US infrastructure bill could pass via reconciliation, needs major power grid investment

2021-09-26by admin

  The US infrastructure legislation proposed by the Biden administration could potentially be passed as a reconciliation bill and the package should include funding to increase power grid flexibility, energy experts said June 16.

  As the White House and Congressional Democrats continue to negotiate with their Republican counterparts over the details of a proposed infrastructure bill, one of policies that could be included is a clean energy standard similar to renewable portfolio standards that many states have adopted.If such a policy were structured to conform with the rules of reconciliation, then it could be passed as a reconciliation bill, Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), said during a virtual conversation about energy resilience and the electric grid hosted by news outlet Axios.

  Democrats could pursue a CES and other more aggressive climate and clean energy measures through budget reconciliation, a process that allows legislation to pass the Senate with a simple majority.

  Asked if Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, would support a reconciliation bill, Heinrich said passing the legislation that way could offer several benefits to West Virginia.

  West Virginia is a state with many “energy veterans who kept the lights on for decades and decades” but now the coal jobs that drove their economy have dwindled and there is “huge opportunity in a reconciliation package” to create new industries around things like hydrogen, Heinrich said.

  The infrastructure package should also include a way to offer point-of-sale rebates to people purchasing equipment needed for electrification like induction cook tops and electric vehicle chargers, he said.

  Historically, many of these things have been incentivized using tax credits, but many homeowners do not have the tax liability to be able to avail themselves of those credits, Heinrich said.

  Karen Wayland, CEO of electricity industry policy organization GridWise Alliance, said her group has been preparing recommendations for Congress on the infrastructure package that identify funding streams through the Department of Energy and other federal agencies to make investments that can support investments being made by utilities, states and local governments.

  ”We are recommending a significant sum of funding for increasing grid flexibility … with things like sensors, advanced grid controls, data analytics, storage” and technologies that help the grid respond faster and more accurately to signals coming from distributed energy resources or extreme weather, Wayland said.

  CybersecurityShe also said GridWise recommends investing in cybersecurity because we have known electrical equipment has vulnerabilities and the recent cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline system highlights the need to bolster power grid security.

  The cyber threat is digital, so it needs digital solutions, Colin Parris, chief technology officer at GE Digital, said. One example is a “digital ghost” that GE created with the DOE, which is a “digital twin solution” that can detect a cyber threat, isolate it, and mitigate it, he said.

  Some physical examples of power grid hardening include elevating sub stations and designing submersible transformers, New York Power Authority CEO and GridWise Alliance chair Gil Quiniones said.

  NYPA has been building stronger overhead transmission and distribution lines with stronger poles, Quiniones said. But while doing that, it makes sense to add sensors that constantly monitor the health of power assets, allowing for rapid response when needed, he said.

  Wayland said there is a lot in the infrastructure proposal for the power grid, including investments for transportation electrification, building electrification, energy efficiency, federal vehicle fleet electrification, electrifying school buses, and an investment tax credit for transmission.

  ”What we hope to see in a final package is at least $50 billion for investments in the grid” because upgrades will be needed as electrification progresses, she said.