Distributed Energy Resources

Rep. DeGette Details Net-Zero Emissions Bill That Includes Elements Supported By APPA

Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., recently detailed legislation intended to drive the innovation of new technologies that she said will be needed to reduce U.S. power sector emissions to net zero. The bill incorporates several suggestions made by the American Public Power Association (APPA) and its members.

DeGette offered details on the Clean Energy Innovation and Deployment Act in remarks made at APPA’s National Conference Virtual Event on July 14, 2021.

The legislation is comprised of five parts.

The first part focuses on clean energy innovation and uses a range of measures to “bring the many promising clean energy technologies that we have out there to the point of commercial availability as soon as possible,” DeGette told APPA National Conference Virtual Event attendees.

The second part of the bill creates tax incentives for entities that install zero emission electricity generation. Included in this section of the bill are provisions that give extra incentives to companies that deploy the technology sooner and that deploy them in parts of the country where they’ll have the greatest impact, she said. These tax incentives would be available as direct payments including to public power utilities, DeGette said.

The third part of the bill seeks to protect low-income ratepayers by reauthorizing the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and increasing funding for the weatherization assistance program.

The fourth section “is designed to provide support to the workers who would be displaced by the shift in energy policy,” DeGette said.

The fifth section of the bill would create the nation’s first federal clean energy standard -- a zero-emission electricity standard -- which is intended to be completely technology neutral. “This technology neutral approach is one of the reasons why this bill is so unique. By taking such an approach we’re able to prioritize climate action rather than any particular electricity generating technology,” DeGette said.

Under the bill, credits for zero emission electricity generation would be issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to generators that would in turn sell the credits to retail electricity suppliers. Those suppliers would then submit the credits back to the EPA. 

The bill does not place limits on which generators a retail electricity supplier can get credits from. She noted for example that a public power utility in Missouri could buy credits from a generator in Hawaii “or wherever you can get them for the cheapest price.”

DeGette said that creating a national marketplace for credits like this “will help drive down the price and the overall cost of the program and it also helps fuel competition by investors and inventors who will then have an incentive to develop and implement the most cost effective clean energy technology possible.”

In crafting the bill, the lawmaker recognized the fact that many public power utilities don’t have environmental compliance programs, DeGette said. Therefore, she included a provision in the bill that allows a public power utility to enter into an agreement with any generator to manage the credit submission requirements for them.

“Another key part of the bill is the mechanism that’s put in place to automatically tie the nationwide clean energy standard to the availability of new technologies,” DeGette said. “Under the standard, for example, if we still haven’t developed the technology needed to generate affordable, reliable one hundred percent zero emission electricity by 2050, the bill will use offsets to ensure that we’re still able to achieve net zero emissions.”

On the other hand, “if future technological breakthroughs make it possible for us to move much faster and at a lower cost than we think possible today, the requirements that will be put in place under the bill will also advance, moving the target date to achieve nationwide, one hundred percent zero emission electricity up to and as soon as 2030.”

In order to further protect public power utilities and their customers from a high cost of compliance, “we went a step further when we drafted the bill and added three separate off ramps – one that puts a cap on the cost of credits, a second that provides you an exemption if the required technology isn’t available and a third that provides an exemption for generating electricity from a unit that’s deemed essential for maintaining reliability,” she said.      

DeGette serves on two committees -- the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the House Committee on Natural Resources. She also serves on several subcommittees and is chair of the Oversight and Investigations panel of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.