Landmark Bipartisan Energy Bill Includes Cantwell Provisions to Modernize, Protect America’s Energy Grid

Senator helped craft legislative package as committee ranking member from 2015-2019, current senior member

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources, applauded the inclusion of five of her bills in the American Energy Innovation Act, a bipartisan comprehensive energy modernization bill released today. Cantwell's provisions, which were unanimously approved by the committee in September 2019, focus on modernizing the U.S. electricity grid, protecting the grid from cyber attacks, making our nation's buildings smarter and more efficient, creating new clean energy jobs, and facilitating a significant Eastern Washington energy storage project. 

Years in the making, the bill was unveiled today by the current energy committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ranking Member Joe Manchin (D-WV). As a senior member of the committee and the former ranking member in the 114th and 115th Congresses, Cantwell developed and authored previous versions of this legislative package and assisted with negotiations to finalize the version introduced today.

“This bill will provide a big boost for the clean energy solutions we need while keeping our nation’s energy supplies secure, abundant, and affordable,” said Senator Cantwell. “I also want to commend the great work of Senators Murkowski and Manchin—this legislation shows what we can achieve when we work together across the aisle to solve America’s most urgent challenges.”

More information on Cantwell’s provisions and where they can be found in the package are available below:

Sections 2210 – 2217—Grid Modernization

  • This provision authorizes $50 million per year through 2029 for electric grid storage R&D at the Department of Energy (DOE). It also authorizes $200 million per year through 2029 for a grant program aimed at demonstrating the value of modernizing our nation’s electricity grid using storage, microgrids, and distribution-level investments like electric vehicle chargers and advanced distributed generation. Additional provisions focus on promoting the development of microgrids for isolated communities and directing the Energy Department to provide a series of "off-the-shelf" tools to local and state grid regulators to accelerate the adoption of new technology and grid controls.

Section 2205 — Enhanced Grid Security

  • This provision authorizes $100 million per year through 2029 to fund several new programs within the Energy Department to identify, enhance, and test supply chain vulnerabilities and response capabilities between the DOE and other agencies, national labs, and private industry. These efforts include developing procurement guidelines for energy sector supply chain components, providing technical assistance to smaller electric utilities, and figuring out ways to protect our nation’s electricity, oil, and natural gas networks against a range of natural and human-made threats and hazards.

Section 1005 — Smart Building Acceleration

  • This provision accelerates the transition to smart buildings by supporting research and documenting the costs and benefits of using emerging technologies in private-sector and federal government buildings. Specifically, it requires the Energy Department make smart building retrofits in certain federal buildings and quantify the resulting costs and benefits, publish the results of a survey of privately-owned smart buildings, and conduct research and development to figure out the key barriers and ways to lower the cost of integrating advanced building technologies.

Sections 2304 and 2306 — 21st Century Energy Workforce Advisory Board and Clean Energy Workforce Pilot Program

  • These provisions authorize $15 million per year through 2023 to fund a competitive energy workforce grant program that builds partnerships with state and local government, industry, and community colleges to provide students with industry-recognized credentials through a community college or registered apprenticeship program. They also establish the 21st Century Energy Workforce Advisory Board, a nationwide advisory board that will develop a strategy to support and develop a skilled energy workforce for both the traditional and clean energy sectors.

Section 1302 — Bureau of Reclamation Pumped Storage Hydropower Development

  • This provision paves the way for a large new pumped storage project in Eastern Washington, which could provide a critical new source of carbon-free capacity for the Pacific Northwest power grid. The project would help integrate intermittent renewable sources and offset retiring coal-fired generation. Specifically, the provision clarifies that the Banks Lake project only needs to work through the Bureau of Reclamation's permitting process and not also that of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Senator Cantwell has long pushed for the transition to a modern, clean, and more diverse energy system. In the end-of-year appropriations bill passed by Congress, Cantwell secured critical clean energy tax incentives, including extensions of the biodiesel tax credit, wind energy tax credit, and federal incentives critical for the development of clean energy alternatives, such as biomass, geothermal, incremental hydro, and marine and hydrokinetic energy. Cantwell also helped revive energy efficiency tax incentives for residential and commercial energy efficiency improvements that had expired in 2018. Early last year, as negotiations to extend the provisions were ongoing, she spoke on the Senate floor to push for their extension. 

Cantwell has also been the leading voice on protecting critical U.S. energy infrastructure from cyber attacks. In the FY 2020 Appropriations Bill passed by Congress in December, Cantwell secured $95 million for Cybersecurity for Energy Delivery Systems (CEDS), an increase of $5.5 million above the fiscal year 2019 level and $20 million from the administration’s request. She has repeatedly sent letters to President Trump calling on him to defend energy infrastructure and to instruct DOE to conduct an analysis of Russian capabilities with respect to cyber attacks on U.S. energy infrastructure. In hearing after hearing, Cantwell has pressed for increased collaboration between the government, private sector, utilities, military, and academia to protect U.S. energy infrastructure from cyber attacks.