Empact’s goal is to help energy companies maximize the tax credits for their clean energy projects. Photo courtesy of Empact

A Houston company has an update to its first-of-its-kind software to assist emerging technology and energy companies with Inflation Reduction Act Energy Community Bonus Credit compliance management and reporting requirements for renewable energy projects.

Empact Technologies has released a software update that incorporates support for the latest IRA Energy Community Bonus management and reporting requirements. The new software is provided at no additional cost to existing Empact clients, and is available to qualified communities through a free trial via Empact’s website.

Empact’s goal is to help energy companies maximize the tax credits for their clean energy projects.

“Empact is the first (and only) company that provides technology and services to help the project developers qualify for and ensure compliance with all of those IRA tax incentive compliance requirements,“ CEO Charles Dauber tells EnergyCapital. “We work with project developers of solar, energy storage, carbon capture and sequestration, and other projects in ERCOT and around the country to manage compliance for the PWA, domestic content, and energy community compliance requirements and make sure they have all of the documentation required to prove to the IRS that these tax credits are valid.”

The software is the first in the industry to incorporate the most recent energy community guidelines released by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service, known as Notice 2024-48. These guidelines outline Energy Community Bonus qualification requirements for the “Statistical Area Category” and the “Coal Closure Category” in Notice 2023-29.

Empact’s platform will provide tax incentive compliance management for all three types of credits, which will be covered in the IRA’s estimated $1.2 trillion in tax incentives. The credits include a base energy project tax incentive (30 percent) for projects that meet prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements, a domestic content tax adder (10 percent), and an energy community tax adder (10 percent). Notice 2024-48 is able to be used by developers to confirm project qualification for Energy Community Bonus opportunities.

Empact will support clients on eligibility requirements, manage compliance documentation and verification requirements.

“The IRA is considered the greatest and biggest accelerator for clean energy in the U.S.,” Dauber says. “The IRA provides significant tax incentives for developers of solar, energy storage, wind and other clean power technologies, as well as energy transition projects such as carbon capture and sequestration, hydrogen, biofuels and more.”

According to Empact, the way the IRA works is that developers of projects can “generate” tax credits based on meeting certain project requirements. There are three main factors in play:

  1. The foundational element of the tax credits provides a 30 percent tax credit of the project cost if the project meets requirements related to ensuring a fair wage for construction workers and utilizing a certain amount of apprentices on the project (called Prevailing Wage anƒ Apprenticeship). The project developer (all the EPC and all contractors) must provide documentation that every worker has been paid correctly and that all apprenticeship requirements have been met. Some projects have hundreds of workers from 10-plus contractors every week.
  2. The second tax credit relates to the project utilizing steel and iron and other “manufactured products” such as solar modules, that are made in the U.S. If the project meets the “domestic content” requirements, it is eligible for another 10 percent tax credit. Project developers have to prove the products they use are made in the U.S. and there are calculations that must be done to meet the threshold that goes up every year.
  3. The third tax credit is related to the location of the project. The government is trying to incentivize project developers to put projects in locations with high-unemployment, or sites that have existing power generation facilities, or are in areas that used to be coal communities. That tax incentive is called “Energy Communities” and provides an additional 10 percent tax credit for the project developers. To qualify for that tax credit, the developer must provide proof that the project is located in an energy community location.

Companies using the software and being in appropriate compliance can see immediate benefits, and the energy industry working towards a cleaner future, will see the impact of Empact as well.

“If a developer does this all correctly, they can qualify for tax credits equal to 50 percent of the cost of the project which is an enormous benefit to getting more projects built and encouraging a balanced energy program in the U.S.” Dauber says. “For example, a 100MW solar farm may cost $100 million, and if they meet all of the criteria, they can qualify for $50 million in tax incentives. The same calculations work for carbon capture, hydrogen and other projects as well although there are some slight differences.

Last August, Stella Energy Solutions, a utility-scale solar and storage developer, entered into a multi-year agreement with Empact to use the platform to manage Stella's IRA tax incentives on all its projects for the next five years.

The lighting project is part of a 15-year initiative aimed at boosting Calhoun County’s commitment to solar and other forms of renewable energy. Photo via EnGoPlanet

Houston company nears completion of innovative solar-powered street lights project

light the way

Houston-based EnGoPlanet is nearing completion of what it touts as the largest installation of solar-powered street lights in the U.S.

The project, which relies on EnGoPlanet’s ENGO Utility program, is in Calhoun County. It features 300 solar-powered, motion-activated street lights and 20 camera-equipped power poles at several Calhoun County parks. Port Lavaca, close to 130 miles southwest of Houston, is the county seat of Calhoun County.

Calhoun County Commissioner David Hall calls the project “a game-changer for innovation in the sustainable energy space.”

The solar-powered street lights were made according to DarkSky guidelines designed to reduce nighttime light pollution.

The lighting project is part of a 15-year initiative aimed at boosting Calhoun County’s commitment to solar and other forms of renewable energy.

“Our work in Calhoun County is a prime example of how collaboration and innovative thinking can create not just economic value, but also profound social and environmental impact. Municipalities and counties should explore many available grants through the Inflation Reduction Act to help fund renewable energy initiatives for their communities,” Petar Mirovic, CEO of EnGoPlanet, says in a news release.

Calhoun County is just one of several places where EnGoPlanet, founded in 2019, has installed solar-powered street lights. Others include Houston, Dallas, Montenegro, Qatar, and Serbia.

The Texas projects are set to come online in 2024. Photo via Schneider Electric

Schneider Electric to invest in Texas clean energy projects with IRA tax credit transfer

shining on solar

Energy management and automation company Schneider Electric is investing in a Texas portfolio of solar and battery storage systems developed, built, and operated by Houston-based ENGIE North America.

The Texas projects are set to come online in 2024. France-based Schneider says the projects will put the company closer to reaching its goal of 100 percent renewable energy in the U.S. and Canada by 2030.

The Schneider investment comes in the form of tax credit transfers enabled by the federal Inflation Reduction Act. A Schneider news release didn’t put a price tag on the investment and didn’t name the Texas projects.

Schneider explains that the federal law enables the transfer of certain federal tax credits from renewable energy, clean energy manufacturing, battery storage and other clean energy projects. These transfers are an alternative to traditional tax equity deals.

“This collaboration with Schneider signals a real step forward in accelerating the net-zero transition,” Dave Carroll, chief renewables officer and senior vice president at ENGIE North America, says in the news release.

Carroll adds that the solar-and-storage portfolio and the tax credit transfers “support the continued growth of renewable energy and storage options in the U.S., which brings economic opportunities to an expanding set of communities alongside the transition to a lower-carbon grid.”

Last month, ENGIE said it had recently wrapped up more than $1 billion in tax equity financing from banking heavyweights BNP Paribas, Goldman Sachs, and J.P. Morgan Chase. The financing went toward 1.3 gigawatts’ worth of clean energy projects.

For the 2023 budget year, Texas’ total pot of federal money ranked second behind California’s. Photo via Getty Images

Report: Texas scores significant chunk of federal clean energy investment

by the numbers

On a per-person basis, Texas grabbed the third-highest share of federal investment in clean energy and transportation during the government’s 2023 budget year, according to a new report.

Texas’ haul — $6.2 billion in federal investments, such as tax credits and grants — from October 1, 2022, to September 30, 2023, worked out to $204 per person, bested only by Wyoming ($369) and New Mexico ($259). That’s according to the latest Clean Investment Monitor report shows. Rhodium Group and MIT’s Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research produced the report.

For the 2023 budget year, Texas’ total pot of federal money ranked second behind California’s ($7.5 billion), says the report. Nationwide, the federal government’s overall investment in clean energy and transportation reached $34 billion.

Other highlights of the report include:

  • Public and private investment in clean energy and transportation soared to $239 billion in 2023, up 37 percent from the previous year.
  • Overall investment in utility-scale solar power and storage systems climbed to $53 billion in 2023, up more than 50 percent from the previous year.
  • Overall investment in emerging climate technologies (clean energy, sustainable aviation fuel, and carbon capture) during 2023 surpassed investment in wind energy for the first time. This pool of money expanded from $900 million in 2022 to $9.1 billion in 2023.

The Lone Star arm of the pro-environment Sierra Club says the federal Inflation Reduction Act, which took effect in 2022, “includes a dizzying number of programs and tax incentives” for renewable energy.

“While it will take several years for all the programs to be implemented, billions in tax incentives and tax breaks, along with specific programs focused on clean energy development, energy efficiency, onsite solar, and transmission upgrades, means that Texas could help lower costs and transform our electric grid,” says the Sierra Club.

A proposed Environmental Protection Agency rule intended to encourage industry to adopt best practices that reduce emissions of methane and thereby avoid paying. Photo via Canva

EPA sets out rules for proposed 'methane fee' for waste generated by oil and natural gas companies

pollution deterrent

Oil and natural gas companies for the first time would have to pay a fee for methane emissions that exceed certain levels under a rule proposed Friday by the Biden administration.

The proposed Environmental Protection Agency rule follows through on a directive from Congress included in the 2022 climate law. The new fee is intended to encourage industry to adopt best practices that reduce emissions of methane and thereby avoid paying.

Methane is a climate “super pollutant” that is more potent in the short term than carbon dioxide and is responsible for about one-third of greenhouse gas emissions. The oil and natural gas sector is the largest industrial source of methane emissions in the United States, and advocates say reduction of methane emissions is an important way to slow climate change.

Excess methane produced this year would result in a fee of $900 per ton, with fees rising to $1,500 per ton by 2026.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the proposed fee would work in tandem with a final rule on methane emissions EPA announced last month. The fee, formally known as the Methane Emissions Reduction Program, will encourage early deployment of available technologies to reduce methane emissions and other harmful air pollutants before the new standards take effect, he said.

The rule announced in December includes a two-year phase-in period for companies to eliminate routine flaring of natural gas from new oil wells.

“EPA is delivering on a comprehensive strategy to reduce wasteful methane emissions that endanger communities and fuel the climate crisis,” Regan said in a statement. When finalized later this year, the proposed methane fee will set technology standards that will “incentivize industry innovation'' and spur action to reduce pollution, he said.

Leading oil and gas companies already meet or exceed performance levels set by Congress under the climate law, meaning they will not have to pay the proposed fee, Regan and other officials said.

Sen. Tom Carper, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said he was pleased the administration was moving forward with the methane fee as directed by Congress.

“We know methane is over 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in our atmosphere in the short term,'' said Carper, D-Del. He said the program "will incentivize producers to cut wasteful and excessive methane emissions during oil and gas production.”

New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone, the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said oil and gas companies have long calculated that it's cheaper to waste methane through flaring and other techniques than to make necessary upgrades to prevent leaks.

“Wasted methane never makes its way to consumers, but they are nevertheless stuck with the bill,” Pallone said. The proposed methane fee “will ensure consumers no longer pay for wasted energy or the harm its emissions can cause.''

Republicans call the methane fee a tax that could raise the price of natural gas. “This proposal means increased costs for employers and higher energy bills for millions of Americans,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia.

The American Petroleum Institute, the oil and gas industry's largest lobbying group, slammed the proposal Friday and called for Congress to repeal it.

“As the world looks to U.S. energy producers to provide stability in an increasingly unstable world, this punitive tax increase is a serious misstep that undermines America’s energy advantage,'' said Dustin Meyer, API's senior vice president of policy, economics and regulatory affairs.

While the group supports “smart” federal methane regulation, the EPA proposal “creates an incoherent, confusing regulatory regime that will only stifle innovation and undermine our ability to meet rising energy demand,'' Meyer said. “We look forward to working with Congress to repeal the IRA’s misguided new tax on American energy.”

Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, called the proposed fee "common sense,'' adding that oil and gas companies should be held accountable for methane pollution, a primary source of global warming.

In a related development, EPA said it is working with industry and others to improve how methane emissions are reported, citing numerous studies showing that and oil and gas companies have significantly underreported their methane emissions to the EPA under the agency's Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program.

The climate law, formally known as the Inflation Reduction Act, established a waste-emissions charge for methane from oil and gas facilities that report emissions of more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year to the EPA. The proposal announced Friday sets out details of how the fee will be implemented, including how exemptions will be applied.

The agency said it expects that over time, fewer oil and gas sites will be charged as they reduce their emissions in compliance with the rule.

This new Texas wind farm is now partly powering Target Corp. Photo via swiftcurrentenergy.com

Central Texas wind energy facility goes online to power Target Corp.

up and running

A Texas wind energy project has officially delivered and is actively providing power to its customer, Target Corp.

Boston-based Swift Current Energy, which has an office in Houston, announced this week that its 197 MW Castle Gap Wind project is operational. It has the capacity to create enough pollution-free energy to power more than 50,000 homes annually.

"Castle Gap Wind is a momentous project for Swift Current Energy as we grow our projects under asset management and operations," Eric Lammers, CEO and co-founder of Swift Current Energy, says in a news release. "Castle Gap Wind is one of the earliest projects supported by the Inflation Reduction Act, and we are thankful for our partners at Target, Goldman Sachs, MUFG, CaixaBank and of course the entire Swift Current Energy team who helped make the Project possible."

Goldman Sachs provided the tax equity for the project, and Target and Swift Current have established long-term virtual power purchase agreement. Additionally, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, or MUFG, and CaixaBank provided project financing.

"Goldman Sachs is pleased to partner with Swift Current Energy on their Castle Gap Wind project," Ryan Newman, head of Tax Equity at Goldman Sachs, says in the release. "Goldman Sachs is committed to financing the energy transition and supporting sponsors like Swift Current that are developing sustainable infrastructure in an effort to combat climate change."

The project is located in the Mills and Lampasas Counties, which are around 90 miles northwest of Austin.

"This Castle Gap Wind contract is a part of our commitment to renewable energy and is one example of how we are leveraging our size and scale to benefit people, the planet and drive our business forward," Erin Tyler, Target's vice president of property management, says in the release.

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Oxy subsidiary secures Microsoft as largest-ever DAC carbon removal credit customer

major move

Occidental Petroleum’s Houston-based carbon capture, utilization and, sequestration (CCUS) subsidiary, 1PointFive, has inked a six-year deal to sell 500,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide removal credits to software giant Microsoft.

In a news release, 1Point5 says this agreement represents the largest-ever single purchase of carbon credits enabled by direct air capture (DAC). DAC technology pulls CO2 from the air at any location, not just where carbon dioxide is emitted.

Under the agreement, the carbon dioxide that underlies the credits will be stored in a below-the-surface saline aquifer and won’t be used to produce oil or gas.

“A commitment of this magnitude further demonstrates how one of the world’s largest corporations is integrating scalable [DAC] into its net-zero strategy,” says Michael Avery, president and general manager of 1PointFive. “Energy demand across the technology industry is increasing, and we believe [DAC] is uniquely suited to remove residual emissions and further climate goals.”

Brian Marrs, senior director for carbon removal and energy at Microsoft, says DAC plays a key role in Microsoft’s effort to become carbon-negative by 2030.

The carbon dioxide will be stored at 1PointFive’s first industrial-scale DAC plant, being built near Odessa. The $1.3 billion Stratos project, which 1Point5 is developing through a joint venture with investment manager BlackRock, is designed to capture up to 500,000 metric tons of CO2 per year.

The facility is scheduled to open in mid-2025.

Aside from Microsoft, organizations that have agreed to buy carbon removal credits from 1Point5 include Amazon, Airbus, All Nippon Airways, the Houston Astros, the Houston Texans, and TD Bank.

Occidental says 1PointFive plans to set up more than 100 DAC facilities worldwide by 2035.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott demands answers from Houston power company following Beryl

investigation incoming

With around 270,000 homes and businesses still without power in the Houston area almost a week after Hurricane Beryl hit Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday said he's demanding an investigation into the response of the utility that serves the area as well as answers about its preparations for upcoming storms.

“Power companies along the Gulf Coast must be prepared to deal with hurricanes, to state the obvious,” Abbott said at his first news conference about Beryl since returning to the state from an economic development trip to Asia.

While CenterPoint Energy has restored power to about 2 million customers since the storm hit on July 8, the slow pace of recovery has put the utility, which provides electricity to the nation’s fourth-largest city, under mounting scrutiny over whether it was sufficiently prepared for the storm that left people without air conditioning in the searing summer heat.

Abbott said he was sending a letter to the Public Utility Commission of Texas requiring it to investigate why restoration has taken so long and what must be done to fix it. In the Houston area, Beryl toppled transmission lines, uprooted trees and snapped branches that crashed into power lines.

With months of hurricane season left, Abbott said he's giving CenterPoint until the end of the month to specify what it'll be doing to reduce or eliminate power outages in the event of another storm. He said that will include the company providing detailed plans to remove vegetation that still threatens power lines.

Abbott also said that CenterPoint didn't have “an adequate number of workers pre-staged" before the storm hit.

Following Abbott's news conference, CenterPoint said its top priority was “power to the remaining impacted customers as safely and quickly as possible,” adding that on Monday, the utility expects to have restored power to 90% of its customers. CenterPoint said it was committed to working with state and local leaders and to doing a “thorough review of our response.”

CenterPoint also said Sunday that it’s been “investing for years” to strengthen the area’s resilience to such storms.

The utility has defended its preparation for the storm and said that it has brought in about 12,000 additional workers from outside Houston. It has said it would have been unsafe to preposition those workers inside the predicted storm impact area before Beryl made landfall.

Brad Tutunjian, vice president for regulatory policy for CenterPoint Energy, said last week that the extensive damage to trees and power poles hampered the ability to restore power quickly.

A post Sunday on CenterPoint's website from its president and CEO, Jason Wells, said that over 2,100 utility poles were damaged during the storm and over 18,600 trees had to be removed from power lines, which impacted over 75% of the utility's distribution circuits.

Things to know: Beryl in the rearview, Devon Energy's big deal, and events not to miss

taking notes

Editor's note: Dive headfirst into the new week with three quick things to catch up on in Houston's energy transition.

Hurricane Beryl's big impact

Hundreds of thousands of people in the Houston area likely won’t have power restored until this week, as the city swelters in the aftermath of Hurricane Beryl.

The storm slammed into Texas on July 8, knocking out power to nearly 2.7 million homes and businesses and leaving huge swaths of the region in the dark and without air conditioning in the searing summer heat.

Although repairs have restored power to nearly 1.4 million customers, the scale of the damage and slow pace of recovery has put CenterPoint Energy, which provides electricity to the nation's fourth-largest city, under mounting scrutiny over whether it was sufficiently prepared for the storm and is doing enough now to make things right.

Some frustrated residents have also questioned why a part of the country that is all too familiar with major storms has been hobbled by a Category 1 hurricane, which is the weakest kind. But a storm's wind speed, alone, doesn't determine how dangerous it can be. Click here to continue reading this article from the AP.

Big deal: Devon Energy to acquire Houston exploration, production biz in $5B deal

Devon Energy is buying Grayson Mill Energy's Williston Basin business in a cash-and-stock deal valued at $5 billion as consolidation in the oil and gas sector ramps up.

The transaction includes $3.25 billion in cash and $1.75 billion in stock.

Grayson Mill Energy, based in Houston, is an oil and gas exploration company that received an initial investment from private equity firm EnCap Investments in 2016.

The firm appears to be stepping back from energy sector as it sells off assets. Last month EnCap-backed XCL Resources sold its Uinta Basin oil and gas assets to SM Energy Co. and Northern Oil and Gas in a transaction totaling $2.55 billion. EnCap had another deal in June as well, selling some assets to Matador Resources for nearly $2 billion. Click here to continue reading.

Events not to miss

Put these Houston-area energy-related events on your calendar.

  • 2024 Young Leaders Institute: Renewable Energy and Climate Solutions is taking place July 15 to July 19 at Asia Society of Texas. Register now.
  • CCS/Decarbonization Project Development, Finance and Investment, taking place July 23 to 25, is the deepest dive into the economic and regulatory factors driving the success of the CCS/CCUS project development landscape. Register now.
  • The 5th Texas Energy Forum 2024, organized by U.S. Energy Stream, will take place on August 21 and 22 at the Petroleum Club of Houston. Register now.