Legislative Updates

Broad, Bipartisan Energy Bill Introduced in Senate


After months of listening sessions, hearings and negotiations, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and ranking committee Democrat Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) introduced a broad, bipartisan energy bill on 22 July 2015.

Focused on a wide range of national energy opportunities and challenges, the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 incorporates provisions extracted from more than 114 energy-related bills currently pending before the committee, and features five titles containing provisions related to energy efficiency, infrastructure, supply, accountability, and land conservation.

According to the sponsors, the Energy Policy Modernization Act builds on recent technological breakthroughs and promises to bring substantial benefits to American families and businesses while protecting the environment. Its provisions are designed to save energy, expand domestic production, facilitate investment in critical infrastructure, protect the electrical grid, boost energy trade, improve the performance of federal agencies, and reauthorize certain programs that have proven effective.

“Our energy renaissance has taken us from a position of energy scarcity to one of energy abundance, but current law rarely reflects that fact. After months of working together, the bipartisan legislation we introduced today marks a critical step toward the modernization of our federal energy policies,” Chairman Murkowski said.  She added “By focusing on areas where agreement was possible, we have assembled a robust bill with priorities from many senators that will promote our economic growth, national security and global competitiveness,”

Ranking Member Cantwell noted, “this energy bill permanently authorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and makes critical investments in infrastructure and new technologies. Energy security is a major issue facing our country, just with a new twist. Climate, efficiency and cybersecurity must be addressed, and we need to have a plan in place for energy transmission, distribution and storage. With this energy bill, we are taking another step forward.”

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee was scheduled to mark up the bill at business meetings scheduled for 28 and 30 July, and the sponsors hope to bring it to the Senate floor this Fall. IEEE-USA’s Energy Policy Committee is reviewing the proposed legislation and is expected to provide comments.  If successful, this bill would mark the first significant energy legislation to advance through Congress since 2007.


Key provisions of the bill as introduced are highlighted below:

Efficiency (Title I)

  • Requires the Secretary of Energy to encourage and support the adoption of building energy codes by States, local governments, or Indian tribes that meet or exceed model building energy codes, and to support the updating of model building energy codes.
  • Authorizes grants to eligible entities for a portion of career skills training programs that lead to students receiving industry-related certification to install energy efficient building technologies.
  • Directs the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to collaborate with each Federal agency to develop an implementation strategy for the maintenance, purchase, and use of energy-efficient and energy-saving information technologies.
  • Requires the development of a metric for data center energy efficiency, and the Secretary of Energy and Director of OMB to maintain a data center energy practitioner program and open data initiative for Federal data center energy usage.
  • Establishes a “Federal Smart Building Program’ to demonstrate the costs and benefits of implementing smart building technology.
  • Directs the Secretary of Energy to study and then implement ways for small and medium manufacturers to access the high-performance computing facilities at National Laboratories.

Cybersecurity (Title II, Subtitle A)

  • Provides the Secretary of Energy with emergency authority to protect the bulk-power system (BPS) from cybersecurity threats, including ability to require any entity that is registered with the nation’s Electric Reliability Organization (ERO) as an owner, operator, or user of the BPS, to take such actions as the Secretary determines to be necessary.
  • Codifies the Department of Energy as the Sector-Specific Agency for cybersecurity for the energy sector and specifies the Department’s duties with regard to that role.
  • Directs DOE to carry out a research, development, and demonstration program to develop advanced cybersecurity applications and technologies and to leverage electric grid architecture as a means to assess risk to the energy sector.
  • Directs DOE to perform pilot demonstration projects for new technologies and to develop workforce curricula for energy sector-related cybersecurity.
  • Directs DOE to carry out a program for cyberresilience component testing, as well as a program for cyberresilience operational support.
  • Directs DOE to model and assess energy infrastructure risk by developing an advanced energy security program to secure energy networks.

Electricity and Energy storage (Title II, Subtitle D)

  • Directs DOE to conduct a research, development, and demonstration program for electric grid energy storage to address challenges identified in the 2013 DOE Strategic Plan for Grid Energy Storage.
  • Requires DOE to establish a collaborative process to develop model grid architecture and a set of future scenarios for the electric system to examine the impacts of different combinations of resources and then determine whether the creation of any additional standards for ensuring the interoperability of the grid system and associated communications networks are required.
  • Directs DOE to establish a grant program to carry out eligible projects related to the modernization of the electric grid.
  • Requires DOE to establish a program to promote the development of hybrid micro-grid systems for isolated communities and micro-grid systems to increase the resilience of critical infrastructure.
  • Requires DOE to develop  voluntary model pathways for modernizing the electric grid through a collaborative public-private effort to facilitate certain objectives, and establishes a Steering Committee to facilitate the development.
  • Requires DOE to establish performance metrics for electricity infrastructure providers.
  • Encourages DOE to partner with States and regional organizations on development of state/regional electrical distribution plans, by providing technical assistance, resource assessment and open source tools for planning and operations.
  • Requires Transmission Organizations to submit a report to FERC within six months identifying barriers to their deployment of distributed energy systems and micro-grid systems, as well as potential changes to the operational requirements for, or the charges associated with, the interconnection of these resources to the Transmission Organization.
  • Requires the Secretary of Energy to issue guidance on criteria for net metering studies conducted by the Department.

Exascale Computing (Title II, Subtitle E)

  • Requires the Secretary of Energy to conduct a research program, and establish two or more National Lab partnerships with industry and institutes of higher education, to develop two or more exascale computing systems at DOE.

Workforce Development (Title III, Subtitle G)

  • Establishes the 21st Century Energy Workforce Advisory Board at DOE to develop a strategy for the support and development of a skilled workforce to meet current and future energy sector needs.
  • Establishes a three year pilot program to award competitive grants for job training programs that lead to an industry-recognized credential.

Energy-Water Nexus (Title VI, Subtitle B)

  • Establishes an Interagency Coordination Committee, co-chaired by the Secretaries of Energy and Interior, to identify all relevant energy-water nexus activities across the federal government; enhance the coordination 14 of research and development activities among agencies; gather and disseminate data to enable better practices; explore relevant public-private collaboration, and develop a research and development plan for energy-water nexus related programs.
  • Establishes the Nexus of Energy and Water Sustainability (NEWS) office to provide leadership and administrative support functions for the Interagency Coordination Committee.

Innovation (Title VI, Subtitle C)

  • Authorizes DOE’s Office of Science to carry out research, development, demonstration, and commercial applications activities. Reauthorizes the Advanced Research Projects Agency ” Energy (ARPA-E) and provides additional protection for program participants’ proprietary information.
  • Authorizes inclusion of early stage technology demonstration in authorized technology transfer activities.
  • Authorizes directors of National Labs to use technology transfer funds to carry out early stage and pre-commercial technology demonstration activities, to remove technology barriers that limit private sector interest, and to demonstrate potential commercial applications of any research and technologies arising from National Lab activities.
  • Requires the Secretary of Energy to create a website relating to National Lab programs available to small business concerns in order to facilitate access to the National Labs and the promotion of technology transfer of innovative energy technologies.

Grid Reliability (Title IV, Subtitle D)

  • Amends Section 215 of the Federal Power Act to require:  (i) regional reliability entities to submit to Congress and FERC within six months after enactment, and every three years thereafter, a report that describes the state of and prospects for electric reliability within the region; (ii) with respect to major federal rules that may significantly affect the reliable operation of the bulk power system, the submission to the Commission, for transmittal to the agency issuing the rule, a statement on the impact of the proposed rule on the reliable operation of the bulk power system ” a Reliability Impact Statement (RIS); and (iii) inclusion, by the agency issuing the rule, of a detailed response to the RIS in the final rule.
  • Requires Transmission Organizations to submit a report to FERC within six months that identifies, describes, and evaluates the electric capacity resources available to the Transmission 15 Organization; assesses the current and projected state of reliability; and assesses whether and to what extent the market rules of the Transmission Organization meet a series of criteria related to wholesale electric prices, diversity of generation, and availability of self-supply of electric capacity resources by public power entities.

Eprizes for Affordability (Title IV, Subtitle G)

  • Requires the Secretary of Energy to establish an eprize competition or challenge pilot program to implement sustainable community and regional energy solutions that seek to reduce energy costs through increased efficiency, conservation, or technology innovation in high-cost regions.

For a more detailed section-by-section summary and committee mark-up information, go to:  https://energy.senate.gov

Guest Contributor

IEEE-USA is an organizational unit of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE), created in 1973 to support the career and public policy interests of IEEE’s U.S. members. IEEE-USA is primarily supported by an annual assessment paid by U.S. IEEE Members.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button