Renewable Energy: A Growing Resource

According to the International Energy Agency, within three years, renewable power could surpass natural gas as the second most prevalent source of electrical energy globally, behind only coal. Biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind accounted for over 37 percent of all new domestic electrical generating capacity installed in the United States in 2013.

Among renewable energy sources, solar led the way in 2013, followed by wind, biomass and geothermal steam. The solar capacity in 2013 was 42 percent higher than in 2012. The American Wind Industry Association reported that more than 12,000 megawatts of wind power were under construction at the end of 2013 – this is a record high for expected generation.

The federal government’s energy policy over the last 10 years has been to provide renewable energy businesses with unprecedented investment incentives. The tax credits provided by these incentives helped to stimulate growth and development in the U.S. solar and wind industries. The wind tax credit lapsed at the end of 2013, leaving the robust rate of construction in doubt; however, many wind industry experts expect it to be renewed again in 2014. By comparison, the Solar Tax credit will not expire until December 31, 2016.

For the two-year period from January 2012 to December 2013, renewable energy sources accounted for 47% of all new generation effective capacity placed in service in the United States. Renewable sources now account for more than 13 percent of the U.S. operating total energy capacity. The growth of renewables is likely to accelerate as the costs for new solar and wind power continue to drop, making them more competitive with fossil and nuclear power. Given the lapse in wind subsidies there may be minimal new installed capacity which may affect the cost structure.

The renewable energy sector is also contributing to job growth. According to the nonprofit Solar Foundation’s 2013 Jobs Census, the solar industry has grown to over 142,698 workers, nearly 20 percent greater than 2012 solar jobs figures. According to an American Wind Energy Association report, the number of wind-related jobs in the U.S. at the end of 2012 reached 80,700.

Renewable energy projects are very complex, requiring a team of experienced experts to find creative ways to insure and close these types of transactions. These transactions will typically involve complex title issues, ranging from analysis of minerals and surface rights; multiple estate interests; water rights; land assemblage; and a multitude of easement considerations.

This requires expert underwriting of tailored energy coverage and endorsements to meet the owner’s and lender’s expectations. Stewart has been a leader in underwriting complex renewable energy transactions for the past 25 years, with knowledgeable specialists that understand the unique needs of such projects. To find a Stewart expert who can help guide your next renewable energy project to success, please contact Rich Blumenthal or Shelley Norman at (800) 366-7839 or via email at rblument@stewart.com and snorman@stewart.com.

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