Castor Introduces Bill To Expand Access To Clean Energy & Reduce Grid Congestion
WASHINGTON – On Tuesday, Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL), Chair of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, introduced the Efficient Grid Interconnection Act of 2021, a bill that would help families power their homes with affordable and abundant clean energy by reducing costly transmission congestion and connecting more low-cost renewable energy to the electric grid.
“Expanding access to affordable, clean energy will save families money on their utility bills, create jobs in communities across America, reduce pollution, and improve public health across the board,” said Rep. Castor. “It’s time to put Americans to work building new wind, solar, and energy storage projects. By making our grid more efficient, we’ll also put money back in the pockets of working families, as we eliminate the barriers that stand between them and cheap, renewable energy. This bill will help us continue to unlock America’s clean energy potential, a vital step in our fight to solve the climate crisis.”
Interconnection challenges in the electric grid continue to hurt consumers, communities, and developers through higher electricity rates, higher capital costs, and wasted job-creating opportunities in rural areas, according to a recent report by Americans for a Clean Energy Grid and the Macro Grid Initiative. Resolving these issues is a key step to expanding access to clean energy, creating tens of thousands of jobs, facilitating rural economic development, and enhancing federal and state tax revenues.
The Efficient Grid Interconnection Act would:
- Direct the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to equitably allocate network upgrade costs among all beneficiaries; and
- Direct FERC to require grid operators to study deploying grid-enhancing technologies to defray the costs of traditional transmission upgrades, saving everyone time and money.
Original cosponsors of the Efficient Grid Interconnection Act include Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA), Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL), Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA), and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). The bill is also supported by several stakeholders, including the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), Americans for a Clean Energy Grid, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), ITC Holdings, Enel North America, the WATT Coalition, Sustainable FERC Project, Earthjustice, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“The Efficient Grid Interconnection Act of 2021 would remove a longstanding roadblock to America’s clean energy future,” said Gregory Wetstone, President and CEO, American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE). “Today’s grid interconnection policies are largely analogous to requiring the next car entering a crowded highway to pay the entire bill for a needed lane expansion. It doesn’t make sense, and it has kept hundreds of thousands of megawatts of wind, solar and energy storage resources stuck in interconnection queues. By directing FERC to appropriately allocate interconnection costs across the full universe of beneficiaries, this legislation will help unlock that queue and accelerate the transition to a renewable energy economy. We commend Chair Castor for her leadership on this critical issue, and we look forward to working with Congress to enact the Efficient Grid Interconnection Act of 2021 into law this year.”
“This bill addresses a key barrier keeping new resources off the grid—the full assignment of shared network costs to individual generators,” said Rob Gramlich, Executive Director, Americans for a Clean Energy Grid. “Homeowners should pay for driveways, not the whole road into town or the highway lane expansion. This bill bans the most egregious form of that type of cost allocation with respect to electric transmission.”
“In order to meaningfully address the climate crisis, we must add hundreds of gigawatts of solar and storage to our electricity mix over the next decade, and it’s critical that these projects are fairly evaluated and able connect to the grid in a timely and cost-effective manner,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, President and CEO, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “The backlog of solar projects waiting to connect to the grid will only grow as the industry continues to experience record-breaking growth. We must create a smoother runway to a vibrant clean energy economy and appreciate the leadership of Chairwoman Castor and the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis on this important issue.”
“As the nation’s largest independent electricity transmission company, ITC has long supported policies that provide timely and efficient interconnection of new generation,” said Nina Plaushin, Vice President of Regulatory and Federal Affairs, ITC Holdings. “We commend Chair Castor’s leadership in introducing the Efficient Grid Interconnection Act of 2021 designed to keep cost allocation just, equitable and reflective of the broad benefits of transmission. These efforts are vital to our clean energy future.”
“Enel North America supports the ‘Efficient Grid Interconnection Act of 2021’ because it says that FERC cannot issue an order that would require all transmission upgrade costs to be paid by generators,” said Kyle Davis, Head of Public Policy and Institutional Affairs, U.S. Federal Policy, Enel North America. “It does not say that generators should pay nothing either. Instead, it directs FERC to figure out the right way to fairly split the costs between generators and transmission owners or load. Enel supports splitting upgrade costs between generators and transmission owners based on level of impact the new generator imparts on the transmission system.”
“Studies suggest that Grid Enhancing Technologies (GETs) enable twice as much clean generation to be connected to transmission systems,” said Jenny Erwin, Chair, WATT Coalition. “If this bill passes, it would provide an option for GETs to be used, enabling a much faster expansion of clean energy and its associated benefits like local jobs, tax dollars and cleaner air. This legislation along with these rapid, affordable technologies are critical to achieving President Biden's goal of 50% reduction in greenhouse gas pollution by 2030.”
“By fairly and equitably allocating grid upgrade costs to everyone who benefits from new energy sources, this much-needed legislation would break the logjam of clean energy projects that can’t connect to the grid, and help speed the transition from fossil fuel power to affordable clean energy,” said John Moore, Director, Sustainable FERC Project.
Background: In June of 2020, the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis Democrats released the majority staff report Solving the Climate Crisis: The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient, and Just America. This report provides a roadmap for Congress—a Climate Crisis Action Plan—to build a prosperous, clean energy economy that values workers, advances environmental justice, and is prepared to meet the challenges of the climate crisis.