Author Archives: Michelle De Blasi

Michelle De Blasi

About Michelle De Blasi

Michelle De Blasi practices environmental and natural resources law at the Phoenix office of Quarles & Brady.

energy supply - AZ Business Magazine May/June 2012

Arizona needs clear message to capitalize on energy

States with the most successful industry clusters have a common characteristic — unwavering support from government, industry and the public. The oil and gas industry in Texas was built with support for the industry from all levels. Such support is not garnered unless the industry has a common voice in articulating its needs.

To some extent, Arizona has a robust energy industry. With the largest nuclear power plant in the nation, as well as hydropower and coal resources, our state wields considerable strength in contributing to the region’s power generation. However, as our current energy resources inevitably age and require upgrades or replacements, it is critical that Arizona is strategic about its future resources. It is for that reason that the Arizona Energy Consortium (AEC) recently released the Arizona Energy Roadmap, as a methodology for creating a strategic focus for the growth and further development of the energy industry.

As an environmental and energy attorney working heavily in the energy sector, I have experienced first-hand where the issues lie in the development of energy projects. Whether representing a manufacturer, developer, utility, investor or energy off taker, I have witnessed that any unnecessary barriers to getting projects to market limit Arizona’s ability to grow its industry. It is with this focus in mind that I helped establish and co-chair the AEC. Not only to remove the unnecessary barriers, but also to help create a common voice for our energy industry.

Creating a long-term plan for a state with such a diverse energy mix does not come without its challenges. For instance, sometimes the more established sectors such as coal and natural gas do not necessarily support or understand the need for an emerging renewable energy industry. In fact, in many cases the fossil fuel and renewable energy sectors are at odds because they feel they are in direct competition with each other. However, the AEC is working to educate both sectors on how they can support one another. A “winner take all” approach is not the desired outcome since a diverse energy mix creates a more stable, secure and reliable industry. By working together to find ways traditional fossil fuels can firm intermittent renewable power, as well as utilize common infrastructure, the sectors are beginning to speak, although slowly, with a common message.

Another barrier to development is inefficient permitting processes. Regardless of the technology, permitting delays cost time and money and in many instances can delay a project indefinitely. Since the creation of energy generation projects drives the need for manufacturing, permitting delays also create issues for the growth of the industry cluster. If there are fewer projects coming online, then there are fewer manufacturers who will be attracted to the state to site their facilities. Some of Arizona’s jurisdictions have had success reducing permitting timeframes to better support industry. The AEC is working to continue this process statewide for utility-scale projects, as well as support other entities working to improve the process for distributed generation.

Arizona has the opportunity to benefit from a robust energy economy if it can only address the redundancy in permitting and the confusing messaging. The AEC is focusing these efforts in an attempt to drive economic development, a diversified energy mix and higher paying jobs.

Michelle De Blasi, co-chair of the Arizona Energy Consortium, is a shareholder in the Phoenix office of international law firm Greenberg Traurig. De Blasi focuses her practice on environmental law, with an emphasis on natural resources matters. She advises clients on energy and environmental sustainability, including traditional and renewable energy project permitting, climate change, and greenhouse gas emissions.

Pending Favorable Legislation For Investors In Renewable Energy

Despite significant investments in renewable energy technologies in the US, manufacturing and deployment of renewable energy has lagged relative to the size of the US economy according to the recently released “Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race 2012,” published by The Pew Charitable Trust. In an effort to spur investment, bipartisan legislation was recently re-introduced to allow investors in renewable energy projects to get the same treatment under the US tax code that allows investors in coal, oil and gas to utilize Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) to attract capital. The Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act would amend the US tax code to allow entities producing electricity from certain renewable energy sources, alternative fuels and storage devices to monetize the tax benefits in the same manner as when investing in more traditional forms of energy. If this legislation passes, it will provide the opportunity for increased development in renewable energy in the US, which means improved economic development for our economy.


For more information contact Michelle De Blasi, Shareholder
Greenberg & Traurig
deblasim@gtlaw.com; 602.445.8485; www.gtlaw.com

Cash In On Solar Stimulus Funds - AZ Business Magazine Sept/Oct 2010

Time Is Running Out To Cash In On Solar Stimulus Funds

Companies and investors across Arizona are deciding whether it’s time to “go solar.” As with any other financial undertaking, moving forward with solar must make economic sense. Despite dramatic strides in technology, solar energy projects are not yet viable without government incentives. Those hoping to maximize incentives for solar should note that a particularly useful one — Treasury grants in lieu of energy credits — will expire soon.

The American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009 (aka the stimulus bill) contained two key provisions for solar:
Solar now qualifies for a federal energy tax credit of 30 percent of cost. The credit applies when equipment is placed in service, allowing faster recovery than the renewable electricity production tax credit. Unfortunately, credit in excess of tax liability is carried forward to the next tax year, for up to 20 years.

But taxpayers may elect a Treasury grant in lieu of the energy credit. Grants are paid in as little as 60 days after equipment is placed in service or under construction. Treasury grants thus allow recovery of 30 percent of the cost of solar equipment, regardless of current income tax liability. More than $3 billion has been set aside for the grant in lieu of energy credit program.

However, the grant has an expiring provision; to qualify, construction must begin by Dec. 31, 2010. Physical work of a significant nature is required. Site selection, planning, design, site clearing, and even excavation to change the contours of the land do not count as beginning construction.
Although Dec. 31 is fast approaching, with proper guidance and execution, there is still time to act. Planning is crucial. Overlooking certain regulatory and permitting requirements early on, for example, could push your project groundbreaking into 2011.

Steps for developing a successful solar plan:

  • Whether choosing more common photovoltaic (PV) rooftop panels or a larger thermal system, visit other companies with solar power systems already in place. Most states have associations dedicated to renewable energy that can direct you to these companies.
  • If a solar system appears feasible, assemble a team of experts to handle environmental, regulatory, tax, real estate, energy procurement and financial matters.
  • Determine your regulatory requirements and financial incentives. A good resource is www.dsireusa.org.
  • Hire a contractor to conduct an energy audit to establish a baseline for the energy needs that must be met.
  • Companies usually partner with a “solar energy provider” that installs, owns and operates the system. The provider sells lower-cost electricity to the company under a long-term contract, while generating valuable renewable energy credits that can be sold to your electric utility, further reducing electricity costs. State associations can provide listings of providers.
  • From a list of pre-selected providers, request information regarding their abilities, such as technology, installation time frames, references and financial information. Choose the best finalists. Then issue an RFP specifying the amount of energy needed, the desired length and key terms of a power purchase agreement (PPA), project size, and the warranty you expect.
  • Once a provider is selected, the land or roof lease and PPA need to be negotiated. A 20-year fixed-rate PPA is common. Companies also should meet with their electric utility to determine the grid interconnection and meter requirements, and the amount of renewable energy credits to be received.

How To Solar Stimulus Steps:

  • Do your homework.
  • Assemble a team of experts.
  • Determine regulatory requirements and financial incentives.
  • Hire a contractor to conduct an energy audit.
  • Partner with a solar energy provider.
  • Issue an RFP.
  • Negotiate a power purchase
  • agreement (PPA).


Mark Vilaboy also contributed to this article.  He practices tax law in the Phoenix office of Quarles & Brady. For more information, visit www.quarles.com.

Arizona Business Magazine Sept/Oct 2010