California Lawyer - November 2012 - (Page 47)
LEGAL INDUSTRY OUTLOOK
Solar Heats Up
The Golden State is generating mountains of work for energy lawyers, thanks to legislation such as the Global Warming Solutions Act, which mandates reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, and California’s Renewables Portfolio Standard, which sets minimums for renewable resources procured by municipal and investor-owned utilities. Recently, solar projects have far outpaced wind projects, which have “shut down from [a] legal perspective,” explains Edward W. Zaelke, co-chair of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld’s global project finance practice. “Financing has dried up because the industry isn’t sure if tax benefits are going to be renewed. Congress is in a stalemate. It’s a political football.” Solar tax credits, in contrast, are locked in until 2017. As a result, “there is a lot of work for lawyers,” Zaelke says. But they’re not all mega deals. For energy lawyers, the size and scale of projects can be measured in megawatts. Capacity for large utility projects can run more than 200 megawatts. But many of the most active companies specialize in projects of fewer than 20 megawatts, which typically have simpler permitting and other regulatory requirements. Federal and state governments even offer subsidies and incentives for some small projects, such as rooftop and carport systems of less than 1 megawatt. What’s sure to keep energy lawyers busy well into 2013 is the proliferation of distributed-generation deals. In these transactions, clean-energy companies sell power (often generated by solar, and
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