards “clean caffeine” and caffeine alternatives has further energized consumer demand for ready-to-drink caffeinated beverages.

Recently, however, the spotlight has turned to the highly caffeinated beverage industry for far less stimulating reasons, as cases of alleged caffeine overconsumption have led to severe health repercussions. As highly caffeinated beverages continue to expand their market share, it is crucial for ready-to-drink beverage brands to carefully consider their product’s caffeination levels and the way those products are labeled and/or marketed.

In May 2022, when the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) proposed updates to its Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (Guides), it had been 13 years since the Guides were updated. Much has changed in the way that businesses marketed and sold their brands, products, and services over that period. While the use of social media marketing has been well established for the better part of the last decade, the use of social media influencers—that is, people who use their expertise, knowledge, and/or celebrity to promote ideas, products, services, and brands via the internet—has seen a dramatic uptick since the period preceding the COVID pandemic and is now estimated to be a $21 billion industry in its own right. The rise of this marketing approach—and the increasingly prevalent lawsuits against influencers and the companies they promote—played no small part in the FTC’s reconsideration of previous guidance, as evident from the finalized guidelines which were released June 29, 2023.

The question going forward is to what degree the new guidelines will change the way marketers approach the use of social media influencers. To get at the issue, it is helpful to review the substance of the FTC’s revisions.

The Texas Legislature, primarily responding to the unprecedented ERCOT system load shed event during 2021’s Winter Storm Uri, enacted far-reaching system and wholesale market reforms during its 2021 and 2023 legislative sessions. These reforms broadly seek to bolster electric system resilience and reliability while incentivizing, through wholesale market reforms and other out of market actions

On December 19, 2023, the California Air Resources Board (“CARB”), which administers the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (“LCFS”), released a rulemaking package (“Draft Rule”) describing proposed LCFS changes, including changes designed to make carbon intensity (“CI”) reduction obligations more stringent.

Specifically, the Draft Rule would mandate a 30% reduction in transportation fuel CI scores by 2030 and a 90% reduction by 2045 (in each case, versus a 2010 baseline). Current CARB rules, which the Draft Rule would modify, require only a 20% reduction by 2030.

The prevailing wisdom is that increased carbon reduction obligations will spur renewable fuel demand, leading to an increase in the value of LCFS credits (which are created when renewable energy is used in producing transportation fuel, and can be transferred to industry participants subject to emission reduction obligations for use in meeting their obligations).

Solar energy and agricultural production often find themselves competitors. Both have strong incentives to expand, and they share a key input: land. Solar developers continue ramping up solar installation worldwide to meet heightened clean energy targets aimed at combating climate change, while agribusiness faces pressure to expand food production to support a growing population. Because solar development and crop production thrive under similar land conditions, namely, large, contiguous parcels of traditionally agricultural land, the two industries often find themselves competing for space.

Agrivoltaics aims to transform this competition into synergy: farming operations and solar development can coexist and reap benefits by sharing land. These arrangements are called agrivoltaic systems, and their widespread implementation can help popularize solar energy in agriculture-dependent communities hesitant to welcome solar development.

Developers of renewable energy projects, many of which are built on agricultural land, should understand local laws and restrictions on foreign ownership and investment in these parcels.  Roughly half of US States have express limits on foreign investment in or purchase of privately held agricultural land. A large swath of the Midwest, plus states in the mid-Atlantic and Florida, among others, have some restrictions. Between January and June of 2023, fifteen states enacted restrictions on foreign ownership of land.