New Senate bills are good news for distributed generation and the smart grid

A flurry of positive activity surrounding energy efficiency legislation took place on Capitol Hill last week, and progress continues this week with the introduction of two new energy efficiency-related bills with an emphasis on distributed generation (DG) and combined heat and power (CHP). Today, Senator Shaheen (D-NH) introduced the Clean Distributed Energy Grid Integration Act (S.1201) and the Heat Efficiency through Applied Technology (HEAT) Act (S.1202) for consideration before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The first bill, which we refer to as the Grid Integration Act for short, directs the secretary of energy to develop an effort focused on advancing the integration of clean distributed energy into electric grids. The bill would support the advancement of several different distributed energy resources including CHP, renewables, energy storage, fuel cells, and waste heat to power (WHP). It calls for the convening of a stakeholder working group, the undertaking of research to address technical and regulatory barriers, and providing support for demonstrations of intelligent integration systems for distributed generation that are dynamic in response to changing grid conditions.

Provisions of the Grid Integration Act will support the deployment of new advances in intelligent sensing and control technologies, which benefit both the distributed system owner and the electric grid operator by facilitating more dynamic, adaptive, and anticipatory integration with the grid. Using advanced integration technologies will help bring clean energy solutions online, while optimizing the quality and reliability of a new, smarter electric grid.

The second bill, the HEAT Act, addresses three major regulatory barriers to encourage the deployment of CHP and WHP, both of which would strengthen local economies and support national energy goals. The HEAT Act provides assistance to states in considering the adoption of (1) updated interconnection procedures and tariff schedules; (2) model standards for supplemental, backup, and standby power fees for CHP and WHP systems; and (3) the most recent EPA guidance on output based emission standards.

A number of barriers impede the full capture of CHP potential, and provisions contained in the HEAT Act would help states overcome many of these barriers, cost-effectively and without mandates. Greater CHP deployment will result in a range of benefits, including lower energy bills for the system owner and societal benefits such as energy savings, reduced fuel consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions reductions when compared to conventional power plants. Further, by reducing the need for transmission and distribution, CHP can also benefit utilities by reducing grid congestion, deferring the need for infrastructure investments, and improving overall grid reliability.

We again commend Senator Shaheen and her colleagues for their continued leadership and recognition of the value of energy efficiency as both the Senate and House prepare comprehensive energy bills. We expect the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, under the leadership of Senators Murkowski (R-AK) and Cantwell (D-WA), to include one or both of these legislative proposals in its upcoming energy-related hearings this month. ACEEE testified at a hearing held last week, which was the first of four hearings on general energy titles—efficiency, infrastructure, supply, and accountability—that Chairman Murkowski has scheduled in May. A hearing on infrastructure is currently scheduled for May 14th, with a hearing on supply scheduled for May 19th.