Ocean City Today

Energy law explained

The Public Eye
By Stewart Dobson | Feb 08, 2018



printed 02/09/2018


And now a word about renewable energy and Congress — the latter could use some, having wasted a great deal of it on deciding what not to decide.

Congress and the various agencies of government did, however, expend quite a bit of nonrenewable energy on writing inflated renewable energy laws and regulations that seem to swirl in all directions simultaneously.

Trying to understand it all is like raking leaves in a tornado: no sooner do you make some progress than you’re sucked into the vortex and have to start over.

To my way of thinking, the first thing our representatives should have done was written a simple Renewable Energy Act that omitted pointless definitions, caveats and wherefores. After all, we all know why they did it, so it would have been much simpler for them to write a bill that said, “Hey, renewable energy is way cool, let’s give it a lot of money to get it going.”

But no. Instead, we have thousands of pages that describe what renewable energy is (hint: energy that doesn’t go away), as well as thousands of pages involving how to subsidize such projects without calling a subsidy a subsidy (Hint: Give them money that doesn’t exist and count it as money that does exist, i.e. a tax credit).

There’s also a stock of sorts issued to renewable energy outfits based on the intangible attributes these companies exhibit (Hint No. 1: We don’t know what it is, but we like it; Hint No. 2: A Wild-A** guess).

These certificates (RECs) may be sold to others who can then claim they’re buying “Green Energy,” even though there’s no way to know where the power comes from. It’s a private subsidy, which isn’t bad.

For the sake of simplicity, look at it this way: there’s the ITC, which may be used in lieu of the PTC, which may or may not be renewed or extended by Congress, and the RECs, which may be sold to investors or companies who want to burnish their images.

Naturally, I understood this immediately and I assume you’re still with me on this.

Admittedly, I did get off track as I wondered whether the renewable energy regulations might address Old MacDonald and the  prospect of pig poo energy production on his farm. In fact, the law actually does provide for pig poo energy purveyors, although I could find no reference anywhere to an EIEIO certificate, which would have been apropos.

“So, Mr. MacDonald, how do you propose to produce renewable energy on your farm?”

“Well, sir, I got an oink-oink here, an oink-oink there, here an oink, there an oink, everywhere an oink-oink.”

“Very good. Now, will you be applying for the PTC?”

“Pig Tripe Concession? No, I don’t think so.”

Anyway, you can see how confusing this would be to the average person. As it happens, an ITC is an Investment Tax Credit, while a PTC is a Production Tax Credit, and an REC is an Renewable Energy Certificate, which leaves us with the possibility that a pig gas pipeline would be entitled to sell a PEW (Pig Energy Writ).

Of course, there’s always the possibility that Congress, which blows this way and that, will decide not to renew the PTC, as it has done before, and throw everything out of whack.

Being in financial whack, so to speak, is very important to the renewable energy industry, which is why arguments concerning green versus brown energy get so whacky.

People just don’t understand it, which I find inexplicable since it’s laid out for us in simple, plain English, give or take an ITC, PRC, REC or an EIEIO.

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