Bipartisan House members launch coalition

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, September 18, 2014

Bipartisan members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee are slated to launch a new “grid innovation” caucus today with a host of electric industry representatives on the steps of the Capitol.

But whether the policy-focused group will make gains in a partisan Congress remains to be seen.

Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney of California, a former wind power engineer, will join Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers of North Carolina to launch the group, which will focus on educating members about “smart grid” technology and the need for modernizing the grid.

Complex grid issues — the need for storage, more transmission and questions of cost — are currently underpinning larger conversations about the spread of renewables in the United States.

Officials from six industry, utility and grid-focused groups and companies will join McNerney and Ellmers, including Bob Shapard, chairman and CEO of Texas-based Oncor Electric Delivery Co., a company that provides transmission services, and Monty Tripp, senior director at ABB Inc., a robotics company based in Switzerland.

Also in attendance will be Kevin Dasso, senior director of smart grid and technology integration at Pacific Gas & Electric Co.; William Anderson, the director of strategy and business development for Eaton Corp.; Becky Harrison, CEO of GridWise Alliance; and Jim Creevy, director of government relations for the National Electrical Manufacturers Association.

McNerney has long been an advocate for clean energy on the Hill. Before coming to Congress, he worked as an engineer for U.S. Windpower, later called Kenetech, and later consulted for PG&E, FloWind, the Electric Power Research Institute and other utility companies. He also formed a startup company to manufacture wind turbines.

Ellmers’ sunny home state of North Carolina, on the other hand, has recently seen strong advances in solar power, both rooftop and utility-scale.