House Energy and Commerce Committee Holds a Legislative Hearing on Six Energy R&D Bills

Feb 17, 2020

by ASME.org

Last Wednesday, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy, held a legislative hearing on “Saving Energy: Legislation to Improve Energy Efficiency and Storage.” The hearing examined six bills focused on energy efficiency and grid storage and the committee heard testimony from seven witnesses, including from the Under Secretary of Energy at the Department of Energy (DOE), the Honorable Mark Menezes. The hearing was held just two days after the release of the President’s FY 2021 Budget Request, prompting Subcommittee Chair Bobby Rush (D-IL) to open the hearing by expressing concern for the Administration’s repeated attempts to slash funding for key energy efficiency programs. Overall, Subcommittee Republicans expressed support for eliminating regulations, while Subcommittee Democrats expressed strict support for the Energy Star program in light of proposals to remove the program’s independent certification standard.

Subcommittee Ranking Member Fred Upton (R-MI) introduced the six bills under consideration as being bipartisan and reflecting great compromise among the Subcommittee’s members. The six bills examined at the hearing include:

  • H.R. 1744, the "Storage Technology for Operational Readiness and Generating Energy Act" or the "S.T.O.R.A.G.E. Act"
    • The bill would establish a standard under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA) requiring states to consider investing in energy storage systems. The bill amends PURPA by adding energy storage systems to the list of strategies states should consider when developing energy plans.
  • H.R. 2909, the "Promoting Grid Storage Act of 2019"
    • The bill would establish a DOE energy storage program, a technical assistance and grant program, and a competitive grant program for “pilot energy storage systems.
  • H.R. 3962, the "Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act"
    • The bill would promote energy savings and emissions reductions by supporting the use of energy efficiency technologies in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors.
  • H.R. 4447, the "Expanding Access to Sustainable Energy Act of 2019"
    • The bill would establish an energy storage and microgrid grant and technical assistance program at DOE. The program will provide grants and technical assistance to a rural electric cooperative or non-profit entity, working with at least six rural electric cooperatives, to assist with designing and demonstrating energy storage and microgrid projects that utilize energy from renewable energy sources.
  • H.R. 5650, the "Federal Energy and Water Management Performance Act of 2020"
    • The bill aims to improve federal energy and water performance requirements for federal buildings, and to establish a Federal Energy Management Program.
  • H.R. 5758, the "Ceiling Fan Improvement Act of 2020"
    • The bill would make technical corrections to the energy conservation standard for large-diameter ceiling fans.

The Ranking Member went on to share his support for three of the bills (H.R. 4447; H.R. 5650; H.R. 5758), but suggested that the other three bills “may require additional work before moving through the full Committee,” as they implement new programs and regulations.

Full Committee Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) also delivered opening remarks, calling specific attention to H.R. 3962. Chairman Pallone remarked that while the bill has many important provisions worthy of being enacted, it also includes provisions of concern, such as allowing companies to sell-certify that their products meet Energy Star standards and the repeal of a provision that promotes phasing out the use of fossil fuels in commercial buildings by 2030.

Under Secretary Menezes was the sole witness on the first panel to testify at the hearing. He shared DOE’s commitment to create and sustain American global leadership in energy storage through the recently announced Energy Storage Grand Challenge. He made a point to say that energy storage challenge is cross-cutting and will require a collaborative effort by many divisions within the Department of Energy. Additionally, the Under Secretary suggested including a cybersecurity component in H.R. 2909, the "Promoting Grid Storage Act of 2019".

The Under Secretary went on to quickly share the Department’s view and recommendations on each bill in question. In addition to Under Secretary Menezes, additional witnesses include:

  • Kelly Speakes-Backman, Chief Executive Officer, Energy Storage Association
  • Bryan Howard, Legislative Director, U.S. Green Building Council
  • Julie Hiromoto, Principal, HKS, Inc. on behalf of American Institute of Architects
  • Lowell Ungar, Senior Policy Advisor, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
  • Arn McIntyre, President, McIntyre Builders Inc.
  • Jennifer Schafer, Executive Director, Federal Performance Contracting Coalition

To view testimony of all witnesses, please visit: https://energycommerce.house.gov/committee-activity/hearings/hearing-on-saving-energy-legislation-to-improve-energy-efficiency-and.

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