Shaheen attempts pivot back to small, renewable energy

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Trump administration may be focused on safeguarding baseload nuclear and coal-fired power plants, but one Democratic senator wants to shift congressional attention back to smaller, renewable generators.

Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire quietly reintroduced a bill in recent days that would require the Department of Energy to tackle regulatory obstacles limiting the integration of rooftop solar and other distributed power onto the grid.

Shaheen’s S. 1180, the “Clean Energy Grid Act,” would also create a competitive grant program to demonstrate the integration of smart grid technologies open to state and local agencies, public and private institutions, electric and natural gas utilities, and equipment manufacturers.

In addition to solar, the bill would support waste heat and combined heat and power technologies, fuel cells and energy storage.

The measure also calls for convening a working group to address regulatory barriers. DOE’s secretary would solicit research proposals to address the technical barriers identified and make up to $5 million in grants for such projects.

“For example, the absence of uniform procedures, coupled with excessive fees to connect these efficient and more affordable energy systems to the electric grid, often prevents their more widespread use,” Shaheen’s staff explained in a fact sheet on the bill.

The senator first introduced the language last year alongside a bipartisan sister bill in the House from Reps. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) and Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) (E&E Daily, Jan. 27, 2016).

The measure at that time was swept up into a larger energy package that ultimately fizzled last year but is poised to make a comeback, according to senators like Republican Lisa Murkowski, who chairs the powerful Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and oversaw discussions last year.

Democrats are eager to include provisions to bolster clean energy and distribute generation, and ultimately tackle climate change and green the grid — efforts that are already underway in states like New York and California.