Window on Washington

Window on Washington

This piece was originally published in the March/April 2020 issue of electroindustry.

by Phil Squair, Vice President, Government Relations, NEMA

In some ways, the 116th Congress has been one long tease for those interested in energy/climate and infrastructure policy. But this situation changed over the course of a 24-hour period on January 28-29, 2020, with the release of two major proposals in the House of Representatives. These two proposals contain provisions that would, if enacted, be some of the most significant new energy and transportation policies in many years.

First, the Energy and Commerce Committee put forward a 622-page draft, Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act. Among many other things, this bill would:

  • Set a national goal to achieve a 100 percent clean economy by 2050
  • Require retail electricity suppliers to provide increasing percentages of clean electricity starting in 2022
  • Require the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to initiate a rulemaking to foster interregional transmission planning
  • Direct the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to establish a program to provide funding for projects that improve resiliency, performance, or efficiency of the electrical grid
  • Establish a program to replace inefficient transformers
  • Establish a strategic transformer reserve program
  • Tighten DOE requirements for model building energy codes
  • Encourage use of performance contracting in federal facilities
  • Provide for zero-emission vehicle infrastructure buildout; and
  • Establish a DOE national plan for smart manufacturing technology development

The bill would also, unfortunately, weaken preemption provisions in current federal law to allow states to reference more stringent appliance Standards under certain circumstances.

Second, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee released a comprehensive $760 billion plan titled Framework for Making Transformative Infrastructure Investments Across the U.S.

Among other things, this framework would:

  • Provide additional funding for electric vehicle fueling infrastructure along designated highway corridors
  • Create a new Airport and Airway Investment Program focused on investing in modernization projects
  • Direct utilities to study, evaluate, and implement water- and energy-efficient technologies
  • Provide $4 billion over five years for electrical grid infrastructure to accommodate more renewable energy and to make the grid more resilient
  • Provide $17.5 billion over five years to local governments to fund energy-efficiency and conservation projects
  • Provide $850 million over five years to spur the development of smart communities infrastructure through technical assistance, grants, and training and
  • Provide $1.75 billion over five years in weatherization grants and programs to promote smart buildings and $15 million for a pilot program to promote energy-efficient water distribution systems

The infrastructure framework is still in the conceptual phase of development, so NEMA expects legislative language to be released shortly. Even so, NEMA does not believe that these two omnibus proposals will move through regular legislative order in their current form during 2020. However, some of the provisions or concepts could end up in a new highway bill, which Congress  must deal with before the end of 2020. Or they may be found in a narrowly drafted energy bill made up of standalone bills that have already passed the House.

Their primary purpose in being released now is to aggressively communicate the broad ambitions that these relevant committees have to provide Federal leadership and funding in the areas of clean energy and infrastructure. Should the Democrats take control of the U.S. Senate and/or the presidency after the 2020 elections, NEMA expects significant portions of these proposals to move forward. ei

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