U.S. House Democrats Introduce Infrastructure Bill To Electrify America

Friday, all Democratic members of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee reintroduced a broad infrastructure package called the “Leading Infrastructure for Tomorrow’s America Act,” or “LIFT America Act.”

The massive infrastructure bill includes boosting “clean energy” and strengthening the power grid, as well as expanding broadband access and building healthcare infrastructure.

The bill is similar to legislation introduced last Congress that eventually was included in their comprehensive infrastructure bill known as “The Moving Forward Act” (H.R. 2).

The House E&C version is dead on arrival in the Senate; however, some elements of this package are likely to be included in a possible bipartisan infrastructure package later this year.

Key provisions impacting energy marketers include:

— Provides nearly $3.87 billion for fiscal years 2022-2026 for electric grid infrastructure, focused on grid modernization, security, resiliency, and efficiency. Funds will support infrastructure improvements to enhance energy security, smart grid technology deployment, and efficiency upgrades. Includes funding to establish a strategic transformer reserve to speed electric grid recovery following extreme weather events.

— Authorizes $22.5 billion through 2026 to provide grants to state and local governments to support projects that encourage the use of EVs.

— Reauthorizes the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program to provide $17.5 billion, including funding to deploy infrastructure for delivering alternative fuels (including electricity).

— Authorizes $2.7 billion to spur the development of Smart Communities, including $850 million in technical assistance to help cities and counties integrate clean energy into their redevelopment efforts.

— Authorizes $1.2 billion annually through 2026 for a Home Energy Savings Retrofit Rebate Program which would provide rebates of as much as $800 for insulation and air sealing and as much as $1,500 if the installation is accompanied with a total or partial replacement of the HVAC system. Rebates would be capped at 30 percent of the actual cost of each installation and replacement. The Energy Department could pay contractors an additional $250 for each eligible project in exchange for information sharing on the performance of the retrofit. Would make grants available under the program for states to administer their own rebates for retrofits that reduce home energy use by at least 20 percent. Additional rebates would be allowed for retrofits achieving a 40 percent reduction.

— Authorizes $20 billion over five years through three existing Energy Department programs to fund upgrades to public buildings like schools, hospitals and libraries.

— $1 billion over five year for the installation of solar panels in low-income and underserved communities.

EMA is particularly alarmed by Section 34315 which allows public utilities to use rate payer dollars to invest in electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

The purpose of these rate increases is, in part, to offset costs for installing EV infrastructure and charging networks that very few people will use.

Hardworking Americans should not pay more in their utility bills just so that a few who can afford EVs are able to charge their vehicles, in some cases for free.

Even small utility rate hikes to pay for EV charging can have an outsized impact on households. American households continue to have difficulty paying their energy bill due to the pandemic.

If a state PUC permits a rate hike, those unfairly paying for EV charging will include (1) low-income families, (2) the elderly and fixed-income families, (3) those who do not own EVs and will not use EV chargers and (4) small businesses.

Furthermore, an electricity monopoly installing EV infrastructure hurts consumers by effectively blocking out competition.

Competition will ensure consumers pay a competitive price for EV charging and are ultimately serviced by the companies that provide the best customer experience.

In other words, utilities and non-utilities, including private businesses, should be on a level playing field when it comes to building out EV charging infrastructure.

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