New NRECA head pushes Congress to consider co-ops in energy bill conference
- As broad energy legislation moves through Congress, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association outlined a list of concerns and support for some provisions in the bill, according to a letter sent Aug. 5 and obtained by Utility Dive.
- NRECA's concerns include provisions outlining interconnection standards for community solar, requirements to adopt advanced energy analytic technology standard as well as provisions that could "diminish the autonomy of consumer-owned electric cooperatives."
- Provisions that netted NRECA's support include incorporating electric water heaters into Department of Energy's research for grid-modernization and energy storage.
Though only eight weeks on the job, newly-named NRECA CEO Jim Matheson, traveled to Washington D.C. to promote the interests of the nation's electric cooperatives — including those affected by energy legislation currently caught up in a conference committee.
In a meeting with reporters, Matheson, a former House Representative for Utah, stressed the consumer-focused orientation of rural electric cooperatives — particularly in relation with new technologies, such as distributed generation.
"We're a populist organization," he said, following a question over the current political atmosphere surrounding the 2016 Presidential election cycle. When it comes to new technology, Matheson said what co-ops want boils down to cost and reliability.
These concerns come into play in the letter sent to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who is spearheading the energy legislation along with her Democrat counterpart, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA).
The Senate passed S. 2012 back in May, on a 85-12 vote, the first such first energy legislation since 2007. The House passed a version in December 2015, but that version contains more controversial provisions which could make compromise difficult.
Among the biggest concerns for NCERA are provisions regarding distributed energy resources, net metering policies and interconnection service that should be left to local and state control, according to the letter.
"As a result, these policies would challenge the ability of co-ops to provide affordable and reliable electricity to their consumer-owners," it reads.
The provisions are
- Model pathways, which would authorize the DOE to develop voluntary model pathways for modernizing the grid, possibly impacting how distributed energy resources are integrated.
- Performance metrics, which would authorize the DOE to establish a report evaluating the performance of the grid. By developing such metrics, the DOE could also establish ownership and operating rules for electric utilities enabling adoption of DERs.
- And finally, model guidance, which would establish a criteria to be included in future DOE net metering studies as well as for combined heat and power system interconnection services.
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