United States: Energy Technology Connections Newsletter - May 2015

Last Updated: June 8 2015
Article by Thomas R. Burton III and Sahir Surmeli

A Note from the Editors

Our May edition of Energy Technology Connections brings you recent industry highlights, the latest news from Capitol Hill, and a list of upcoming energy industry events. Our Leaders in the News section features Canaccord Genuity the recently completed public offering by BioAmber, a sustainable chemicals company. This month's Innovator Profile spotlights Cambrian Innovation and its water-saving wastewater treatment system that is so efficient that California companies are using it to get them through the state's water crisis. In Event Highlights, we're celebrating our Energy Tech Practice's 10 year anniversary with an evening in Boston's Innovation District. We also spotlight Cleantech Open Northeast and Cleantech Navigate Northeast's effort to expand their Mentor & Expert Community. Finally, down in Washington, Congress passed one energy efficiency bill and is primed for more as the Obama administration releases part one of the Quadrennial Energy Review.

For links to industry grant opportunities and stories from the business, policy, and research sectors of the energy and clean technology industry, please see our Energy Navigator.

Leaders in the News

Congratulations to our client Canaccord Genuity on completing a recent public offering for BioAmber! In addition to Canaccord, Barclays Capital is also acting as a joint bookrunning manager on the deal, while Raymond James & Associates and SG Americas Securities, LLC are acting as co-managers.

BioAmber is an industrial biotechnology company that manufactures sustainable chemicals. It aims to provide an environmentally friendly and economically efficient substitute to petrochemicals. The company's proprietary technology platform combines industrial biotechnology and chemical catalysis to convert renewable feedstock into a sustainable chemical product. These chemicals are found in items consumers use every day, including plastics, paints, food additives, and personal care products. BioAmber has earned several accolades for its innovative approach, including the 2011 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award, the 2011 ICIS Innovation Award, and a 2013 Excellence in Technology & Innovation Award from Environmental Leader.

The BioAmber transaction is consistent with Canaccord's reputation for excellence in the sustainability sector. With clients in the industry ranging from innovators of energy and power technology to creators of advanced enabling materials, Canaccord has a wealth of experience helping these global companies raise capital and executing strategic transactions. Of course, we should also mention our excellent team of attorneys here at Mintz Levin who helped facilitate the deal on a quick turnaround. Congratulations to all the parties involved! With over a decade of work in the sustainability marketplace and expertise across an array of other industries, we look forward to more exciting developments from our friends at Canaccord.

Innovator Profile

This month, we're featuring our client Cambrian Innovation, a company that stands at the intersection of energy and water. Spun out of MIT in 2006 with support from a NASA grant, it has developed, scaled, and validated a pipeline of solutions that use natural systems to solve industrial resource challenges. Cambrian's portfolio includes products that recover valuable resources from wastewater, eliminate energy input for wastewater treatment, radically reduce the cost of nitrate removal, and enable agricultural operations to monitor their inputs more easily and efficiently. A robust research and development branch of the company continues to expand Cambrian's portfolio by partnering with government agencies like NASA, the US Department of Defense, and the National Institutes of Health.

Cambrian's flagship product, the EcoVolt, is the world's first bioelectrically enhanced wastewater treatment system. This revolutionary technology uses microbes to treat wastewater, producing high-quality, renewable biogas and clean water. The biogas fires a combined heat and power turbine to generate clean heat and electricity while the clean water can be reused onsite for equipment washing and other facility operations. The California water crisis has called for bold water-saving solutions, and our friends at Cambrian are leading the way. With falling water tables and rising water scarcity throughout the state, the EcoVolt's ability to clean wastewater at an industrial scale has proved essential, especially for California's world-renowned wineries and breweries. For breweries like Bear Republic Brewing Company and Lagunitas Brewing Company, the EcoVolt is slashing economic and environmental costs around wastewater, off-setting energy demand, and cutting water footprints.

Recently, both USA Today and theSan Francisco Chronicle have praised Cambrian's efforts. Congrats on the publicity, Cambrian, and keep up the good work!

Event Highlights

You're invited — To celebrate over 10 years of helping energy innovators succeed, Mintz Levin's Energy Technology Practice is hosting an Energy Tech 10 Year Anniversary Celebration. Join Mintz Levin attorneys, ML Strategies consultants, and other industry professionals for a casual evening with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres in Boston's Innovation District on Tuesday, May 26 from 6 to 9 pm at the Lounge at District Hall. RSVP for this event here. We hope to see you there! #MintzET10

Also, Cleantech Open Northeast, the region's premier clean tech start-up accelerator program, and Cleantech Navigate Northeast, Cleantech Open's affiliate year-round entrepreneur network, are actively recruiting qualified professionals for their Mentor & Expert Community! Their programs support promising clean tech start-ups by providing them with the resources needed to launch a successful company.

The Cleantech Open Northeast accelerator is part of a national network that has supported 860 companies, which have raised more than $1 billion! If you are matched to a Cleantech Open Northeast accelerator semifinalist as a generalist or specialist you will support one start-up team one to two hours per week from June through October.

New mentors hoping to mentor a Cleantech Open Northeast accelerator company in 2015 can sign up to join the mentor community through the Cleantech Navigate Northeast web platform here, or contact the Mentor Committee at ne_mentor@cleantechopen.org.

Washington Update

On April 22, the House passed the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015. The Senate approved the mini energy efficiency measure from Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) in March. The bill creates a voluntary approach to encourage commercial building owners and tenants to reduce energy consumption, exempts certain electric resistance water heaters from Department of Energy regulations, and requires buildings leased by the government that are not Energy Star–certified to chronicle their energy use.

Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) is leading the effort to address energy tax extenders by reinstating and extending a handful of expired clean energy tax credits, including potentially incorporating them into a broad energy bill she and Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) are discussing and even trading papers about. Her staff is discussing how to build on what then-Senator Max Baucus proposed last Congress on an industry neutral or performance based energy tax policy. Two of the Senate Finance Committee Working Groups, the Business Income Tax Working Group co-chaired by Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), and the Community Development and Infrastructure Working Group, co-chaired by Senators Dean Heller (R-NV) and Michael Bennet (D-CO), are claiming jurisdiction over the energy portions of tax reform. With comprehensive tax reform increasingly unlikely before the 2016 election cycle, we turn to tax extenders, and Senator Cantwell is trying to find a way to remove the energy provisions from the discussion since they are the first to get picked on during the negotiations. Though the details are still being confirmed, the package may include a three- to five-year phaseout of the production tax credit, an extension of the investment tax credit that would reduce from 30% to 10% at the end of 2016, and an extension of master limited partnerships to renewable energy as well as fossil fuels. The tax reform working groups convened in the first half of May to present the groups' agreements, with a final report submitted to Committee Chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) by May 25. If comprehensive tax reform does not happen this year, addressing tax extenders is likely to be an end of the year exercise.

House and Senate energy leadership are also developing broad energy legislation. The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power held a hearing on April 23 to review the 21st Century Workforce Title of what committee leadership hopes will become a broad, bipartisan energy, trade, manufacturing, and efficiency bill. The title directs the Secretary of Energy to establish a comprehensive program to improve education and training for energy and manufacturing related jobs. Other parts of the draft legislation, which the subcommittee plans to bring to the House floor later this year, include infrastructure, energy diplomacy, and energy efficiency. In the meantime, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held April 30 on energy efficiency legislation, including the Weatherization Enhancement and Local Energy Efficiency Investment and Accountability Act (S. 703); the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2015 (S. 720), the long-awaited measure from Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH); and the Energy Savings Through Public-Private Partnerships Act of 2015 (S. 858). The Senate passed by voice vote a much smaller version of energy efficiency legislation (S. 545) in March.

House Republicans unveiled on April 14 draft fiscal year 2016 energy and water appropriations legislation that would provide $35.4 billion for energy and water programs—$1.2 billion above the fiscal year 2015 enacted level and $633 million below President Obama's request. The package would provide $28.9 billion for Department of Energy programs, including Yucca Mountain, but limiting or excluding funding for numerous renewable energy and climate programs in President Obama's budget request. The bill would reduce the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's budget by $266 million, would fund most of the agency's clean energy research and development ( at $1.7 billion), would fund the Office of Fossil Energy Research and Development at $605 million (a $34 million increase over enacted levels), and $936 million for nuclear energy research and development (a $24 million increase over enacted levels). The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development marked up and approved the measure on April 15 and the House Appropriations approved it by a voice vote on April 22. White House Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan expressed in an April 21 letter to House Appropriations Committee Chair Hal Rogers (R-KY) the administration's serious concerns with the measure, but did not yet issue a veto threat.

During a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power hearing on April 14, Environmental Protection Agency Acting Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Janet McCabe said that Representative Ed Whitfield's (R-KY) draft Ratepayer Protection Act, which would allow states to avoid complying with the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan, would be an "unprecedented interference" in the agency's work. She called the draft legislation premature since the agency has not yet finalized the existing power plant standards. The legislation allows states to opt out of the rule if it would increase their utility rates or jeopardize reliability and allows states to postpone submitting their compliance plans until after all legal challenges to the proposed rules are exhausted. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power advanced the measure on April 22, and Subcommittee Chair Whitfield anticipates that the full committee will approve the legislation before the agency finalizes the rules this summer.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved legislation (Coal Combustion Residuals Regulation Act, H.R. 1734) on April 15 that would give states more flexibility over how to regulate coal ash and would permanently prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating the material as a hazardous waste. The full House is likely to vote on the measure before the August recess.

Vice President Joe Biden and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz unveiled the Quadrennial Energy Review in Philadelphia on April 21, during remarks about energy at the PECO building in City Center. The first installment of the review focuses on domestic energy transmission, storage, and distribution infrastructure, including pipelines, wires, storage, waterways, railways, and other energy system facilities. The report recommends that the United States invest in modernizing and updating its aging energy infrastructure to promote economic competitiveness, energy security, and environmental responsibility. The review is part of President Obama's 2013 climate action plan, in which he created a review task force comprised of 22 federal agencies to submit the assessment every four years. Coinciding with the review's release, the Department of Energy will create a partnership with 17 energy companies to improve infrastructure resilience against climate change and extreme weather, and the Department of Agriculture will invest $72 million to support six new rural electric infrastructure projects, including solar energy and transmission line improvement investments.

Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on April 28 that the administration needs to work with Congress to fund more than $15 billion in new spending programs and tax credits in the QER. Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) told Secretary Moniz during that the hearing that she would work to include provisions of the review in her broader energy policy bill, and House Energy and Commerce Chair Fred Upton (R-MI) and Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ) have indicated interest in and desire to move forward with energy infrastructure legislation.

At the Department of Energy, the Energy Information Administration announced on April 20 that US energy–related emissions of CO2 grew in 2014 for the second year in a row, but not by as much as the economy did. Emissions increased 0.7% last year, while gross domestic product grew 2.4%. Emissions historically move in patterns that reflect economic growth, but the lower 2014 increase demonstrates that efforts to curb emissions will not restrain economic expansion, and the world market demonstrated the same pattern.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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