Electricity Markets

House Passes Bill That Includes Provisions Of Interest To Public Power

The House on Feb. 4 approved by a vote of 222-210 H.R. 4521, the America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology and Economic Strength Act of 2022 (America COMPETES Act), which includes several provisions of interest to public power.

The bill is the product of eleven committees and includes many bipartisan bills that have already passed the House.

Included among the provisions of interest to public power in the House bill is a strategic transformer reserve and resilience program.

The bill authorizes $75 million a year for five years to reduce the vulnerability of the electric grid by establishing a Strategic Transformer Reserve and for the development, testing and monitoring of large transformers and critical electric grid equipment

This language is substantially similar to language included in H.R. 2741, the Leading Infrastructure for Tomorrow’s (LIFT) America Act, which was introduced in the House in May 2019 by House Energy & Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and the CLEAN Future Act.

The 2015 FAST Act directed DOE to report to Congress a plan to establish a strategic transformer reserve. DOE issued its report in March 2017 and recommended encouraging and supporting an industry-based option, with the proviso that DOE work with stakeholders after one year to re-assess whether sufficient progress has been made to warrant continuation or alternative actions by Government.

The electric utility industry already has access to equipment sharing programs.

The House bill also includes a title that provides authorization for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science and authorizes several DOE research initiatives including around fusion energy, advanced computing, energy storage, and critical materials.

Also of relevance to public power is the bill’s authorizing a DOE program to support incubators that accelerate the commercial application of clean energy technologies. Awards are limited to $4 million per state for one or more incubators for no longer than five years, with the ability to renew for up to three years.

It also authorizes DOE to support relevant technology transfer programs, including information sharing, development of impact metrics, and connecting startup companies to clean energy transfer programs, within DOE.

The bill also directs the Secretary of Commerce to within 180 days establish a Supply Chain Resilience and Crisis Response Office, along with a new Assistant Secretary for it. One of the missions of the office would be to “identify, prepare for, and respond to supply chain shocks to critical industries and…support the availability of critical goods from domestic manufacturers, and relocate manufacturing facilities out of countries of concern.”

In addition, it directs the Office of Supply Chain Resilience to develop and implement a strategy to support the resilience, diversity, security, and strength of supply chains.

Other sections of the bill of interest to public power would:

  • Create a program within the new office to map, monitor and model supply chains including performing stress tests for critical industries, supply chains, domestic enterprises, and domestic manufacturers identifying supply chain gaps and vulnerabilities with authorization at $500 million;
  • Authorize $45 billion for FY 2022-FY 2027 to provide loans, grants, and loan guarantees to support supply chain resilience/surge capacity for manufacturing or acquisition of critical goods (includes energy sector industrial base). permits financial assistance to domestic manufactures and enterprises, state and local governments, etc.; and
  • Direct the Secretary of Commerce to create a public searchable database where U.S. businesses voluntarily report on the products they produce (which may be finished goods or inputs for other goods) and/or the inputs required for such products.

An amendment from Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) that was adopted as part of a set of amendments would impose a Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act section 111(d) “must consider” requirement for energy storage systems.

The American Public Power Association does not support these types of requirements given the time and expense they impose on public power utilities.

A similar “must consider” energy storage provision passed the House last Congress as part of H.R. 4447, the Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act, but was not enacted into law.

A companion bill, the U.S. Competition and Innovation act (S. 1260), was approved by the Senate last June by a vote of 68-32.

The Senate bill was a bipartisan effort and is significantly different from the House bill, which was put together exclusively by Democrats, although it includes many bipartisan bills that have already passed the House.

The House bill is likely to get cut down significantly in conference to better match what the Senate produced.