Democratic News

Apr 22 2016

Cantwell Leads Passage of the First Comprehensive, Bipartisan Energy Bill Since 2007

Bill Will Save Consumers Money, Eliminate Energy Waste and Invest in New Technologies that Improve Global Competitiveness

Washington, D.C. - Today, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) led the Senate’s passage of the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016 (S. 2012) by a vote of 85-12.

More than a year in the making, the bipartisan energy bill will modernize the electric grid, invest in renewable energy and train a new generation of energy workers. The bill’s passage marks the first time since 2007, that the Senate has passed a comprehensive energy bill.

“The investments we make today will benefit American taxpayers for generations to come,” Sen. Cantwell said. “This bipartisan bill is an important next step for saving consumers money on energy costs, providing more options to power U.S. homes and businesses, and preparing the next generation of workers for jobs in clean energy.”

The bill may now move to a joint conference committee with the House of Representatives.

Key provisions include:

Launching a smart buildings initiative, a public/private partnership to demonstrate and evaluate the costs and benefits of new energy-saving technologies;

A package of energy efficiency provisions that would provide $60 billion net savings to consumers, create more than 100,000 new jobs, and reduce emissions equivalent to the emissions from all US cars, trucks, and trains in a year;

Modernizing the grid to help integrate renewable technologies to make our grid more distributed and resilient and tripling investments in energy storage to help protect the grid during emergencies and outages and to deploy more clean energy sources;

Supporting research and development of new clean energy technologies, in addition to geothermal and marine hydrokinetic energy;

Investing more in energy research through the successful energy research arm of the government – ARPA-E –$325 million for fiscal year 2016 and 2018 and $375 million for 2019 and 2020;

Better workforce training to help meet the needs of a changing energy sector and to help fill an upcoming shortage of 1.5 million energy workers in the next decade;

Permanently reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund, one of the nation’s most effective conservation programs, originally created by U.S. Senator Scoop Jackson of Washington;

Doubling the Energy Department’s recent investments in cybersecurity research and development, supply chain security and public-private partnerships for information-sharing and including cybersecurity representatives on the new 21st Century Energy Workforce Development Advisory Board; and

A demonstration project on recycling carbon fiber – an initiative underway in the Port of Port Angeles, Washington.


Over the course of the last year, Ranking Member Cantwell and Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) worked together to compile bills from dozens of senators (40 in total)—Democrats and Republicans, alike; and held hearings with experts on these proposals. The senators continued to improve the text by considering hundreds of amendments to the underlying bill text and processing more than 60 of those amendments through a series of Senate votes.

What this bill achieves for the state of Washington: 

Boosting Carbon Fiber Recycling
Carbon fiber has a potential market value of $50 million if it can be reused and recycled. Currently, 30 percent of the carbon fiber used in manufacturing is recyclable. Producing recycled carbon fiber requires only one-tenth of the energy compared to manufacturing new carbon fiber. This legislation authorizes a study on the recycling of carbon fiber and creates a demonstration project in collaboration with the Department of Energy and industry.

“The Boeing Company is pleased that the Energy Policy Modernization Act includes a provision (Section 3701) that will have the Department of Energy explore additional opportunities to recycle carbon fiber, including the development of a demonstration program. These important activities will strengthen advanced manufacturing in the U.S. by expanding the utilization of composite materials in the economy,” said The Boeing Company.

Composite Recycling Technology Center (CRTC) CEO Bob Larsen expressed strong support for the passage of the Senate Energy Bill.

“With Senator Cantwell’s leadership, the U.S. Senate has passed a comprehensive package of visionary energy legislation that strengthens the nation’s move towards a sustainable energy future,” Mr. Larsen observed. “Of particular importance is Section 3701 for recycled carbon fiber, which will provide critical funding for research and demonstration in support of composite recycling. The CRTC is taking the first steps towards establishing a new industry; this bill is critical to accelerate the rate of growth of this new industry and reap the economic, energy and environmental benefits we see before us."

Boosting Cybersecurity
In 2013, more than half of all cyber incidents reported to the Department of Homeland Security were directed at energy infrastructure including hydroelectric dams. With nearly 90 percent of Seattle’s electricity coming from hydropower, it’s critical to ensure this energy infrastructure is protected. The legislation helps address persistent and evolving threats to the energy grid by making law the Department of Energy’s role of coordinating cyber response for the energy sector. 

The legislations also proposes to double the Department of Energy’s recent investment in cyber-related research and development, supply chain security and public-private partnerships for information-sharing to $100 million.

“Keeping the lights on and protecting our customer data are top priorities in the energy sector, and that is why we work hard to protect against, detect and respond to cyber intrusions,” said Snohomish County PUD General Manager and CEO Craig Collar. “The Energy policy Modernization Act provides more support and tools for the energy sector to strengthen these efforts and to create a more resilient grid.”

“Reliable utility service is our number one product. At Tacoma Public Utilities, we are sharply focused on protecting our system from cyber and physical security threats that could interrupt service to our customers,” said Bill Gaines, director and CEO of Tacoma Public Utilities. “The Energy Policy Modernization Act will provide more tools for utilities to protect their systems and makes important investments in cybersecurity research and development of new technologies. We are grateful for Senator Cantwell’s ongoing leadership on this critical issue."

Bolsters Access to National Laboratories
The legislation assists small businesses in accessing programs at National Laboratories across the country including the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Specifically, the legislation requires the Department of Energy (DOE) to create a website relating to National Laboratory programs available to small businesses to help facilitate technology development as well as directs DOE to study and implement ways for more small and medium manufacturers to access National Lab facilities.

“Washington State University is pleased to see that Chairman Murkowski and Senator Cantwell are working together to meet our nation’s energy needs,” said Chris Keane, vice president of research at WSU. “As Washington State University focuses on our research Grand Challenges around Sustainable Resources and Smart Systems, we are pleased to see that the Senate is focused on innovation around managing our nation’s electrical grid and the vital needs around the energy-water nexus, which are essential to the Pacific Northwest and consistent with WSU’s research capabilities."

Expansion of Energy Workforce Development Programs
With more than 18,000 utility jobs, in the state, Washington leads the Pacific Northwest in terms of total utility employment and that number is expected to grow by 6.1 percent by 2020. However, 17 percent of utility workers in the Pacific Northwest are expected to retire within 5 years.

To overcome these challenges, the legislation helps meet the needs of a changing energy sector by making investments in workforce training by establishing a 21st Century Energy Workforce Advisory Board at the Department of Energy to develop the model energy training curriculum.

The legislation also creates a $20 million a year competitive workforce grant program to provide job training through a community college or registered apprenticeship program to provide students with industry-recognized credentials. The average salary for a utility worker in the state of Washington is 57 percent higher than the average salary across all industries in the state.

“With this innovative piece of legislation we are able to intersect blue collar, white collar and green collar mechanisms; by providing the training and resources needed to only further help launch IBEW into the future. With this collaborative effort, we have the opportunity to shape the energy industry, which is the third largest industry in the United States, into one that benefits all working men and women for years and years to come,” said Louis Walter, business manager for IBEW Local Union No. 77.

“On behalf of the Pacific Northwest Center of Excellence for Clean Energy, we fully support this innovative legislation to establish a 21st Century Energy Workforce Advisory Board comprised of energy industry, labor, workforce and education experts from across the country. This board will help identify best practices in energy education and guide the delivery of workforce training programs that will develop the knowledge, skills and abilities of the 1.5 million new skilled workers needed in the energy sector over the next 15 years,” said Barbara Hins-Turner, executive director of Centralia College's Center of Excellence for Clean Energy.

“Western appreciates Senator Cantwell’s relentless support for programs that help meet the workforce needs of the growing clean energy sector, and we are thrilled that she introduced this bill to invest in innovative institutions through the Department of Energy,” said Western Washington University President Bruce Shepard. “Through Western’s Institute for Energy Studies, students develop energy-related expertise and technical skills, and graduate prepared to become energy professionals in Washington’s clean energy economy. With additional investment, our Institute for Energy Studies and other programs around the country could prepare more students to join the clean energy workforce and help create a sustainable path for our future.”

Energy Storage and Grid Modernization 
The legislation bolsters system resilience by investing in grid-scale storage and other grid modernization components. With more than 90 percent of Seattle’s electricity coming from renewable energy, the legislation works to modernize the grid to help integrate new technologies and make the grid more distributed and resilient.

The legislation also authorizes a $2 billion dollar investment in micro grid deployment, development of system performance metrics, and technical assistance for states and regions to modernize the grid.

"Modernizing the energy system infrastructure in the U.S. is of upmost importance. The federal government's role in helping progress energy innovations and grid development through demonstration funding and other support is a critical element. The bipartisan work to bring forward the Energy Policy Modernization Act provides a much-needed catalyst for the industry,” said Bryce Yonker, Executive Director of Smart Grid Northwest.

“Senators Cantwell and Murkowski should be commended for their leadership in not only passing this critical energy legislation, but in the bipartisan fashion that they did it,” said Philip Mezey, president and CEO of the Liberty Lake-based Itron. “Focusing federal programs and expertise on key issues like the energy-water nexus will ensure that America is both wise and resourceful in the way we manage and use our critical natural resources."

Fuel Efficiency Innovation for Heavy-Duty Trucks
Currently, the average fuel efficiency for heavy-duty trucks is around 6 miles per gallon. Increasing the efficiency to 10 miles per gallon has the potential to save $25,000 a year in fuel costs and reduce emissions by 35 percent per heavy-duty truck.

The legislation directs the Department of Energy to carry out a research and development program for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. The Department of Energy would also be directed to conduct a competitive grant program to demonstrate the integration of technologies on Class 8 truck and trailer platforms with a goal of improving freight efficiency by 50 percent.

Daimler Trucks North America, based in Portland, Oregon, employs 2,750 people in the Portland/Vancouver metro area and turns out as many as 30 heavy-duty trucks a day.

“EDTA applauds the bipartisan work of Chairman Murkowski and Ranking Member Cantwell in advancing the Energy Policy Modernization Act. The bill will enhance our energy security through next generation technologies, including electric drive solutions. The Vehicle Innovation Act provisions authorizing critical electric drive research, development and deployment programs at the Department of Energy will ensure that the United States continues to lead in the development of clean, efficient alternatives to petroleum for passenger and commercial vehicles,” said Genevieve Cullen, president of the Electric Drive Transportation Association.

“The Auto Alliance commends Senate passage of S.2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015. We applaud the leadership of Chairman Murkowski and Ranking Member Cantwell in crafting a comprehensive, bipartisan energy bill that contains many important provisions, including the Vehicle Innovation Act. This provision will help speed the proliferation of advanced technology and alternative fuel vehicles, and will aid these ongoing efforts and support the research and design of the next generation of fuel-efficient vehicle technologies,” said Jennifer Thomas, vice president of federal affairs for the Alliance for Automobile Manufacturers.

Permanent Reauthorization of the Land & Water Conservation Fund
The legislation permanently renews the Land and Water Conservation Fund — the nation’s most successful conservation program. The Outdoor Industry Association has found that active outdoor recreation contributes more than $11.7 billion annually to Washington’s economy, supports 115,000 jobs across the state, generates $650 million in annual state tax revenue and produces $8.5 billion annually in retail sales and services across Washington.
Created by longtime U.S. Senator from Washington state Henry “Scoop” Jackson, the LWCF has helped protect places such as Olympic National Park and the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

The bill also establishes a National Park Service Critical Maintenance and Revitalization Conservation Fund to address high-priority deferred maintenance needs of the National Park Service, with a prohibition on the use of funds for land acquisition and permanently reauthorizes the Historic Preservation Fund.

“Today's vote for permanent authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund is a historic step forward for communities across Washington state and across America to conserve our most treasured places. These landscapes are not only places for us to camp, hike, hunt and fish. They are also major economic drivers for our state and are critical for healthy fire-resistant forests, clean water and wildlife habitat and are an important part of our state’s identity,” said Hannah Clark, executive director of the Washington Association of Land Trusts.

“Investments in our public lands through the Land and Water Conservation Fund touch the lives of the 142 million Americans who recreate outside each year," said Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) Executive Director, Amy Roberts. "The outdoor industry contributes more than $646 billion in consumer spending annually and depends on our public lands and waters for vital recreation infrastructure. OIA and our 1,300 members deeply appreciate Senators Murkowski and Cantwell for their commitment to make America’s premier recreation and conservation program permanent, so every future generation will continue to enjoy the benefits of time spent outside.”

Smart Buildings
This bill accelerates the transition to smart buildings by supporting research and by documenting the costs and benefits of emerging technologies in private-sector and federal government buildings. Specifically, it requires a survey of privately-owned smart buildings, directs smart building retrofits in certain federal buildings to quantify costs and benefits, and directs research and development toward reducing the barriers to the adoption of smart building technology.

On average, the building sector uses more than 40 percent of the nation’s energy. Smart buildings have the potential to make commercial buildings more energy efficient, to save building owners and tenants energy and money, create jobs, enhance our competitiveness, and reduce environmental impacts. Seattle is already a leader in smart building technology and consistently ranks as one of the greenest cities in the U.S. This bill provides an opportunity for Seattle to export its smart building technology to the emerging domestic and global smart building market.

“Among the many important features of this legislation, the bill puts appropriate emphasis on energy efficiency. This resource remains the lowest cost and cleanest energy resource, while also contributing to improved competitiveness across the American economy. Moreover, the act recognizes the emerging role that ‘smart buildings’ will have in creating energy operational excellence in our built environment and help contribute to the overall modernization of this country’s energy system. The Energy Policy Modernization Act is true to its title – it helps pave the way for a 21st century energy system in the U.S.,” said Stan Price, Executive Director of the Smart Buildings Center in Seattle.