While grid modernization, especially advances in cybersecurity, has been at the forefront of discussions for electric utilities, utility associations and governmental agencies, it is now gaining even more support in the legislative branch of the U.S. government.
Earlier this month, the U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Energy passed a trio of bills designed to improve efforts to modernize the grid.
One of these, H.R. 5428, The Grid Modernization Research and Development Act of 2019, directs the federal government to conduct research on grid modernization and security. It would establish a smart grid regional demonstration initiative composed of projects focused on cost-effective and advanced technologies that would be used for power grid sensing, communications, analysis, power flow control, distribution automation, industrial control systems, grid redesign and the integration of distributed energy resources (renewables).
The bipartisan bill was introduced by Reps. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.). In his opening statement to the subcommittee prior to voting on the bill, Rep. Lamb, who is also chairperson of the subcommittee, noted that, “In order for our country to utilize all of the new energy technologies that we are developing and moving to market, we will need serious advancements to our electric grid. This bill seeks to address the research and development required to make those grid advancements.”
Rep. Beutler added that the legislation would “improve the reliability of our electric grid in the event of natural disasters and cyberthreats.”
The bill has strong industry support, including the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, GridWise Alliance, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Union of Concerned Scientists and Duke Energy.
According to DailyEnergyInsider, in a letter to the bill’s sponsor, Tom Kuhn, EEI president said, “Congress plays an essential role in promoting and funding federal R&D efforts at DOE. HR 5428 provides DOE and investor-owned electric companies with the tools that are essential to building and deploying smarter energy infrastructure.”
In addition to passing this bill, the subcommittee also passed H.R. 2986, the Better Energy Storage Technology Act, that would establish a research, development and demonstration program for cost-effective grid-scale energy storage systems with longer durations. This bill was introduced by Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.). It also passed H.R. 5374, the Advanced Geothermal Research and Development Act, which would establish advanced geothermal research and development programs. This bill was introduced by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) and Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.).