Bipartisan Bill Permanently Reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Increases Energy Efficiency, Modernizes Energy Infrastructure

Bipartisan Bill Permanently Reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Increases Energy Efficiency, Modernizes Energy Infrastructure

Washington, D.C. – July 31, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, advanced bipartisan energy legislation along with Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in an 18-4 vote in committee.

The committee held bipartisan listening sessions starting in the beginning of the Congress, a series of legislative hearings on 114 bills and three business meetings to amend and vote on the final product, the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015. Senators Cantwell and Murkowski met frequently over breakfast over the last several months to discuss legislative priorities and progress on the bill.

“The transformation in energy is happening rapidly,” Sen. Cantwell said. “We should be moving policy every year. We cannot hold back important policies that are essential to America, at a time when energy security is so important.”

Key provisions include:

Grid-Scale Storage. To bolster system resilience during emergencies and to hasten the integration of diverse resources, such as variable generation, demand response and renewables, the bill proposes a $500 million, 10-year research development and demonstration (RD&D) program in grid-scale storage. The bill more than triples the current level of federal investment and addresses the ongoing challenges of the high costs of materials and production, reliability and safety, and the lack of industry acceptance of these technologies.

Advanced Grid Technologies. The Quadrennial Energy Review highlighted the need to accelerate the transition to a more distributed and resilient energy system. In order to integrate new technologies into the electric distribution system, this bill authorizes an integrated 10-year, $2 billion program that provides for technology demonstration grants, microgrid deployment, the development of system performance metrics, and technical assistance for state and regional planning.

Cybersecurity. Nearly 56 percent of cyber incidents reported to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2013 were directed at critical energy infrastructure, mostly focused on the electric grid. This legislation would codify the Department of Energy (DOE)’s role as the “Sector-Specific Agency” for coordinating cyber response for the energy sector and would double the DOE’s current investment in cyber-related R&D, supply chain security and public-private partnerships for information-sharing.

Access to Capital. As of now, distributed energy, storage, efficiency and smaller-scale projects at the local level have not had access to the DOE loan program, due to the high cost of participation. This bill clarifies that state financing entities (clean energy funds, emerging technology funds, green banks or state economic development authorities) can participate in the DOE loan program.

Renewable Energy Investments. This bill supports research and development of new clean energy technologies that haven’t yet gained a foothold in the commercial market. Specifically, the bill would invest in marine, hydrokinetic and geothermal technologies and would provide grid modernization investments designed to help smooth integration of distributed renewables.

Energy Efficiency. To build on a number of DOE’s successful standards-setting efforts, the bill incorporates provisions of Portman-Shaheen and launches a smart buildings initiative, using information and communications technologies to better manage loads within and between buildings. The smart buildings provision alone is estimated to generate as much as 30 percent in additional energy savings.

Investing in Innovation. Unfortunately, the federal commitment to energy RD&D is less than ½ of 1 percent of what consumers in this nation spend in energy costs. The United States ranks 29th among developed nations where federal R&D is concerned. This bill addresses our funding shortfalls by increasing authorizations for DOE’s Office of Science and the ARPA-E by 4 percent each year for 5 years.

Workforce Development. 55 percent of the energy workforce is expected to retire in the next decade. The energy sector will also need to replace 2 million workers and hire an additional 1.5 million workers for new jobs during the next 15 years. This bill invests in workforce training by establishing an advisory board at DOE and a competitive workforce grant program to provide job training through a community college or registered apprenticeship program.

Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) Modernization. The Quadrennial Energy Review highlighted the need to modernize the SPR and to maximize its energy security value for the American taxpayer. The bill reasserts the fundamental purpose of the SPR and directs the Secretary to analyze both the SPR’s appropriate size, configuration and cost of maintenance; and how to optimize the SPR’s ability to protect the U.S. economy in an energy supply emergency.

Advanced Manufacturing. The adoption of smart manufacturing technology is currently limited to a small fraction of manufacturing companies, due to high cost and increased complexity. This bill improves the global competitiveness of small and medium manufacturers, reduces our carbon footprint, and has the potential to save manufacturers up to $25 billion in electricity costs over the next 20 years by implementing the use of smart manufacturing technology such as: increased automation, smart grid technology, energy-efficient manufacturing equipment and taking advantage of low-cost energy.

Energy-Water Nexus. Growing energy demands, drought and climate change have increased the need to address energy and water issues in a more integrated manner. This bill provides energy and water conservation benefits, coordinates the federal approach to energy-water RD&D and provides for a $15 million pilot grant program through DOE to demonstrate technologies to increase the efficiency of energy and water systems.

Permanent Extension of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The LWCF is the nation’s most successful conservation program, spurring billions in revenue and supporting more than 6 million jobs. This bill permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund, establishes a National Park Service Critical Maintenance and Revitalization Conservation Fund, and permanently reauthorizes the Historic Preservation Fund.

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