The House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change held a hearing on Tuesday to discuss provisions related to electric transmission infrastructure included in the Biden Administration’s climate legislation, the “CLEAN Future Act.”
The proposed bill contains several provisions addressing electricity transmission lines, their use and their expansion. To facilitate a decarbonized electricity supply, the bill would empower the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) with new permitting and review authorities.
The measure would require FERC to review its policies on advanced transmission technologies and consider effects on grid efficiency. FERC would also be given the authority to require permitting for certain interstate transmission lines as a mechanism to help meet national clean energy goals.
Opponents of the bill view the call for investment in new transmission lines as a Trojan horse that could force out non-renewable forms of power generation. Additionally, critics say the proposals would jeopardize the reliability and resiliency of the current electric grid.
“The bill seeks to prioritize massive electrification and renewable build-out, without regard to impacts on affordable, reliable power,” said Republican Leader for the House Energy and Commerce Committee Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05). “It seeks to make it easier to site transmission while making it harder to build natural gas pipelines.”
The committee heard from several expert witnesses including Patricia Hoffman, the Acting Assistant Secretary in the Office of Electricity at the Department of Energy. She testified that massive new infrastructure would be required to deliver renewable energy throughout the country.
“The most economically attractive potential renewable resources are typically located in geographic areas that are remote from the areas where demand centers are located,” Hoffman said. “Therefore, further promoting the shift toward a clean power sector requires investment in critical enabling infrastructure such as transmission to increase access to these renewable energy sources.”
In his testimony, Anthony Clark, Senior Advisor, Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP asked the committee to consider the diversity of resources that exist throughout the United States. He explained the importance of prioritizing a clean energy future but said the route to reducing emissions would look different in various regions of the country.
“There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to generating and transmitting electricity in the United States,” Clark said. “This is a large country with diverse natural resource bases and different regional supply and demand characteristics. Decisions about how to serve customers arise from vastly different geography, historical contexts, and resource mixes … This diversity should caution against the federal government adopting policies that assume all regions need to meet their needs in the same way.”
While this hearing solely focused on energy transmission, this sweeping legislation has many provisions that could have major impacts on the energy services industry. The Council continues to advocate against the overreaching new regulations and standards proposed in this bill.
If you are interested in the Council’s advocacy efforts or would like to join the Government Affairs Committee, contact SVP Government Affairs & Counsel Tim Tarpley.
Deidre Kohlrus, Director Government Affairs, writes about industry-specific policies for the Energy Workforce & Technology Council. Click here to subscribe to the Council’s newsletter, which highlights sector-specific issues, best practices, Council activities and more.