King Introduces Bill to Encourage Energy Independence, Support 21st Century Grid

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, today introduced the Next Generation Grid Resources and Infrastructure Development (GRID) Act. The legislation would encourage energy independence, foster innovation, and leverage federal resources to support a more resilient 21st century electricity grid through the use of distributed energy resources (DER). The legislation builds off the Free Market Energy Act, introduced by Senator King in 2015, which created a first-of-its-kind framework to support DER technologies by establishing parameters for consumers to connect their distributed energy resources, like solar panels or battery storage, to the energy grid.

            “Fostering personal energy independence helps people in Maine and across the country lower their energy costs and contribute to the grid all the while supporting innovative technologies that help create jobs,” Senator King said. “By encouraging a commonsense framework for connecting distributed energy resources to the grid, we can build a diverse, resilient energy system that supports a 21st century economy. From lowering energy costs by increasing the efficiency of our electricity grid, to strengthening the resilience of the system from potential disruption, this bill will help keep the lights on, bolster our national security, and move our country forward.”

"Maine is a regional leader in the development of innovative, forward-thinking, clean energy sources – it's critically important that our electric grid keep pace with the change in the types of electricity we use to power our homes and businesses,” said Jeremy Payne, Executive Director of Maine Renewable Energy Association.Senator King's Next Gen GRID Act helps to ensure state regulators encourage the development of a modern power grid capable of adapting and responding to our societal needs. We are fortunate to have someone like Senator King in Washington so that he can leverage his considerable energy knowledge to the benefit of Maine, New England, and the country's power grid."

"We thank Senator King for his forward-thinking policy to modernize our energy system, grow clean renewable energy, and protect the rights of consumers," said Maureen Drouin, Executive Director of Maine Conservation Voters. "The Next Generation GRID Act would knock down barriers to clean energy technology, create a more resilient infrastructure, and promote fairness for homeowners and businesses, making it a win for everyone."

America’s electricity grid, which historically moves electricity from power plants to consumers, has remained relatively unchanged over the past 100 years – but, today, innovative technologies are beginning to fundamentally transform the way electricity is generated and delivered. Those advanced energy assets – known as distributed energy resources (DER), which can include generation, storage (batteries), efficiency, and demand response, among others – are being deployed at the edge of the grid, helping to create a more secure, resilient, and independent electricity system.

However, as has been seen in Maine, which recently suffered the worst power outage in the state’s history, and in Puerto Rico where millions have been without power, the traditional grid model remains highly vulnerable to disruption. Extended outages like this can lead to lost productivity and serious hardships for businesses and homeowners. The Next Gen GRID Act would offer federal resources for states and utilities to evaluate their electricity systems to identify vulnerabilities and areas where DER could play a greater role to protect critical infrastructure—such as hospitals and schools—or to reduce costs through a more secure and efficient system. These investments would lay the groundwork for a more modern energy system.

In addition, antiquated policies governing how these new technologies interact with the grid are leading to problems that are largely being addressed in an inconsistent manner around the country and, as a result, are discouraging investment in DER. For example, utilities can levy expensive grid-connection fees that disincentivize consumers from pursuing newer technologies while, without changes in the regulatory structure, utilities are not incentivized to themselves incorporate these technologies into their planning.

The Next Gen GRID Act  would establish a set of parameters for the governance of distributed energy resources and retain the authority of each state to design its own set of rules within those parameters to properly reflect the state’s needs. Importantly, the parameters would protect the right of consumers to connect their distributed resources to the grid while also ensuring that grid owners and operators receive proper compensation through a system that would maximize the potential of distributed energy resources in relation to the grid.

By establishing the criteria for these new technologies, the legislation would provide important guidance to the states, allow for the continued development of these technologies and the jobs they support, foster energy independence at the personal level, and bolster national security by making the electricity grid more resilient.

Through his work on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senator King has been an ardent supporter of innovative strategies to improve the energy grid and lower costs for American people. In September, Senator King announced his support for the Energy Storage Tax Incentive and Deployment Act of 2017, bipartisan legislation that would establish an investment tax credit (ITC) for business and home use of energy storage. Senator King has also supported the Rebuilding Resilient Energy Systems Act, which would amend the Stafford Act, comprehensive legislation that allocates federal natural disaster assistance to state and local governments, to stipulate that funds granted to repair energy systems may be used to build more modern and resilient infrastructure. Senator King also introduced the Free Market Energy Act of 2015, which would establish a set of parameters for the governance of distributed energy resources, like storage and solar.

A one page summary of the bill can be found HERE.