Certain of our utility scale plants and their owners are exempt wholesale generators, as defined under PURPA (each, an EWG) which exempts each EWG and us (for purposes of our ownership of each such company) from the federal books and access provisions of PUHCA. Certain of the EWGs are also QFs. EWGs and their owners are subject to regulation for most purposes as “public utilities” under the FPA, including regulation of their rates and their issuances of securities. Each of our EWGs has obtained “market based rate authorization” and associated blanket authorizations and waivers from FERC under the FPA, which allows it to sell electricity, capacity and ancillary services at wholesale at negotiated, market based rates, instead of cost-of-service rates, as well as waivers of, and blanket authorizations under, certain FERC regulations that are commonly granted to market based rate sellers, including blanket authorizations to issue securities.
The failure of our QFs to maintain QF status may result in their becoming subject to significant additional regulatory requirements. In addition, the failure of the EWGs, or our QFs to comply with applicable regulatory requirements may result in the imposition of penalties.
In particular, the EWGs, and any project companies that own or operate our QFs that obtain market based rate authority from FERC under the FPA are or will be subject to certain market behavior and anti-manipulation rules as established and enforced by FERC, and if they are determined to have violated those rules, will be subject to potential disgorgement of profits associated with the violation, penalties, and suspension or revocation of their market-based rate authority. If such entities were to lose their market-based rate authority, they would be required to obtain FERC’s acceptance of a cost-of-service rate schedule for wholesale sales of electric energy, capacity and ancillary services and could become subject to significant accounting, record-keeping, and reporting requirements that are imposed on FERC regulated public utilities with cost-based rate schedules.
Substantially all of our assets are also subject to the rules and regulations applicable to power generators generally, in particular the Reliability Standards of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation or similar standards in Canada, the United Kingdom and Chile. If we fail to comply with these mandatory Reliability Standards, we could be subject to sanctions, including substantial monetary penalties, increased compliance obligations and disconnection from the grid.
The regulatory environment for electricity generation in the United States has undergone significant changes in the last several years due to state and federal policies affecting the wholesale and retail power markets and the creation of incentives for the addition of large amounts of new renewable energy generation and demand response resources. These changes are ongoing and we cannot predict the ultimate effect that the changing regulatory environment will have on our business. In addition, in some of these markets, interested parties have proposed material market design changes, as well as made proposals to re-regulate the markets or require divestiture of power generation assets by asset owners or operators to reduce their market share. If competitive restructuring of the power markets is reversed, discontinued or delayed, our business prospects and financial results could be negatively impacted.
Laws, governmental regulations and policies supporting renewable energy, and specifically solar and wind energy (including tax incentives), could change at any time, including as a result of new political leadership, and such changes may materially adversely affect our business and our growth strategy.
Renewable energy generation assets currently benefit from, or are affected by, various federal, state and local governmental incentives and regulatory policies. In the United States, these policies include federal ITCs, PTCs, and trade import tariff policies, as well as state RPS and integrated resource plan (“IRP”) programs, state and local sales and property taxes, siting policies, grid access policies, rate design, net energy metering, and modified accelerated cost-recovery system of depreciation. The growth of our wind and solar energy business will also be dependent on the federal and state tax and regulatory regimes generally and as they relate in particular to our investments in our wind and solar facilities. For example, future growth in the renewable energy industry in the U.S. will be impacted by the availability of ITC and PTCs and accelerated depreciation and other changes to the federal income tax codes, including reductions in rates or changes that affect the ability of tax equity providers to effectively obtain the benefit of available tax credits or deductions or forecast their future tax liabilities, which may materially impair the market for tax equity financing for wind and solar power plants. Any effort to overturn federal and state laws, regulations or policies that are supportive of wind and solar power plants or that remove costs or other limitations on other types of generation that compete with wind and solar power plants could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
Many U.S. states have adopted RPS programs mandating that a specified percentage of electricity sales come from eligible sources of renewable energy. If the RPS requirements are reduced or eliminated, it could lead to fewer future power contracts or lead to lower prices for the sale of power in future power contracts, which could have a material adverse effect on our future growth prospects. Such material adverse effects may result from decreased revenues, reduced economic returns on