With efforts to ramp up the production of renewable energy and facilitate its movement from sources like OceanBased Perpetual Energy to consumers, the United States may need to triple the size of its transmission system by 2050 in order to effectively decarbonize our electricity system.
Currently the United States has more than 600,000 circuit miles of transmission lines that move electricity from generators to local distribution systems delivering power to homes and businesses. According to one regional transmission organization, a robust transmission system reduces electricity costs for consumers and maintains the reliable supply of electric energy during periods of extreme weather. To assist during these types of peak load events, transmission lines can also facilitate the movement of renewable energy resources to major load centers, such as large cities and industrial parks. As of late 2019, 734 gigawatts of primarily renewable generation are waiting to be connected to the grid, Americans for a Clean Energy Grid reported in January 2021.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, June 29, 2021 at 10:30 a.m. (ET), the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Energy (“Subcommittee”) will hold a hearing entitled “The CLEAN Future Act and Electric Transmission: Delivering Clean Power to the People” to review recently filed legislation that would provide for this type of transmission line expansion, among other energy delivery advancements.
Bills on the hearing agenda tomorrow include:
H.R. 1512, the “Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s Future Act” or the “CLEAN Future Act”
H.R. 1514, the “Prevent Outages with Energy Resiliency Options Nationwide Act” or the “POWER ON Act”
H.R. 2678, the “Interregional Transmission Planning Improvement Act of 2021”
H.R. 4027, the “Efficient Grid Interconnection Act of 2021”
Witnesses and hyperlinks to their respective testimonies are provided below:
Acting Assistant Secretary, Office of Electricity
U.S. Department of Energy
Susan Tierney, Ph. D.
Founder and President
Grid Strategies, LLC
Government Affairs Director
Utility Workers Union of America
Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP
In its Briefing Memorandum on tomorrow’s hearing, the Subcommittee noted a recent study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory projecting that the United States would reap significant economic benefits from constructing large amounts of high voltage transmission lines across the Eastern and Western Interconnections, which are two of the three grids that comprise the U.S. transmission system.
Transmission is also a major source of American jobs, the Subcommittee explained. The transmission and distribution of electricity employs more than 700,000 Americans, including almost 200,000 construction workers. According to one recent estimate, investing in the construction of 22 planned high voltage transmission projects would create 600,000 additional jobs. The Biden Administration’s American Jobs Plan proposes putting hundreds of thousands of Americans to work laying transmission lines, including by establishing a Grid Deployment Authority within the Department of Energy and providing an investment tax credit to spur the development of new transmission projects.
To read the entire Briefing, click here.
Below are explanatory news releases issued for each of the bills being reviewed:
Energy and Commerce Leaders Introduce the Clean Future Act—Comprehensive Legislation to Combat the Climate Crisis
Legislation Would Decarbonize Each Sector of the U.S. Economy within Committee’s Jurisdiction to Achieve Net Zero Climate Pollution
On March 2, 2021, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee Chairman Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Energy Subcommittee Chairman Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) introduced the Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act – ambitious new climate legislation that ensures the United States acts aggressively to tackle the climate crisis this decade and achieve net zero greenhouse gas pollution.
The CLEAN Future Act would achieve net zero greenhouse gas pollution no later than 2050, with an interim target of reducing pollution by 50 percent from 2005 levels no later than 2030. The targets come from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which has said we must cut carbon pollution to net zero by 2050 to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change. The bill presents both sector-specific and economy-wide solutions to meet those targets, offering a sweeping set of policy proposals that will put the United States on the path to a cleaner and more economically prosperous future.
“The climate crisis is one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime, but it also presents one of the greatest opportunities to empower American workers with new, good paying jobs and return our economy to a position of strength after a long, dark year of historic job losses and pain,” said Pallone. “Today’s introduction of the CLEAN Future Act promises that we will not stand idly by as the rest of the world transitions to clean economies and our workers get left behind, and that we will not watch from the sidelines as the climate crisis wreaks havoc on Americans’ health and homes. This legislation will create millions of homegrown jobs in a climate-resilient economy, ensuring our workers and businesses can compete in the 21st century transition to clean technology that’s already happening.”
“Today, we reiterate our commitment to bold and urgent federal climate action. The CLEAN Future Act will ensure America realizes the opportunities that come from embracing and accelerating the clean energy transition,” said Tonko. “It invests in the industry and ingenuity of our people and will launch America’s next great chapter of sustainable prosperity and real economic and environmental justice. I’m proud to stand with Chairman Frank Pallone and Chairman Bobby Rush. We will continue fighting to get ambitious climate legislation signed into law and jumpstart America’s clean energy economy.”
“Through today’s introduction of the CLEAN Future Act, the Committee on Energy and Commerce is assuming its vital role in combating the growing climate crisis and accelerating federal action to meet the challenge head-on this decade,” said Rush. “Through policies that will create millions of new, good paying jobs and reduce pollution in historically overburdened communities, this legislation drives our country further down the path toward a much-needed clean energy transition – and does so with equity and social justice at its center.”
The CLEAN Future Act proposes ambitious new policies aimed at dramatically cutting greenhouse gas pollution in areas within the Committee’s jurisdiction.
The Power Sector
The CLEAN Future Act includes a nationwide Clean Electricity Standard (CES) requiring all retail electricity suppliers to obtain 100 percent clean electricity by 2035, in line with President Biden’s call to action for the power sector. The CES mandates that all retail electricity suppliers provide an increasing supply of clean electricity to consumers starting in 2023, rising to 80 percent clean by 2030 and then 100 percent clean by 2035. The CES further requires that workers be paid prevailing wages for the construction of participating new electricity generation, and that owners and operators of all participating qualifying generation not interfere with the right to organize and bargain. The bill also invests heavily in clean energy, distributed energy resources, grid infrastructure, and microgrids – all of which build resiliency and are crucial to reducing carbon pollution. In addition, it empowers the federal government to expedite the responsible buildout of our electricity transmission system to achieve clean energy goals.
The Building Sector
The CLEAN Future Act improves the efficiency of new and existing buildings, as well as the equipment and appliances that operate within them. It establishes national energy savings targets for continued improvement of model building energy codes, leading to a requirement of zero-energy-ready buildings by 2030. The bill also sets energy and water savings targets for federal buildings and provides funding for schools, homes, and municipal buildings to improve energy and water efficiency and deploy energy efficient technologies.
The Transportation Sector
The CLEAN Future Act reduces transportation emissions, the largest source of greenhouse gas pollution, by building the infrastructure needed for a clean transportation system. The bill includes substantial investments in transportation electrification, including through grants and rebates to deploy electric vehicles and charging stations, zero-emissions school buses, and formally authorizing a Clean Cities Coalition Program. The bill also updates financing programs to expand domestic manufacturing of advanced automotive technologies. It also establishes an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant program to decarbonize and electrify ports around the country, reducing air pollution that disproportionately harms frontline communities.
The Industrial Sector
The CLEAN Future Act establishes a Buy Clean Program that sets performance targets to steadily reduce emissions from construction materials and products used in projects that receive federal funding. The bill incorporates new Climate Star labeling and provisions to ensure performance targets adequately consider the complexities of manufacturing and procuring carbon-intensive products. With the vast majority of U.S. construction projects funded by government dollars, this program would fundamentally transform and strengthen the competitiveness of the U.S. manufacturing sector, all while reducing climate pollution by promoting low-carbon materials and expanding the market for cleaner products.
A National Climate Target for Federal Agencies
The CLEAN Future Act directs all federal agencies to use all existing authorities to put the country on a path toward a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas pollution from 2005 levels by no later than 2030, and to net zero no later than 2050. To ensure federal agencies’ collective efforts remain on track, the legislation directs EPA to evaluate each agency’s plans, make recommendations and report on progress each year, and establishes a Clean Economy Federal Advisory Committee to review the plans and make recommendations.
State Climate Plans
The CLEAN Future Act empowers states to complete the transition to a net zero economy based on the existing federalism model in the Clean Air Act. States have flexibility to develop plans to meet the 2050 and interim targets based on their own policy preferences, priorities, and circumstances. Each state must submit a climate plan to EPA for its review and approval. To ensure that states have ample guidance and expertise at their disposal, the bill directs EPA to develop a set of model greenhouse gas control strategies which states can choose to incorporate into their plans. The bill authorizes $200 million to help states prepare their plans.
A Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator
The CLEAN Future Act establishes a first-of-its-kind Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator – modeled after the successful green bank model deployed across the United States – to help states, cities, communities, and companies transition to a clean economy. Capitalized with $100 billion in funding, the Accelerator will mobilize public and private investments to provide financing for low- and zero-emissions energy technologies, climate resiliency projects, building efficiency and electrification, industrial decarbonization, grid modernization, agriculture projects, clean transportation, and the development of state and local green banks where they do not yet exist. The CLEAN Future Act requires that the Accelerator prioritize investments in communities that are disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change and includes strong labor protections to ensure the fair treatment of workers.
Worker and Community Transition
The CLEAN Future Act establishes an interagency framework to ensure every worker and community has federal-level support and resources during the nation’s transition to net zero climate pollution. It creates an Office of Energy and Economic Transition in the Executive Office of the President, responsible for managing a task force and stakeholder advisory committee to coordinate programs and activities that support impacted workers and communities. As part of the bill’s commitment to leave no neighborhood behind during the energy transition, it likewise creates new programs to support dislocated workers and provide financial assistance to local governments – including by replacing lost revenue due to the closure of a major employer. This assistance, coupled with the infrastructure investments in the CLEAN Future Act, will support economic development and diversification for all affected communities.
The bill includes comprehensive environmental justice provisions to make environmental justice part of the mission of all federal agencies, and to incorporate environmental justice considerations into landmark environmental laws. It includes substantial investments to protect the health and safety of environmental justice communities, including lead service line replacement, Brownfields cleanups, and Superfund cleanups. It also includes grant programs to allow impacted communities to participate in the permitting and regulation of petrochemical facilities and hazardous waste disposal facilities in their neighborhoods. It further protects these groups by implementing strong new coal ash disposal requirements and repealing oil and gas production exemptions from landmark environmental laws.
The CLEAN Future Act reduces the generation of waste before it can pollute our nation’s air, water, and communities. The bill imposes new clean air permitting requirements on industrial facilities that produce plastic – a significant, growing source of greenhouse gas pollution. It also reforms our nation’s outdated recycling and waste management system to ensure that producers minimize the amount of waste they generate, including by establishing post-consumer recycled content standards for everyday products and instituting a national bottle deposit program. The bill also establishes programs to invest in community-level zero-waste initiatives to improve education and outreach around waste reduction, as well as to modernize the collection, recycling, and reuse of electronic waste, such as batteries.
The CLEAN Future Act also features a suite of complementary policies, including proposals to remove barriers to clean energy and reduce super pollutants like methane. The legislation is the result of 27 hearings in the Energy and Commerce Committee on the climate crisis over the last two years. Its introduction marks the beginning of the legislative process; hearings on the CLEAN Future Act will continue in the months ahead.
Audio from the press announcement with Pallone, Tonko and Rush can be found HERE.
A national, connected “Macro Grid” will also increase access to clean energy and lower costs for consumers
Also on March 2, 2021, Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52) introduced the Prevent Outages with Energy Resiliency Options Nationwide (POWER ON) Act to fix the current regulatory framework that hampers the United States’ collective ability to meet our nation’s energy goals. By promoting the interstate transmission of electricity, the POWER ON Act will boost reliability, help decarbonize the power sector, electrify the transportation sector, adapt the grid to withstand the devastating effects of climate change, and lower electricity costs for consumers.
“We must modernize our national power grid to make it more secure, resilient, and efficient. To do that, we need to construct a Macro Grid that makes it easier to transfer electricity from regions that make renewable energy to regions that need it,” said Rep. Peters. “According to a study conducted by the Department of Energy (DOE), this kind of integrated power system would drive economic growth and increase the utilization of our country’s abundant renewable energy sources, including wind, solar, geothermal, and hydropower. The POWER ON Act would unlock our full clean energy potential and enable more competitive wholesale power markets, which translates to lower costs for consumers.”
Siting interstate transmission is notoriously difficult for many reasons; chief among them is the historical anomaly that the federal government shares its jurisdictional authority over electric transmission with states. The POWER ON Act would clarify the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) ability to backstop states’ siting authority while establishing a more inclusive process with the states, tribes, and property owners.
“There is a shortage of long-distance electricity transmission infrastructure in this country, one that is making electricity more expensive,” said David Spence, Baker Botts Chair in Law at the University of Texas School of Law and Professor of Business Government & Society at the McCombs School of Business Consumers, who specializes in energy law. “Consumers want cheap, clean renewable energy, and investors want to build the generation facilities that will give it to them. But a patchwork of antiquated and restrictive state permitting requirements is slowing, and sometimes blocking, progress. By strengthening the backstop federal permitting regime for essential long-distance transmission lines, this bill will help to break that logjam and unleash a renewable energy economic boom.”
Specifically, the POWER ON Act would:
- Direct the DOE to study capacity constraints and congestion focusing on the integration of renewable energy resources when designating National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors (NIETC).
- Add more objective criteria to the list of considerations the Secretary of the DOE uses to select and designate a NIETC, including whether the designation would avoid to the maximum extent practicable any sensitive environmental areas or cultural heritage sites.
- Direct FERC to consider whether the applicant has engaged states and non-federal entities in good faith, timely consultations before exercising its backstop siting authority.
- Forestall FERC’s backstop siting authority if the Secretary of DOE finds that members of an interstate compact are in disagreement one year after the filing of a permitting application or one year after the designation of a NIETC.
- Require DOE to provide technical assistance to states that establish regional transmission siting agreements.
The bill’s introduction complements the Energy and Commerce Committee’s newly unveiled CLEAN Future Act, comprehensive legislation to combat the climate crisis.
“The POWER ON Act serves as a strong companion to the CLEAN Future Act,” Rep. Peters continued. “Together, my bill and the transmission titles included in the Energy and Commerce Committee’s package will ensure we are on track towards a robust clean energy future.”
The Interregional Transmission Planning Improvement Act will help build a more reliable and robust 21st century energy infrastructure
On April 20, 2021, U.S. Congressman Sean Casten (D-IL) and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) introduced the Interregional Transmission Planning Improvement Act of 2021 to help bolster the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) interregional transmission planning process.
The bill, first introduced by Senator Heinrich in 2019, directs FERC to explicitly consider multiple benefits: economic, reliability, operational, public policy, and environmental, including reductions in carbon emissions. It further requires stronger interregional collaboration and consistent consideration of those multiple benefits.
“When we talk about what it will take to transition to a clean energy economy, we don’t talk nearly enough about the roadblocks to getting electricity from where it is generated to where people need it,” said Rep. Casten. “In order to beat the climate crisis, we’re going to have to electrify everything we can with clean electricity. That means we’ve got to build a lot more transmission wires, and right now we’re lagging sorely behind. My bill with Senator Heinrich will update our energy infrastructure so that we can deliver clean, cheap energy where it’s needed and create jobs in the process.”
“We need to be thinking regionally, not just locally or nationally, to confront the climate crisis and make our electric grid more resilient and reliable. Transmission projects that connect areas of incredible clean energy potential, such as the eastern plains of New Mexico, with people’s homes and businesses’ manufacturing plants are critical to building back better and taking advantage of the enormous opportunities the ongoing energy transition presents,” said Heinrich, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.”FERC’s interregional transmission planning process is not working – we have to work with each other across state lines on joint planning processes and full evaluation of interregional transmission solutions and their benefits. Smart transmission planning offers a road map to modernizing our electric grid in a way that creates good-paying jobs and brighter, more resilient and reliable, futures.”
The Interregional Transmission Planning Improvement Act of 2021 directs FERC to consider in its rulemaking:
- The effectiveness of the existing interregional planning process.
- Specific improvement to the process that would meet the stated goals of Order 1000.
- Cost allocation methodologies that reflect the multiple benefits provided by interregional solutions.
The bill directs FERC to initiate the rulemaking within six months of enactment and complete a final rule within 18 months of enactment.
A copy of the Interregional Transmission Planning Improvement Act, is available here.
Efficient Grid Interconnection Act Would Help More Americans Access Wind & Solar
WASHINGTON – On Tuesday, June 22, 2021, U.S. Representative Kathy Castor (D-FL), Chair of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, introduced the Efficient Grid Interconnection Act of 2021, a bill that would help families power their homes with affordable and abundant clean energy by reducing costly transmission congestion and connecting more low-cost renewable energy to the electric grid.
“Expanding access to affordable, clean energy will save families money on their utility bills, create jobs in communities across America, reduce pollution, and improve public health across the board,” said Rep. Castor. “It’s time to put Americans to work building new wind, solar, and energy storage projects. By making our grid more efficient, we’ll also put money back in the pockets of working families, as we eliminate the barriers that stand between them and cheap, renewable energy. This bill will help us continue to unlock America’s clean energy potential, a vital step in our fight to solve the climate crisis.”
Interconnection challenges in the electric grid continue to hurt consumers, communities, and developers through higher electricity rates, higher capital costs, and wasted job-creating opportunities in rural areas, according to a recent report by Americans for a Clean Energy Grid and the Macro Grid Initiative. Resolving these issues is a key step to expanding access to clean energy, creating tens of thousands of jobs, facilitating rural economic development, and enhancing federal and state tax revenues.
The Efficient Grid Interconnection Act would:
- Direct the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to equitably allocate network upgrade costs among all beneficiaries; and
- Direct FERC to require grid operators to study deploying grid-enhancing technologies to defray the costs of traditional transmission upgrades, saving everyone time and money.
The full text of the bill is available here.
Original cosponsors of the Efficient Grid Interconnection Act include Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA), Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL), Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA), and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). The bill is also supported by several stakeholders, including the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), Americans for a Clean Energy Grid, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), ITC Holdings, Enel North America, the WATT Coalition, Sustainable FERC Project, Earthjustice, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“The Efficient Grid Interconnection Act of 2021 would remove a longstanding roadblock to America’s clean energy future,” said Gregory Wetstone, President and CEO, American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE). “Today’s grid interconnection policies are largely analogous to requiring the next car entering a crowded highway to pay the entire bill for a needed lane expansion. It doesn’t make sense, and it has kept hundreds of thousands of megawatts of wind, solar and energy storage resources stuck in interconnection queues. By directing FERC to appropriately allocate interconnection costs across the full universe of beneficiaries, this legislation will help unlock that queue and accelerate the transition to a renewable energy economy. We commend Chair Castor for her leadership on this critical issue, and we look forward to working with Congress to enact the Efficient Grid Interconnection Act of 2021 into law this year.”
“This bill addresses a key barrier keeping new resources off the grid—the full assignment of shared network costs to individual generators,” said Rob Gramlich, Executive Director, Americans for a Clean Energy Grid. “Homeowners should pay for driveways, not the whole road into town or the highway lane expansion. This bill bans the most egregious form of that type of cost allocation with respect to electric transmission.”
“In order to meaningfully address the climate crisis, we must add hundreds of gigawatts of solar and storage to our electricity mix over the next decade, and it’s critical that these projects are fairly evaluated and able connect to the grid in a timely and cost-effective manner,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, President and CEO, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “The backlog of solar projects waiting to connect to the grid will only grow as the industry continues to experience record-breaking growth. We must create a smoother runway to a vibrant clean energy economy and appreciate the leadership of Chairwoman Castor and the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis on this important issue.”
“As the nation’s largest independent electricity transmission company, ITC has long supported policies that provide timely and efficient interconnection of new generation,” said Nina Plaushin, Vice President of Regulatory and Federal Affairs, ITC Holdings. “We commend Chair Castor’s leadership in introducing the Efficient Grid Interconnection Act of 2021 designed to keep cost allocation just, equitable and reflective of the broad benefits of transmission. These efforts are vital to our clean energy future.”
“Enel North America supports the ‘Efficient Grid Interconnection Act of 2021’ because it says that FERC cannot issue an order that would require all transmission upgrade costs to be paid by generators,” said Kyle Davis, Head of Public Policy and Institutional Affairs, U.S. Federal Policy, Enel North America. “It does not say that generators should pay nothing either. Instead, it directs FERC to figure out the right way to fairly split the costs between generators and transmission owners or load. Enel supports splitting upgrade costs between generators and transmission owners based on level of impact the new generator imparts on the transmission system.”
“Studies suggest that Grid Enhancing Technologies (GETs) enable twice as much clean generation to be connected to transmission systems,” said Jenny Erwin, Chair, WATT Coalition. “If this bill passes, it would provide an option for GETs to be used, enabling a much faster expansion of clean energy and its associated benefits like local jobs, tax dollars and cleaner air. This legislation along with these rapid, affordable technologies are critical to achieving President Biden’s goal of 50% reduction in greenhouse gas pollution by 2030.”
“By fairly and equitably allocating grid upgrade costs to everyone who benefits from new energy sources, this much-needed legislation would break the logjam of clean energy projects that can’t connect to the grid, and help speed the transition from fossil fuel power to affordable clean energy,” said John Moore, Director, Sustainable FERC Project.
Background: In June of 2020, the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis Democrats released the majority staff report Solving the Climate Crisis: The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient, and Just America. This report provides a roadmap for Congress—a Climate Crisis Action Plan—to build a prosperous, clean energy economy that values workers, advances environmental justice, and is prepared to meet the challenges of the climate crisis.