- Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), chair of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, introduced 17 bills on a broad slate of energy proposals Wednesday in the lead up to a series of hearings on a broad new bipartisan energy bill she is planning to put together this year.
- The proposals cover a wide swath of issues including distributed generation, microgrids, transmission, capacity markets and more. Murkowski's colleagues from both sides of the aisle have been unveiling bills of their own in hopes they will be folded into broader legislation in the months to come.
- Congress has not passed a bipartisan energy bill since 2007, but in January the Alaska senator announced she would pursue broad legislation under four titles: efficiency, infrastructure, supply and government accountability. The committee has already held a hearing on efficiency proposals and will hold more on the rest of the titles before the end of the month.
Of Murkowski's slate of bills, a few stick out as especially important for the electric power sector:
- S. 1222, the "Continuity of Electric Capacity Resources Act," would offer a set of reliability objectives for the nation's RTOs and require them to make filings with FERC for changes in tariff rates to meet those objectives.
- S. 1217, the "Electric Transmission Infrastructure Permitting Improvement Act," would establish an inter-agency team and an Office of Transmission Ombudsperson to combat delays in transmission siting, which have bedeviled developers for years.
- S. 1219, the "Interconnecting Distributed Resources and Examining Net Metering Act" would direct states to examine how DERs contribute ancillary services to the grid and the impacts of net metering on both solar and non-solar customers.
- S. 1227, the "Micro-Grid Implementation Strategy," would require the Secretary of Energy to develop implementation strategies for microgrids for isolated communities not connected to the larger grid.
- S. 1220, the "Energy Distribution Act," would adopt some aspects of the Obama administration's recent Quadrennial Energy Review and authorize the Secretary of Energy to lead an interagency team on "shared infrastructure" analysis.
Fact sheets and the full text of each bill are available on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee website.
On Monday, Murkowski called on her committee colleagues to file any energy bills they have for the session this week if they want the proposals considered for inclusion in legislation she is crafting. That bill, if it passes, would be the first broad energy legislation to come out of Congress since 2007.
Some members have already responded to the call. Sen. Angus King (I-ME) has unveiled a bill that would establish a right to interconnect for distributed energy resources (DERs) and guide states toward unbundling DER rates. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced a bill to boost investment in technologies on the nation's transmission and distribution grids and one to allow states to set their own rates for small electric projects.
In all, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hear 22 proposals from its members as it begins to craft that broader bill, E&E Daily reports.
Murkowski spokesperson Robert Dillon told Utility Dive that each bill from the committee's 22 members will have an opportunity for consideration in hearings coming up this month. He said the push to file legislation this week is so the committee can give adequate notice on the hearings.
"In order to notice those hearings publicly, we needed to be able to list what bills would be under consideration at those hearings, so that's why you have that big drop of bills ... We just happened to do ours all in one day," he said.
The committee has scheduled hearings for infrastructure bills on May 14th, energy supply bills on May 19th, and government accountability bills on May 21st. Dillon said the schedule is designed to tackle the least controversial issues first — beginning with an efficiency hearing last week — to build bipartisan momentum for the more contentious topics.
Over on the House side, the Energy & Commerce Committee released a discussion draft of an energy infrastructure bill as well. Dillon said that while it's possible that the House could move to take up Murkowski's eventual bill, it's more likely that the two chambers will sit down in a conference committee to combine their two proposals.
"If you look at what Chairman [Fred] Upton (R-MI) is doing in the House, they are certainly working on the same kind of approach where we're trying to get bills that are similar and that can be matched up in conference," he said. "Given that the House is involved in this same activity of drafting comprehensive energy legislation, it would be more likely to get a conference with the House."