From The Team

Why The Infrastructure Bills Are Great For Utilities

Authored by:
Sydney Lienemann
Last Updated: 
December 28, 2021

Last week, Environmental Entrepreneurs invited me to meet with the offices of my Congressional Delegation to discuss the sweeping physical and human infrastructure legislative packages, with programs that will impact everything from broadband to dental care for seniors.  With so much packed into these two bills and the political intrigue around the process making headlines, it can be hard to remember that the proposed plans could help utilities make massive steps toward full decarbonization. Here are a few things I told my Representatives:

Regulatory & Financial Certainty 

For our planet to prevent the worst impacts of climate change, some form of emission reduction needs to be written into statute.  The Clean Energy Performance Program (CEPP) was one such driver that has fallen out of the current version of the bill.  Businesses like ours and the utilities we serve need goals we know are going to last and won’t be rolled back by future administrations. The same goes for direct-pay investment tax credits and production tax credits for clean energy generation and storage.  The current version of the budget expands these tax credits to include standalone battery projects and certain transmission build-outs as well as extend the sunset date by a decade. The budget bill would also change these credits to “direct-pay” meaning project developers without substantial tax appetites will be able to take benefit including electric cooperatives and municipal utilities. 

Equitable Workforce Development

The Build Back Better plan has the potential to make big changes to our economy, including to our workforce.  Even with free community college unlikely, the legislation contains two items that will support a just transition and improve the diversity of those benefiting from the clean energy economy. Support for career and technical education (CTE) is the first. The proposed legislation will help improve access to qualified workers and includes programs to create a career pipeline for everyone from high schoolers through those looking to retrain mid-career. 

In addition, the plan funds programs to improve the availability, quality, and affordability of childcare, including universal voluntary Pre-K for kids aged three and four. For many Americans, lack of access to childcare is keeping them from joining the clean energy workforce, and this disproportionately affects women and communities of color.

Grid Modernization & Cybersecurity

Our utility partners are under increasing pressure to integrate zero-carbon and distributed energy resources as economics, state renewable goals, and grassroots member activism drive them toward carbon-free operations. FERC Order 2222, which allows distributed resources to compete directly in wholesale markets, is creating big changes in how many utilities operate. From poles and wires upgrades to new software tools, utilities will need to adapt how they manage their grids to leverage a changing resource mix. The infrastructure bills include funding for smart grid upgrades, grid hardening, and provisions to improve cybersecurity through public-private partnerships.  

Better Buildings & More DERs 

At Camus, we believe strongly that community-based assets are an essential piece of our carbon-free future. Distributed resources, energy efficiency buildings, and flexible loads will allow utilities to orchestrate demand to meet supply. The plan includes tax credits, rebates, and direct grants - including $20 billion in rebates and grants to support energy efficiency and beneficial electrification. These programs will drive significant and long overdue improvements in our building stock. The funding will support energy efficiency upgrades and the replacement of fossil fuel-burning appliances, including a carveout for low-income households. The modernization of our buildings will reduce energy costs, lower emissions, and improve air quality. 

We support legislation that provides real financial and policy support for an equitable clean energy transition. We’re excited that many of the pieces of the infrastructure bills, from tax credits to workforce support and grid modernization, provide new opportunities for community-focused utilities to progress towards a clean energy future for all.

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