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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wind Energy: Offshore Permitting

Adam Vann
Legislative Attorney

Technological advancement, financial incentives, and policy concerns have driven a global expansion in the development of renewable energy resources. Wind energy, in particular, is now often cited as the fastest-growing commercial energy source in the world. Currently, all U.S. wind energy facilities are based on land. However, multiple offshore projects have been proposed and are at various stages of the federal permitting process. 

The United States has the authority to permit and regulate offshore wind energy development within the zones of the oceans under its jurisdiction. The federal government and coastal states each have roles in the permitting process, the extents of which depend on whether the project is located in state or federal waters. Currently, no single federal agency has exclusive responsibility for permitting related to activities on submerged lands in federal waters; authority is allocated among various agencies based on the nature of the resource to be exploited and the potential impacts incidental to such exploitation. The same is true for the offshore wind energy context, where several federal agencies have a role to play in permitting development and operation activities. 

Section 388 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct; P.L. 109-58) amended the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) to address previous uncertainties regarding offshore wind projects. This provision retained a role for the Army Corps of Engineers in permitting under the Rivers and Harbors Act but grants ultimate authority over offshore wind energy development to the Secretary of the Interior. The provision also contained various exemptions from the regulatory regime it establishes for projects that received certain permits prior to the enactment of EPAct. The statutory authority granted by section 388 is administered by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE), an agency within the Department of the Interior (DOI). 

This report supersedes CRS Report RL32658, Wind Energy: Offshore Permitting, by Adam Vann
.


Date of Report: August 11, 2010
Number of Pages: 16
Order Number: R40175
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Home Star Energy Retrofit Act of 2010: Operational and Market Considerations

Paul W. Parfomak
Specialist in Energy and Infrastructure Policy


The Home Star Energy Retrofit program as proposed is intended to promote both greater residential energy-efficiency and increased employment in the home remodeling, energy services, and related manufacturing industries. Two very similar Home Star programs are detailed in legislation proposed in the House and Senate. The House of Representatives version, the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act of 2010 (H.R. 5019), was introduced on April 14, 2010, by Representative Peter Welch and 44 cosponsors. H.R. 5019 passed with amendments on May 7, 2010, and was referred to the Senate Finance Committee. The latest Senate proposal was included as Division C Title XXX of the Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Company Accountability Act of 2010 (S. 3663) introduced by Senator Harry Reid on July 28, 2010. 

Home Star would employ a two-tiered structure for energy-efficiency rebates. Its Silver Star program tier would provide up to $3,000 per home in prescriptive rebates for straightforward home upgrades, including insulation; efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units; new windows; and other measures. The Gold Star program tier would offer $3,000 rebates for more comprehensive energy retrofits achieving at least 20% energy savings, with rebates increasing up to $8,000 per home for retrofits achieving 45% energy savings. The Senate version would also offer up to $1,200 per home for comprehensive water efficiency retrofits. Quality assurance inspectors would visit 10% to 20% of participating homes to ensure measures are properly installed. H.R. 5019 authorizes $6 billion in funding for the program. S. 3663 authorizes $5 billion. 

In both the House and Senate versions, the proposed Home Star program may present an opportunity for both energy-efficiency and employment in the United States. The program targets the residential sector, which numerous studies have shown to be among the largest sources of cost-effective energy-efficiency opportunity in the United States. It also targets a wide base of currently unemployed or under-employed residential contractors. Structurally, the Home Star program seeks speedy implementation by building upon prior experience with both federal and state energy-efficiency programs to provide operating models that might be replicated nationwide. Nonetheless, several operational aspects new to such a federal program, or not previously tried for a program of Home Star's scale, may warrant further attention from Congress. These include the use of rebate aggregators, a two-tiered rebate structure, technical standards, and the general availability of rebates to all who may want them. Key market issues include the inclusion of a "Do-it-Yourself" rebate option, high expectations for program participation, and promoting the growth of a self-sustaining home weatherization industry. Given that it would be a new federal program, the level of homeowner participation implied by the rebate funding provisions in the Home Star proposal would far exceed that achieved by comparable programs in their initial years. 

Taken together, Home Star's key operational requirements may present greater challenges than some proponents suggest, and may present unanticipated obstacles to speedy and consistent program implementation across the country. As Congress examines details of the Home Star proposal, focusing on tradeoffs between rapid implementation, operational complexity, and energy-efficiency impacts may be important. Balancing the twin goals of short-term job creation and long-term investment in cost-effective energy savings could also be an ongoing challenge.



Date of Report: July 29, 2010
Number of Pages: 13
Order Number: R41273
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at http://www.twitter.com/alertsPHP or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail Penny Hill Press or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.