Analysis by Energy Workforce President Tim Tarpley
While the halls of Congress are relatively dark as members are back in their districts for August recess, it is becoming clear that storm clouds are brewing on Capitol Hill. Before Congress broke earlier in August, the House had only brought one out of 12 appropriation bills to the floor for consideration and the Senate has yet to bring any to the floor. While this diversion from the normal appropriations process has been increasingly common in the past few years, the logjam appears even more firm this year. This means we are almost certainly heading towards a scenario where a stopgap measure or a “CR” will be necessary to avoid a government shutdown as the current funding runs out September 30. This means that Congress will only have one month to avoid a shutdown once they go back into session after Labor Day.
The House Freedom Caucus made it clear earlier this week that they will not support a “clean CR,” which would be a simple extension of the current budget. In a statement released Monday, the caucus stated: “In the eventuality that Congress must consider a short-term extension of government funding through a Continuing Resolution, we refuse to support any such measure that continues Democrats’ bloated COVID-era spending and simultaneously fails to force the Biden Administration to follow the law and fulfill its most basic responsibilities.” While this does not necessarily guarantee a roadblock, as it is possible for Speaker Kevin McCarthy to pass a package with Democratic votes to make up for those lost to the Freedom Caucus, it certainly does complicate things for him.
While it remains to be seen whether or not the group sticks together and resists efforts to pass a CR, it is possible that additional policy riders may need to be added in order to solicit support for any measure that does indeed come to the floor. Of particular note to our sector is the prospect that elements of permitting reform or modifications to the Inflation Reduction Act could be on the table. While negotiations are just starting, it is important to watch developments closely as the window for industry to weigh in on these fast-moving negotiations will be short and implications could be impactful.
Summer Heatwave Setting Records, However Grid’s Holding Firm
Power demand in Texas and the south-central United States hit record peaks this week as the record-high temperatures and lack of any meaningful rain to provide a break continue. The Southwest Power Pool (SPP), which manages the grid in parts of 15 states from North Dakota to New Mexico, said it set an all-time high on Monday. Fortunately, SPP says that it has enough power to satisfy demand and it expects that to continue until the heat breaks.
Meanwhile, in Texas, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which oversees the majority of the Texas grid — some 26 million customers representing about 90% of the state’s power load — has also said it has enough power to meet demand. Fortunately, the state has not faced challenges like it did during winter storm Uri in 2021, and the grid and power supplies have remained stable. ERCOT demand reached 86,120 megawatts (MW) on Tuesday, which would be the grid’s 11th all-time high so far this summer and top its current record of 85,435 MW set on August 10.
Fortunately, post-Uri, the state has taken a number of steps to enhance grid reliability, and there is a greater focus on consistent, reliable and stable power generation, such as natural gas. With no break in sight in the coming weeks, the grids in the central U.S. will likely continue to be tested. We can expect grid reliability to remain at the top of policymaker’s list of concerns at the state and federal levels.
Tim Tarpley, Energy Workforce President, analyzes federal policy for the Energy Workforce & Technology Council. Click here to subscribe to the Energy Workforce newsletter, which highlights sector-specific issues, best practices, activities and more.