Background - Practices (Details)

Alternative Energy for Higher Education Institutions

Higher education institutions are on the front line of pioneering efforts to develop advanced energy technologies, mitigate climate risks, and transform the way our society produces and consumes energy. Like other large energy users, universities and academic medical centers are proactively seeking ways to both reduce their carbon footprint and lower costs to operate their facilities. There are a number of innovative approaches to a transition to cleaner sources of energy, including installing renewable generation on-site, purchasing renewable energy from a larger off-site facility, or engaging clean energy commodity markets. The impetus for any institution's objectives to pursue clean energy or efficiency upgrades traditionally begins by assessing energy costs, as well as reliability and environmental performance (e.g., carbon footprint). A clean energy or carbon neutrality target and strategic program can then be developed to suit the particular needs, ambitions and capabilities of the institution, all of which requires proficient understanding of energy regulations, markets, and innovative financing approaches.    

Crowell & Moring's breadth of experience is particularly valuable to universities and other large energy users seeking to replace carbon-intensive "brown" energy with renewable energy, achieve long-term energy cost certainties and increase energy efficiency. Our attorneys' renewable/alternative energy experience with universities includes recent engagements on behalf of the following:

  • University of California (UC) in the negotiation of power purchase agreements (PPAs) to purchase the output of 80 MW of solar facilities owned by Frontier Renewables. At the time, this transaction was the largest non-utility purchase of solar energy in the U.S. We also advised UC on implementation of its carbon neutrality policies and assisted in the negotiation of energy hedging arrangements, resource adequacy procurements, and several bundled and unbundled renewable energy credit (REC) purchase transactions. 
  • A consortium of The George Washington University, The George Washington University Hospital, and American University in the negotiation of PPAs to purchase the output of a 52 MW solar facility owned by Duke Energy Renewables.
  • University of California San Diego as expert advisor for UCSD's "microgrid."
  • The seller in an agreement with Pennsylvania State University for the purchase of energy from a hydroelectric facility.
  • The seller in an agreement with the University of Maryland Medical System for the purchase of energy from a solar facility.
  • The developer in the construction and operation of a rooftop solar facility at the University of San Francisco.
  • Davidson College in connection with a third party development of a ground-mounted solar PV array on campus and associated compliance with REC and carbon accounting guidelines established by American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment.
  • Roanoke College and Virginia Tech in the procurement of solar rooftop projects under Virginia's public-private partnership law.
  • The developer of a solar facility at Mount St. Mary's University in Maryland.

We regularly advise non-university clients, including renewable energy project developers, wholesale and retail customers, transmission companies, energy service companies, investor-owned utilities, and trade associations in all aspects of renewable energy generation and trading, including the following:

  • Contracts for the sale and purchase of energy and related environmental attributes.
  • Market-based climate or clean energy mechanisms (e.g., state renewable portfolio or energy efficiency standards, utility rebate or carbon abatement programs).
  • Project and lease financing.
  • Governmental support for renewable energy, such as green bank financing, federal loan programs, and tax and other financial incentives.
  • The origination, reporting, and market trading of environmental attributes, including RECs, carbon allowance and emission reduction offsets, efficiency credits, and water quality credits.
  • Federal and state regulatory issues, including several unique reporting standards and other regulatory issues implicated by clean energy and distributed generation.   
  • The ramifications for buyers and sellers of energy and related environmental attributes in regional energy markets.

What Our Collective Experience Means

  • If an institution is going to have a distributed generation facility on-site, we can advise on regulatory and transaction structuring, siting arrangements, construction agreements (if the institution owns the facility) and PPAs (if a third party owns the facility).
  • If an institution is purchasing renewable energy from an off-site facility or from a third party marketer, we can advise on arrangements for energy purchases and the bidding of such energy and related capacity if the facility is in an organized electricity market. If an institution is seeking to procure RECs or other environmental benefits, we can advise on purchase arrangements, as well as reporting and compliance requirements.
  • Our experience representing the project owners in the development and financing of renewable energy projects is a significant asset when representing the purchaser of a project's output; we know what is a necessary requirement from the project owner to support the project's financing – and what is not.  
  • If an institution is seeking to finance clean energy or energy efficiency assets with the assistance of state green banks, we can assist in negotiation of project documents and interface with public sector officials to develop workable partnerships.
  • If an institution is designing and evaluating a program to transition towards carbon neutrality, we can advise on likely energy and environmental market impacts, greenhouse gas and clean energy regulations and policies affecting electric utilities and end users, and federal programs to incentivize advanced technology deployment (e.g., microgrids and solid oxide fuel cells).