Christine Coogle, Editor and Social Media Manager, NEMA
This week, the NEMA government relations team and representatives from several member companies met with congressional staff involved in the House-Senate conference committee working to reach an agreement on the first broad energy bill in nearly a decade. We are advocating for the swift development and passage of a comprehensive energy bill with a number of specific provisions important to our members. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate passed energy legislation in the past year (H.R. 8 and S. 2012, respectively), and it is time for the differences between those bills to be reconciled. This new energy bill is needed to advance energy efficiency policies, strengthen America’s grid infrastructure, and improve the process for developing and implementing regulation. NEMA is supporting critical provisions in three principal areas: energy efficiency in buildings; transmission, distribution, and storage; and regulatory process.
Industry-supported provisions for energy efficiency in buildings include requiring the Department of Energy (DOE) to set more stringent energy performance standards for federal buildings and an annual 2.5 percent building energy reduction target through 2025. Provisions would also require the development of a metric for data center efficiency; the creation of a federal “Smart Building Program” to issue reports on high-performance green building labels and certification systems; and the establishment of an interagency coordination committee on the energy-water nexus, including a pilot program on smart energy and water within the DOE.
NEMA members emphasize the importance of providing incentives for the installation and update of energy-efficient motor-drive systems and transformers. In the last few decades, the industry has made great strides in reducing the energy wasted in motor power drives; today, they are 95% energy efficient. Now that the efficiency of this technology is so high, the focus must shift to energy savings, looking at the energy that is being used rather than energy wasted. One way to do this is through rebate programs that could offset the cost for small and medium-sized enterprises to change from fixed-speed to variable-speed operation. This change will result in greater energy reduction than attempting to further increase the efficiency of these systems.
Regarding transmission and distribution, NEMA is advocating for provisions that would facilitate updates to the electric grid, speed up the process of permitting and building new transmission lines, accelerate energy storage development and research, and encourage exploration of the opportunities offered by microgrids, particularly for isolated communities such as military bases and universities. In addition, it is crucial that this bill establish the DOE as the specific energy sector agency for cybersecurity and provide the Secretary of Energy with emergency authority to protect the bulk power system from cybersecurity threats, so that there is clear authority for rapidly responding to an attack on the grid.
There are important technical corrections that Congress should make to improve the regulatory process. The current definition of external power supplies includes technology such as LED drivers, but the regulatory standard does not work for such technology. The DOE does not have the power to interpret the language differently but has agreed not to enforce the current definition, pending congressional action. This technical correction was passed in both the House and Senate, and it must be included in the final energy bill. As provided in H.R. 8, to avoid such errors in the future, the DOE should be given the authority to make technical corrections and should be required to publish test procedures for regulated products at least six months before finalizing a rule. NEMA is encouraged by the leadership shown in both chambers of Congress on energy efficiency and grid modernization policies, and we urge Congress to pass this comprehensive new bill.
Click here to view NEMA’s full letter to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.