With leadership from Washington State Senator Maria Cantwell, the Senate passed the first comprehensive energy legislation in many years. After a more shortsighted energy bill earlier passed the US House, the Senate version was negotiated and supported in bi-partisan fashion, passing on a vote of 85-12. The Senate bill now faces an uncertain challenge of getting support from the House before it becomes law. The following is an excerpt from Sen. Cantwell’s press release.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), led the Senate’s passage of the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016 (S. 2012) by a vote of 85-12.
More than a year in the making, this comprehensive energy bill will modernize the electric grid, invest in renewable energy and train a new generation of energy workers. The bill’s passage marks the first time since 2007 the Senate has passed a comprehensive energy bill.
“The investments we make today will benefit American taxpayers for generations to come,” Sen. Cantwell said. “This bipartisan bill is an important next step for saving consumers money on energy costs, providing more options to power U.S. homes and businesses, and preparing the next generation of workers for jobs in clean energy.”
The bill may now move to a joint conference committee with the House of Representatives.
Key provisions include:
- Launching a smart buildings initiative, a public/private partnership to demonstrate and evaluate the costs and benefits of new energy-saving technologies;
- A package of energy efficiency provisions that would provide $60 billion net savings to consumers, create more than 100,000 new jobs, and reduce emissions equivalent to the emissions from all US cars, trucks, and trains in a year;
- Modernizing the grid to help integrate renewable technologies to make our grid more distributed and resilient and tripling investments in energy storage to help protect the grid during emergencies, during outages and to deploy more clean energy sources;
- Supporting research and development of new clean energy technologies, in addition to geothermal and marine hydrokinetic energy;
- Investing more in energy research through the successful energy research arm of the government – ARPA-E –$325 million for fiscal year 2016 and 2018 and $375 million for 2019 and 2020;
- Better workforce training to help meet the needs of a changing energy sector and to help fill an upcoming shortage of 1.5 million energy workers in the next decade;
- Permanently reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund, one of the nation’s most effective conservation programs, originally created by U.S. Senator Scoop Jackson of Washington;
- Doubling the Energy Department’s recent investments in cybersecurity research and development, supply chain security and public-private partnerships for information-sharing and including cybersecurity representatives on the new 21st Century Energy Workforce Development Advisory Board; and
- A demonstration project on recycling carbon fiber – an initiative underway in the Port of Port Angeles, Washington.
Over the course of the last year, Ranking Member Cantwell and Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) worked together to compile bills from dozens of Senators (40 in total)—Democrats and Republicans, alike; and held hearings with experts on these proposals. The senators continued to improve the text by considering hundreds of amendments to the underlying bill text and processing more than 60 of those amendments through a series of Senate votes.
This bill accelerates the transition to smart buildings by supporting research and by documenting the costs and benefits of emerging technologies in private-sector and federal government buildings. Specifically, it requires a survey of privately-owned smart buildings, directs smart building retrofits in certain federal buildings to quantify costs and benefits, and directs research and development toward reducing the barriers to the adoption of smart building technology.
On average, the building sector uses more than 40 percent of the nation’s energy. Smart buildings have the potential to make commercial buildings more energy efficient, to save building owners and tenants energy and money, create jobs, enhance our competitiveness, and reduce environmental impacts. Seattle is already a leader in smart building technology and consistently ranks as one of the greenest cities in the U.S. This bill provides an opportunity for Seattle to export its smart building technology to the emerging domestic and global smart building market.
“Among the many important features of this legislation, the bill puts appropriate emphasis on energy efficiency. This resource remains the lowest cost and cleanest energy resource, while also contributing to improved competitiveness across the American economy. Moreover, the act recognizes the emerging role that ‘smart buildings’ will have in creating energy operational excellence in our built environment and help contribute to the overall modernization of this country’s energy system. The Energy Policy Modernization Act is true to its title – it helps pave the way for a 21st century energy system in the U.S.,” said Stan Price, Executive Director of the Smart Buildings Center in Seattle.