Democratic News

Jan 27 2016

Cantwell: ‘We Need to Update and Modernize Our Energy Policies’

First Time Since 2007 That Senators Will Consider Comprehensive, Bipartisan Energy Legislation

Watch Sen. Cantwell's opening statement here.

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, took to the Senate floor to begin debate on the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 (S. 2012). Sen. Cantwell will help manage the debate and amendment process on updates to federal energy policy. The Senate has not discussed a comprehensive, bipartisan energy bill in nearly 9 years.

Throughout last year, Ranking Member Cantwell worked closely with Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) on this legislation that includes important investments in a variety of clean energy and efficiency programs. The bipartisan energy legislation passed out of committee last year on an 18-4 vote.

“This legislation is about the modernization of energy – the lifeblood of our economy – driving the cost through investments on a new strategy for the future. It is not holding on to the past as much as moving forward to the future, and it will enable our businesses, our ratepayers and all of those whom we care about in that economy to continue to reap the benefits of next-generation energy technology – renewable technology – that is cleaner, more efficient and will keep our economy in the driver's seat,” Sen. Cantwell said.

To stay up-to-date on the floor proceedings of this bill, consider bookmarking the links below:

Read Sen. Cantwell’s full statement here:

“Mr. President, I, too, rise this morning to talk about the Energy Policy Modernization Act. Yes, sometimes we can be cynical about this place and what we can get done; then, all of a sudden, we have a great opportunity to move something forward.

“The Senator from Alaska said it correctly. This is a milestone for the Senate. The fact that we are considering   energy policy legislation on the Senate floor in a bipartisan bill, or any bill, for the first time since 2007 is a tremendous milestone. I thank her for her leadership and for her time and efforts to put this legislation together in such a bipartisan fashion through the processes that we went through shown on that charts – hearings, listening sessions, discussions, amendments.

“I think it's appropriate at this time to thank our staffs. Usually that is done at the end of a process, but when we have a bill on the floor for the first time since 2007, we should herald them in advance. Angela Becker-Dippmann, Colin Hayes, and I know Karen also played a big role in this, so I thank them.

“But my colleague is a partner, as she said, in all things energy. It is interesting that the other senator from Alaska is presiding at this moment. We have all been working together. The senator from Alaska, Ms. Murkowski, and I participated in an Arctic summit last week in Seattle, focusing on another policy for our nation – the urgency of getting an icebreaker fleet for the United States of America and the other policies we need to do in the Arctic.  So I have certainly enjoyed the many efforts that we in the Pacific Northwest region focus on. I think maybe that helped us a little bit in our outlook. It is not that we agree on everything; certainly we don't. But I think that we know where we disagree, and we try not to let that get us held up. We try to find the commonality in what we are doing in moving forward on the modernization of our energy system and to make sure that we are empowering the private sector to continue to move ahead on things by making sure that either the R&D investment or changes in policy get done on our watch. And that's really what the Energy Policy Modernization Act is about.

“I thank the chair for her leadership on that effort and for steering us to this process that we have before us today. As she said, it is not a bill so perfect that we are not going to hear from our colleagues on it. Since it is the first major piece of energy legislation in a long time that we hope goes all the way to the president's desk, it is a process I’m sure many of our colleagues are going to want to see amendments on. We will work through them to the best of our abilities to hopefully improve the bill, but also not sink the bill with poison pill amendments that we know either will get it vetoed or will not get it across the finish line where we need to take this legislation.

“I am here this morning, along with the chair of the committee, to thank our colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their leadership and input on this bill. Again, it was a process in which not everybody agreed, but the bill passed out of committee with well over a majority of votes in a bipartisan way. I think that signals that it should have good support here on the Senate floor because we went through a very deliberative process in the committee, and that deliberative process means a lot of issues were aired, and we know where we can go and where we can't go on this legislation.

“Again, it doesn't mean we're not willing to consider a lot of debate; we are. It doesn't mean that people aren't going to offer amendments that are going to be challenging; they are. But in the end, I think if we want to keep moving forward with empowering the kind of energy revolution that we are seeing, we need to keep up on our side of the ledger here in the nation's capital.

“Much has changed in the last 9 years since the 2007 act. Before that, we had a small bill in 2005, so we have seen some very dramatic changes in energy. Clean energy has certainly weathered the storm and is not just a pipe dream anymore. It is a key driver of our economy, and it is helping us reduce our carbon emissions. Wind power has more than quadrupled since the last pill. Solar photovoltaic installations are up nearly 15 times. The number of LED lights – I am glad the senator from Alaska's husband is such a cheerleader – has grown more than 90 times since that bill. The reason is, just as the senator from Alaska said, this is all about consumers who want to be able to save money on their energy bills. Senators from Alaska get that, and say senators from Washington get that as well. We get it in a different way. They get it because you are constantly battling the highest energy costs in the nation, and we get it because we are constantly reaping the benefits from some of the lowest energy costs in the nation.

“We both have a great deal of concern here. We both want to protect the industries and the economic opportunities of our economy. We know that energy is the lifeblood of any economy.
“The U.S. solar industry employed more than 200,000 Americans in 2015, and that was a 20 percent growth in the industry in the last year. To put it into perspective, it has grown nearly 12 times faster than the national employment rate during that same time period. So we need to continue this effort to make investments in the right research and development and the right technologies, in order to empower homeowners, ratepayers and even businesses to save billions of dollars in energy costs.

“Why are we doing this bill?  As I said, it is an important journey to update our antiquated energy policies that have been part of our challenge when we want to modernize our infrastructure, and we want to maintain our global competitiveness. These are issues that are part of our energy debate today because we also want to reduce carbon pollution. As my colleague said, while this may not have everything we want to see from our side of the aisle in a carbon reduction plan, it certainly shows that we do want to see investments in clean energy.

“It doesn't matter whether you are a Republican or Democrat, the people of this country have said clearly they want to see clean energy and they want us to help curb climate change. We need to listen to our constituents, and that is why we're trying to move past some of the issues of politics and move forward on things that will empower our citizens.

“The senator from the state of Iowa, who is here, understands exactly what I am talking about because he, too – whether it is in wind or solar or biofuels – has seen the economic benefits of a changing energy landscape for our economy and wants to make sure that businesses and ratepayers are still empowered.

“We are here because we need to update and modernize our energy policies. That is what we did when this bill came out of committee with an 18-4 vote. And we need to build on the momentum of the technologies and how their deployment reflects new market realities. A very important aspect of our energy debate is the Secretary of Energy's completion of what was called the Quadrennial Energy Review.

“What are our nation's energy challenges? It wasn't just an Energy Department discussion. It was the entire federal government weighing in on what are the energy needs of our nation. It is done every 4 years. Basically, what Secretary Moniz said in that report is that we are at a crossroads, that the dynamic and changing nature of our domestic resource mix, expanded supplies of natural gas, and growth and distributed generation is creating opportunities and challenges.

“As the Secretary put it, ‘the longevity and high capital cost of energy infrastructure means that decisions made today will strongly influence our energy mix for the considerable part of the 21st century.’

“What was he talking about?  He was talking about the fact that we are at a crossroads and where we make investments will mean that we will either reap the benefits of making the right decisions or stymie our economy's economic growth but not making the right energy decisions.

“When we talk about energy infrastructure, I try to remind my colleagues that we are talking about 2.6 million miles of pipeline, 640,000 miles of transmission lines, 414 natural gas storage facilities, 330 ports with petroleum and crude, more than 140,000 miles of railroad and a diverse mix of energy projects, and obviously an electricity grid that runs from coast to coast.

“The Quadrennial Energy Review talked about how we need to modernize and upgrade that infrastructure and that the electricity grid was a key part of that. That is why you will see a lot in this bill about modernizing the electricity grid and why it is so important to our nation – not only from an economic perspective of having affordable, cheap, renewable, clean energy power but also in making sure we modernize the grid to help us with cybersecurity.

“Once again, a quote from the report: ‘dramatic changes in the U.S. energy landscape have significant implications for … infrastructure needs and choices. Well-informed, forward-looking decisions that lead to robust and resilient infrastructure can enable substantial new economic, consumer service, climate protection, and system reliability benefits.’

“That is why you will see a significant focus in this bill on infrastructure, on investing in technologies, on cybersecurity, and on making our grid more intelligent, efficient, and resilient – ways that we believe are going to help both businesses and consumers.

“The bill includes investments in energy storage, which helps integrate renewable energy. It has provisions for advanced grid technologies, which really help make our electricity grid smarter and more intelligent, to move energy around more efficiently. It has cybersecurity research and development. I don't think there will be anybody here in the Senate that won't support this more robust effort on cybersecurity, given the challenges and threats we face.

“It has a focus on new renewable technologies, which are great breakthroughs in helping to drive costs. It has energy efficiency, which costs basically one-third to one-half less than new generation.

“This chart shows the question of whether you want to pay 4.6 cents per kilowatt-hour for production or 12 cents per kilowatt-hour for production. I know this: I'd rather pay 4.6 cents. I would rather drive the costs down for the consumer as a result of energy efficiency or renewable energy, as opposed to making investments in what we know is going to be more expensive energy for the future.

“When it comes to R&D, we need to make sure that we are making the right investments for the future and that we are sending the signals that capital markets will take as also a signal for continued investment.

“We need to make investments in our workforce because, as the Quadrennial Energy Review shows, we will need 1.5 million new workers by 230 in the energy sector. That is a huge number. I will say that we do not have the right tools in place to quickly train as many people as necessary.

“I am sure the presiding officer would attest to this just in the biofuels area. I am sure there are institutions in her state that are working hard to help describe, train and educate those in the biofuels area so that we can have a robust infrastructure – the science, the R&D, the distribution, all of that. I know in our state we are working hard on this with our national laboratories and Washington State University in getting advanced biofuels for the airplane sector because we want aviation to move forward on using those fuels and getting even more efficient.

“There is advanced manufacturing here where it is about making sure that our trucks have the same efficiency opportunities that we were able to help usher through in 2007 with higher fuel efficiency standards for automobiles. Now we want to make sure we're investing in the same level of R&D for our advanced truck fleets in the United States, so they can reap the same benefits as fuel-efficient automobiles.

“As I mentioned, the Quadrennial Energy Review laid out this out. That is why we undertook efforts with the committee on hearings that my colleague already outlined, with more than 100 different energy bills and a variety of input from our colleagues.

“Yes, energy efficiency is front and center in this debate. In fact, I think there were 22 different energy efficiency bills from 30 different senators as sponsors and cosponsors in the discussion. I think in 2007 we talked about some smart grid demonstration projects and a few other things, but nowhere was energy efficiency or the development of these policies – whether it is storage or distributed generation or protecting ratepayers – none of them were as front and center as they have been in this debate today. That is because energy efficiency not only makes sense for the environmental benefits, but also people have seen that it also makes sense for the economy, and it makes sense for our consumers. As I said, energy efficiency drives down the cost of production, and obviously, when it integrates more sustainable resources, efficiency becomes a cheaper energy source and better job creator and carries lower environmental costs than the alternative. Not only does it save consumers money, but it helps add to the flexibility of our grid and reduces carbon pollution.

“I want to thank a few of our colleagues who have worked so hard on helping us put this legislation together. My colleague from Alaska mentioned the Shaheen-Portman piece of legislation, which is a key cornerstone of this bill when it comes to the energy efficiency area. The bill encompasses much of their work. They have obviously been stalwarts for years trying to get energy efficiency legislation moved through the Senate. Many of the provisions they have sought in the past are now in this bill. I commend them for their efforts.

Residential and commercial buildings consume 40 percent of our U.S. energy. That's roughly $430 billion. When you talk about focusing on making our buildings more efficient and addressing that sector of our energy needs, there are some true savings to be had.

“In the past, energy efficiency buildings and equipment standards have lowered costs, and they expected to save roughly 3 billion metric tons of carbon emissions, which is the equivalent to the carbon emissions of 42 million vehicles in a 15-year period. Just by focusing on our buildings and making them more efficient, we can have a tremendous impact. That is why I worked with my colleague, Senator Murkowski, in authorizing a section of this bill on smart buildings, and Senator Warren joined us. Smart buildings really will help us manage our energy loads better, particularly focusing on lighting, heating, cooling systems and communications between buildings. We heard from the Department of Energy that smart buildings really could be a game changer for the efficiency discussions.  I thank my colleague from Alaska for working with me on that provision.

“DOE has estimated that smart buildings can result in 30-percent additional efficiency in the way buildings are operated when they realize the full potential of these technologies. You can imagine that if you are in an industry and you are trying to be competitive, what that is going to mean to have that level of efficiency. I know because with every sector of the economy, they are constantly focusing on energy costs as a way to be competitively, particularly in an international market. I would say that one of the reasons we have so many server farms in the state of Washington –that is, storage data facilities – is because we have cheap electricity. When you start saying you are going to drive down the cost of electricity by such a significant margin, people are saying, ‘I want to locate there.’

“We want to make sure we are empowering free capital and investments to help us reduce carbon emissions by focusing on giving those powers to help focus on smart buildings.

“This isn't just a U.S. strategy. This is something the United States could be world leaders in. The International Energy Agency says that the energy efficiency market in China alone is expected to total more than $1.5 trillion between now and 2035. “Think about it. They are building so rapidly, and yet they could be incented – that is, by the level of investment the United States is already making – to further their own efforts in smarter buildings, reducing carbon emissions and building more efficiently. This is something where U.S. solutions could aid. I hope we will continue to focus on these kinds of innovations in the context of the U.S. agreement with China.

“My colleague mentioned infrastructure as a key theme of this bill and mentioned some of those provisions. As I mentioned, on average, the United States spends nearly 29 percent of its total expenditures on utilities such as electricity and natural gas – we want to continue to make improvements there. Data-driven intensive industries also, as I mentioned just a few minutes ago, are part of the equation. We know as they continue to grow, we are going to want to make continued investments.

“In the Pacific Northwest, the Bullitt Center, which has been an acclaimed building – probably the one of the greenest commercial buildings in the entire world – is a net-zero building and shows how well you can build a building that both consumes less electricity and can actually put electricity back onto the grid.

“We have many of these efforts in the Pacific Northwest where people have seen that smart building technology is expected to grow from $7 billion now to $17 billion in the next 4 years. It is a tremendous market opportunity for U.S. technology.

“I wish to mention a couple of other provisions that our colleagues have worked on in the bill and thank them for that. I wish to thank Senator Franken, Senator Heinrich, Senator King and Senator Hirono for their efforts on energy storage that we have included in this legislation. It includes a program that is focused on driving down the cost curve of ways to help with storing energy, whether you are talking about battery technology or large-scale storage. I also thank Senator Wyden, Senator King and Senator Hirono for their focus on advanced grid technologies – that includes demonstrating how multiple new technologies can be put into the electricity grid on a micro-level. This is so important. My colleague from Alaska and my colleague from Hawaii both see the challenges of very different energy mixes than the rest of the United States and the challenges with transportation. Helping them on micro-grid issues is critically important.
“As I mentioned, making distributed generation more reliable and more intelligent is a very key factor in this bill. Senator Wyden did incredible work on making sure that we added new renewables in the area of marine hydrokinetic, geothermal and biopower into this legislation. I thank him for that.

“I know my colleagues, Senator King and Senator Sanders – and I know we will be joined by Senator Reid on the floor – are continuing to push the envelope on innovative ways to make sure that -- to make sure that distributed generation works for our citizens.

“This is something we didn’t get as much in the bill as we wanted. We certainly put some new authority to make sure we are protecting consumers. But I think we will probably see that people will want to go further to make sure we are empowering everybody – from members of the Tea Party to the environmentalists who want to be in the solar business to those who put solar panels on their roof or anyone else who doesn’t want to be gouged for the cost of doing that by the utility.

“They want the utility to make the investment, and they want to get a return for participating in reducing energy costs.

“I wish to thank all of those who worked on the cyber security section of the bill, which, as I mentioned, is very important. In 2003, more than half of cyber incidents nationwide were directed at critical energy infrastructure. So the bill today says the Department of Energy will be the lead agency in coordinating our cyber response for the energy sector and that we will be working on the R&D in partnership with the private sector to make sure that we have the right kind of information sharing to continue to make the kinds of investments for resiliency that we need to have for cybersecurity.

“I would like to mention a few more items. The advanced vehicle technologies program – Senators Stabenow, Peters and Alexander all worked on this section of the legislation to try to, as I mentioned earlier, take the same fuel efficiency we have in automobiles and do the same thing for trucks. Companies in my state, such as Paccar and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, are already trying to drive down the cost of truck transportation. Why? Because they see how much freight the United States is moving to overseas markets. We see that we have products that we are going to sell overseas and to the developing world, but we have to move them cost effectively, so we put a lot of work into making our truck transportation more efficient.

“I thank Senator Warren for her work on the Energy Information Administration provisions and Senator Manchin for his work on workforce issues – which I’m sure we will continue to hear about when we come to the floor as it relates to our mine workers and a variety of other people keep transitioning to new job training to make sure we have the workforce for tomorrow. Lastly, I also want to mention my colleague Senator Heinrich, who has been very active on the workforce issues as well and making sure we have grants for workforce shortages and job training.     

“I think my colleague from Alaska said it best – that this is not a bill which is about what everybody wanted but about what we could do and that is important to move forward now. It was built on good, bipartisan processes, and that people were able to have input. We hope to follow the same process here on the floor. I am sure my colleagues on this side of the aisle will want to talk about ways in which we would go further.

“The American Energy Innovation Act we introduced last September has many of these provisions, such as having an energy efficiency resource standard at a national level and getting Senators Bennet and Isakson's SAVE Act, which makes sure that consumers realize as homeowners the benefits of investments they make in energy efficiency.

“I also mention my colleagues, Senator Reid of Nevada and Senator King of Maine, who have shared innovative ways to make sure that consumers benefit from being in the solar business.

“I am sure we will hear from many more on both sides of the aisle on their ideas of how they would like to improve this bill.

“As my colleague from Alaska said, it is important that we work together and try not to torpedo this bill but instead move forward on what has been a good, bipartisan process and continue to make investments for the future.

“One of the last things I wish to mention, as an investment for the future, is the success of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. I am so proud that the Land and Water Conservation Fund was an original legislation by my predecessor, Scoop Jackson, a senator who served our state for many years. I think the Land and Water Conservation Fund is one of the most successful conservation programs in our country's history. It had been successful for more than 50 years before it was dismantled, but we were able to reestablish it in the omnibus for the next 3 years. Obviously, our committee came to a bipartisan decision on this issue, and we believe it should be made permanent. It was such a successful program, it should at least receive the same attention it did for the first 50 years and continue on the same journey we've been making so we can be sure we have open space in the United States of America as we continue to grow.

“These are important outdoor spaces that have generated an incredible outdoor economy for the United States of America. It has generated economic revenue by providing the ability for people to go to the outdoors. I hope we will keep that as part of this legislation as it moves all the way through the U.S. Senate and the House and to the President's desk – permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

“At this time, I’m going to turn the floor back over to our colleagues so they can discuss this bill or other issues, but before I yield, I will reiterate that this legislation is about the modernization of energy – the lifeblood of our economy – driving the cost through investments on a new strategy for the future. It is not holding on to the past as much as moving forward to the future, and it will enable our businesses, our ratepayers and all of those whom we care about in that economy to continue to reap the benefits of next-generation energy technology – renewable technology – that is cleaner, more efficient and will keep our economy in the driver's seat for our own U.S. economy and be a game changer for us on an international basis so we can provide solutions that are cleaner, more efficient, and will help us deal with carbon issues around the globe.

“With that, I yield the floor.”