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SMACNA cheers: Energy policy nears passage

May 13, 2016

After a decade of effort Congress nearer completion of energy policy following Senate passage of SMACNA-endorsed bipartisan package

After nearly a decade of discussion and gridlock, the U.S. Senate finally passed a bill with residential, commercial, industrial, and public energy efficiency provisions that would stimulate construction activity and upgrade the power grid supporting our economy for years to come.

The energy bill recently passed by the Senate represents significant advances long supported by SMACNA and energy efficiency leaders across the nation as well as advocates for consumer energy bill savings, job growth, and environmental quality.

The comprehensive energy package includes numerous priorities from Republicans and Democrats around the theme of energy infrastructure modernization and efficiency. It pushes to improve the nation’s electric grid, streamline the process for exporting liquefied natural gas, indefinitely renew the country’s main conservation fund, clean up outdated regulations and spur more energy efficiency in buildings, manufacturing and elsewhere, among other provisions. The Obama Administration supports much of the Senate bill, although it has stopped short of completely endorsing it before a House-Senate conference meets.

This bill will especially help state and local governments implement effective building energy codes and other policies to save Americans money. It will help many middle-income families finance energy improvements in their homes and earn the benefits of energy savings. Importantly, it will foster innovation in smart buildings and smart manufacturing to make American companies more competitive by driving down their level of energy inefficiency, carbon emissions as well as high overhead costs for energy. 

For SMACNA’s industrial market firms the Senate energy package includes provisions that significantly advance industrial efficiency by providing new support for combined heat and power as well as waste heat to power systems (CHP/WHP). By recognizing waste heat to power as a renewable resource for federal facility goals, encouraging best practices to connect combined heat and power projects to the grid, supporting resiliency in critical infrastructure, and providing for needed technical assistance, this bill will help make our grid more reliable and improve our economy without undue cost or regulatory burden. 

The legislation also included Sen. Shaheen’s (D-N.H.) HEAT Act, supporting revised interconnection procedures and supplemental, backup, and standby power fees for CHP/WHP systems. The bill, endorsed by SMACNA, will also promote micro-grid systems for increased resiliency for critical infrastructure power from CHP/WHP.

The energy package would also boost support for development and research for nuclear energy. This overwhelmingly bipartisan Senate vote affirms the importance of nuclear research and power production as part of the domestic energy portfolio by including the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (NEICA), directing the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to partner with private innovators to develop and test concepts behind advanced reactor technologies and other provisions advancing nuclear energy. The DOE and Nuclear Regulatory Commission are directed to work together to establish the National Nuclear Innovation Center to support nuclear energy development.

SMACNA has supported the extraordinary efforts for a new energy policy featuring efficiency in every sector for the last eight years and commends Senators Murkowski (R-Ark.), Cantwell (D-Wash.), Portman (R-Ohio), Shaheen (D-N.H.), and many others for their steadfast bipartisan work on this bill.

The next step will be a House-Senate conference to reconcile the significant differences in each bill. SMACNA will work hard to have the priority provisions in each bill survive in conference so the final bill sent to the White House for enactment will reflect the best provisions from both the Senate and House.