Electricity Markets

House panel clears grid modernization, security proposals backed by Association

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee on Feb. 12 passed four pieces of energy-related measures that will affect public power.

Staff at the American Public Power Association helped to develop an amendment included in a grid modernization bill and offered extensive feedback on a grid security research and development bill. A third measure involving energy storage technology includes an amendment that lines up with an amendment supported by the Association in the Senate version of the legislation.   

One of the four bills passed by the committee, the Grid Modernization Research and Development Act (H.R. 5428), would direct the Department of Energy to take several actions related to grid research and development, including establishing a smart grid regional demonstration initiative, a program related to grid modeling, sensing, and advanced operations and controls, a hybrid energy systems program and a program on integrating electric vehicles onto the electric grid.

The bill, sponsored by Reps. Connor Lamb, D-Pa., and Jamie Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., would also create a grant and technical assistance program for which electric utilities, as well as state, local, and tribal governments, are eligible, to improve grid resiliency.

The committee approved an amendment from Representative Lizzie Fletcher, D-Texas, that would direct DOE to conduct research and development on tools and technologies that improve the interoperability and compatibility of new and emerging components, technologies, and systems with existing electric grid infrastructure.

Based on member feedback, Association staff worked with the committee to develop this amendment and supported its inclusion in the final bill.

The committee also approved the Grid Security Research and Development Act (H.R. 5760), which is sponsored by Reps. Ami Bera, D-Calif., and Randy Weber, R-Texas.

The bill would authorize an interagency research and development program to advance electric grid cybersecurity, physical security, and resiliency. Specifically, it would authorize cybersecurity test beds, education and workforce training programs, and the development of guidance documents for research, development, and demonstration activities. The bill would authorize $150 million for these programs and efforts in FY 2021, an amount that would rise each year until it reaches $182 million for FY 2025.

The Association provided extensive feedback and comments on this bill to ensure that public power utilities are eligible to participate in programs if they wish, participation is voluntary, and R&D is done in consultation with the electric utility industry.

In addition, the committee approved the Better Energy Storage Technology (BEST) Act (H.R. 2986).

The bill directs the DOE to establish a research and development program for energy storage, including the development of a five-year strategic plan identifying research, development, demonstration, and commercial application goals for the program. The bill also directs DOE to establish a competitive grant program, for which public power utilities are eligible, to fund energy storage demonstration projects.

The measure is sponsored by Representatives Bill Foster, D-Ill., and Jamie Herrera Beutler, R-Wash.

The committee approved an amendment from Foster directing DOE to require cost sharing for the energy storage demonstration program be done in accordance with section 988 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which gives the Secretary of Energy flexibility to reduce the non-federal share if they deem it necessary and appropriate.

The amendment puts the bill in line with the Senate’s version of the BEST Act, S.1602, which the Association supports.

The committee also approved a bill that would direct DOE to create a geothermal workforce development program, authorize DOE R&D programs for geothermal energy and enhanced geothermal systems, and reauthorize the High Cost Region Geothermal Energy Grant Program through fiscal year FY 2024.

The measure is sponsored by committee Chairman Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, and Ranking Member Frank Lucas, R-Okla.

At this point, it is not known when the bills will be sent to the floor for full consideration by the House of Representatives.