May 6, 2016
Capitol Update

In this issue:


The Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently released a report showing that consumption of steam coal used for electricity generation in the U.S. electric power sector fell 29 percent from its peak of 1,045 million short tons (MMst) in 2007 to an estimated 739 MMst in 2015. Consumption fell in nearly every state, rising only in Nebraska and Alaska over that period. States with the largest declines were concentrated in the Midwest and Southeast, with six states in these regions accounting for nearly half of the national decline. Smaller declines in power sector coal consumption occurred in Wyoming, North Dakota, and Montana, all in the Rocky Mountain region.

In the United States, 97 percent of all steam coal is used to generate electricity. With little or no growth in electricity sales in most states between 2007 and 2015, coal use for electricity generation is closely related to coal's share of total generation. The price and availability of fuels other than coal have had a major effect on coal consumption since 2007. Increased supply of natural gas and a resulting natural gas price decline spurred increases in natural gas-fired power generation in several states, generally at the expense of coal-fired generation. Electricity generation from wind and solar sources also increased significantly over this period, driven by a combination of federal tax credits, state-level mandates, and technology improvements.

Coal use in the electric power sector decreased in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana by 49 percent, 44 percent, and 37 percent, respectively, between 2007 and 2015. In Ohio and Pennsylvania, increased production of natural gas from the nearby Utica and Marcellus shale plays resulted in more and relatively less expensive natural gas being available to power plants in these states. Indiana's legislature created a voluntary energy portfolio standard, which took effect in 2012, encouraging electric utilities and retail power generators to generate more electricity from renewable fuels and nuclear, as well as from any natural gas generators that displace existing coal-fired generation. Combined natural gas consumption at electric power plants in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana increased from 219 billion cubic feet (Bcf) in 2007 to 777 Bcf in 2015. Coal consumption from these three states fell from 176 MMst to 100 MMst over the same period.

In the Southeast, coal consumption in Georgia, North Carolina, and Alabama in 2015 was half the level it was in 2007. Electric power plants in these states increased their natural gas consumption from 338 Bcf to 1,021 Bcf, and they reduced their coal consumption from 110 MMst to 56 MMst.

Additional information about this EIA report is available at:


As part of the Energy Department’s ongoing efforts to modernize the nation’s grid through the Grid Modernization Initiative, the Energy Department has announced $25 million in available funding through an effort called Enabling Extreme Real-Time Grid Integration of Solar Energy (ENERGISE) to help software developers, solar companies, and utilities accelerate the integration of solar energy into the grid.

The amount of solar power installed in the U.S. has increased 23-fold—from 1.2 gigawatts in 2008 to an estimated 27.4 gigawatts in 2015, with one million systems now in operation. One of the key challenges to further solar deployment is the ability to integrate distributed generation sources like rooftop solar panels into the grid while balancing that generation with traditional utility generation to keep reliable and cost-effective power flowing to homes and businesses. The new funding opportunity announcement will help support companies working to meet that challenge. 

ENERGISE specifically seeks to develop software and hardware platforms for utility distribution system planning and operations that integrate sensing, communication, and data analytics. These hardware and software solutions will help utilities manage solar and other distributed energy resources on the grid and will be data-driven, easily scaled-up from prototypes, and capable of real-time monitoring and control.

Through industry and utility partnerships, the expected 10-15 solutions developed with this new funding will be field-tested by utilities to demonstrate their performance and value in real-world operating environments. These live demonstrations and research findings will provide valuable new tools for utilities and grid operators across the nation.

This funding program builds upon current and past research in systems integration technologies that support the widespread deployment of solar energy while maintaining the reliability of the electricity grid. The full funding opportunity announcement, including application requirements, can be found on at


Last week, the Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously passed H.R. 5050, the Pipeline Safety Act of 2016. In 2011, the Committee worked in conjunction with the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to enact the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011 into law. The current reauthorization serves as a follow-on to many of the regulatory mandates outlined in the 2011 bill.

The Pipeline Safety Act of 2016 is the culmination of months of bipartisan work to identify weaknesses in the nation’s pipeline safety laws. The legislation contains targeted mandates for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to increase transparency and accountability, complete overdue regulations, and improve pipeline safety. The legislation also tightens provisions allowing PHMSA to issue emergency orders, brings transparency and interagency reviews to the regulatory process, and increases inspections for some underwater oil pipelines.

To read the bill text, please go to:


On May 2nd, the National Science Board (NSB) released a new policy brief on the public and private benefits of the nation's higher education institutions. The brief comes at a time when the private costs and private returns associated with higher education are a topic of frequent policy discussions.

The NSB brief joins other recent reports, including the American Academy of Arts & Sciences' Lincoln Project, in highlighting the broad public value of the U.S. higher education system to the nation and emphasizing the need for public investment in its research and educational missions. An accompanying "Sense of the Board" statement underscores higher education's value in fostering a civically engaged society.

The brief draws on data from several chapters of Science and Engineering Indicators 2016 to highlight the higher education sector's importance as a catalyst for the nation's research enterprise and for the development of a workforce that makes the U.S. globally competitive. The brief also makes the case for prioritizing public support for the nation's institutions of higher education at a time when there are many worthy investments of limited public funds at the federal and state levels.

Federal funding of research and development at institutions of higher education has declined by 11 percent since 2011, the longest multiyear decline in federal funding in this data series that goes back to 1972. The report also documents recent declines in state funding for public colleges and universities and the concomitant rapid growth in net tuition, developments that the Board also called attention to in its 2012 report, Diminishing Funding and Rising Expectations: Trends and Challenges for Public Research Universities.

To review this new policy brief, please visit:


Last week, Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) introduced the Advancing Grid Storage Act of 2016, which would create an energy storage research program, loan program, and technical assistance program at the Department of Energy (DOE).

The Advancing Grid Storage Act establishes a program, within the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, that supports and provides critical funding to research for energy storage programs. It also creates an energy storage demonstration and deployment loan program as well as a technical assistance grant program to help eligible entities identify, evaluate, plan and design energy storage systems.

The bill mirrors the Advancing Grid Storage Act of 2015 (S. 1256), a proposal introduced in the Senate by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), which is available at:


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has selected 399 research and technology proposals from 259 American small businesses and 42 research institutions that intend to enable NASA's future missions into deep space. The awards have a total value of approximately $49.7 million.

Selected proposals will support the development of technologies in the areas of aeronautics, science, human exploration and operations, and space technology. A sampling of solicitations demonstrates the breadth of research and development these awards will fund, including:

  • Innovative and feasible aeronautics concepts and technologies to enable efficiency of the Next Generation Air Transportation System while maintaining or improving safety and environmental acceptability;
  • Life support and habitation technologies and equipment necessary to provide and maintain a livable environment within the pressurized cabin of crewed spacecraft. This includes environmental monitoring, solid waste management, crew accommodations and water recovery systems;
  • Technologies to enable robotic exploration of the planets, their moons and other small bodies in our solar system, such as technologies for atmospheric entry, descent and landing; mobility systems; extreme environments technology; sample acquisition and preparation for in-situ experiments; and in-situ planetary science instruments; and,
  • Advanced systems that generate power and store energy in space.

The agency received 1,278 proposals in response to its 2016 solicitation for its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs. From those, NASA selected 341 SBIR and 58 STTR Phase I proposals for contract negotiations.

SBIR Phase I projects provide the opportunity to establish the scientific, technical and commercial merit and feasibility of a proposed innovation in fulfillment of NASA needs. Phase I projects receive six-month contracts valued at up to $125,000. SBIR Phase II projects are focused on the development, demonstration and delivery of the proposed Phase I innovation, last no more than two years and are valued at up to $750,000 per award. Phase III, or the commercialization of an innovation, may occur after successful completion of Phase II.

For more information about NASA's investment in space technology, visit

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