WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52) introduced the Prevent Outages with Energy Resiliency Options Nationwide (POWER ON) Act to fix the current regulatory framework that hampers the United States’ collective ability to meet our nation’s energy goals. By promoting the interstate transmission of electricity, the POWER ON Act will boost reliability, help decarbonize the power sector, electrify the transportation sector, adapt the grid to withstand the devastating effects of climate change, and lower electricity costs for consumers.
“We must modernize our national power grid to make it more secure, resilient, and efficient. To do that, we need to construct a Macro Grid that makes it easier to transfer electricity from regions that make renewable energy to regions that need it,” said Rep. Peters. “According to a study conducted by the Department of Energy (DOE), this kind of integrated power system would drive economic growth and increase the utilization of our country’s abundant renewable energy sources, including wind, solar, geothermal, and hydropower. The POWER ON Act would unlock our full clean energy potential and enable more competitive wholesale power markets, which translates to lower costs for consumers.”
Siting interstate transmission is notoriously difficult for many reasons; chief among them is the historical anomaly that the federal government shares its jurisdictional authority over electric transmission with states. The POWER ON Act would clarify the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) ability to backstop states’ siting authority while establishing a more inclusive process with the states, tribes, and property owners.
“There is a shortage of long-distance electricity transmission infrastructure in this country, one that is making electricity more expensive,” said David Spence, Baker Botts Chair in Law at the University of Texas School of Law and Professor of Business Government & Society at the McCombs School of Business Consumers, who specializes in energy law. “Consumers want cheap, clean renewable energy, and investors want to build the generation facilities that will give it to them. But a patchwork of antiquated and restrictive state permitting requirements is slowing, and sometimes blocking, progress. By strengthening the backstop federal permitting regime for essential long-distance transmission lines, this bill will help to break that logjam and unleash a renewable energy economic boom.”
Specifically, the POWER ON Act would:
- Direct the DOE to study capacity constraints and congestion focusing on the integration of renewable energy resources when designating National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors (NIETC).
- Add more objective criteria to the list of considerations the Secretary of the DOE uses to select and designate a NIETC, including whether the designation would avoid to the maximum extent practicable any sensitive environmental areas or cultural heritage sites.
- Direct FERC to consider whether the applicant has engaged states and non-federal entities in good faith, timely consultations before exercising its backstop siting authority.
Forestall FERC’s backstop siting authority if the Secretary of DOE finds that members of an interstate compact are in disagreement one year after the filing of a permitting application or one year after the designation of a NIETC.
- Require DOE to provide technical assistance to states that establish regional transmission siting agreements.
The bill’s introduction complements the Energy and Commerce Committee’s newly unveiled CLEAN Future Act, comprehensive legislation to combat the climate crisis.
“The POWER ON Act serves as a strong companion to the CLEAN Future Act,” Rep. Peters continued. “Together, my bill and the transmission titles included in the Energy and Commerce Committee’s package will ensure we are on track towards a robust clean energy future.”