This Wednesday, March 4, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce will hold a hearing titled "The 21st Century Electricity Challenge: Ensuring a Secure, Reliable and Modern Electricity System." This hearing begins a dialogue that is an important one: What are the steps that Congress should take to ensure that the electric grid offers reliable, affordable, and clean energy that allows for consumer engagement in their electricity choices? How can the federal government establish policies that spur the growth of the advanced energy industry and help consumers at the same time?
AEE Members will be prominently featured in this hearing. Naimish Patel, CEO of Gridco, will testify about how software and analytical advances can help utilities incorporate higher amounts of renewable energy and energy efficiency into the grid. Paul Nahi, CEO of Enphase, will testify about his company's microinverter technology and how it can help solar industry penetrate the market at even higher levels. [Edit: watch the recorded testimony here.]
Advanced energy technologies like these can do a lot to ensure reliability as the power grid is made more flexible, clean, and resilient. This has become a critically important point in the context of EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan.
One thing has become clear. The argument that EPA’s Clean Power Plan will come at the cost of reliability presents a false choice. American can modernize the electricity system and also have reliable energy. Reliability and modernity are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they are inseparable.
AEE commissioned the Brattle Group to look at reliability under the Clean Power Plan. Their conclusion: “…we find that compliance with the CPP is unlikely to materially affect reliability.” The technology and operational techniques needed to comply with the Clean Power Plan while maintaining reliability already exist. Now the question is whether states will take advantage of this opportunity to modernize the U.S. grid overall. It is long overdue: the American Society of Civil Engineers gives the grid a D+ in their latest infrastructure report card.
While some in Congress continue to assert that the Clean Power Plan will cause reliability issues, there are indications that Congress is recognizing that our electricity system desperately needs modernization to meet the electricity needs of the future. It’s time to take advantage of advanced energy technologies that did not exist when the grid was first built.
Will Congress act on grid modernization? The active interest indicated by this week’s hearing is a promising sign.
Earlier this year, Advanced Energy Economy Institute commissioned The Brattle Group, a leading consulting firm to utilities and grid operators, to conduct a critical review of the NERC study. The Brattle Group’s conclusion:
“Following a review of the reliability concerns raised and the options for mitigating them, we find that compliance with the CPP is unlikely to materially affect reliability.”
Download the full report below.