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Matt Chester's picture
Energy Analyst Chester Energy and Policy

Official Energy Central Community Manager of Generation and Energy Management Networks. Matt is an energy analyst in Orlando FL (by way of Washington DC) working as an independent energy...

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  • Aug 19, 2021
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The version of the Biden Infrastructure Bill that passed through the Senate has left the power sector digesting and combing through to figure out exactly what the implications are (which understandably takes time when the bill is 2700 pages long). 

This iteration still must make its way through the House, where it very likely will see some alterations if it does indeed end up on the President's desk. 

That said, we've had some time to process it, so I wanted to start the conversation in the Energy Central Community:

 

  • Now that you've had time to review the bill, what are your impressions?
  • Are there measures that you think shouldn't be in there? Or that you wish were in there but aren't? 
  • If passed in its current form, how do you think it will really impact the power sector? 

 

Share your thoughts in the comments below-- and if you have more extensive thoughts you think should be a standalone post then be sure to share it to the Hot Topic Tag for the Infrastructure Bill (and be sure to review the posts already tagged there to see the early impressions from the Energy Central Community)!

A 2,700 page bill is a lot to consider. I have been reviewing summaries of it. I found it interesting that the part on Energy Cybersecurity apparently sets out a provision for enhancing grid security through public-private partnerships. It refers to the Secretary of Energy, the Secretary of Homeland Security and other stakeholders, when deemed appropriate, establishing a new program to promote the voluntary adoption of physical and cybersecurity support and best practices for the electric grid. Also, there is a provision on Rural and Municipal Utility Advanced Cybersecurity Grant and Technical Assistance Program.

Very little--far too little--money for expansion of the high-voltage bulk power system. Canary Media says: "The White House says the bill contains $65 billion for "power infrastructure," but only $2.5 billion is explicitly for new power lines."

I think it is premature for nuclear utilities to start making plans related to the Senate infrastructure bill.  The reason is that it faces a tough slog in the House. So-called 'progressive democrats' have an entirely different set of priorities, including hostility to nuclear energy.

 

For instance, the House Appropriations Committee zero'd out funding for the Versatile Test Reactor, a $3B+ effort by the administration to build a new test reactor for evaluation fuels and materials for advanced reactors.  The equation is no test reactor, no next generation of advanced reactors. It's a strategy to kill the eggs and to then kill the chickens that would come from them and so far it is working.

 

The Democrats in the House have a slim majority as it is. Getting bipartisan support there is going to be tougher than in the Senate because around a third of the House members are in republicans in safe seats and are beholden to the Trump wing nut policy of stopping any initiative by President Biden that makes him more popular with voters. 

 

Recall that then President Trump repeatedly promised Americans an infrastructure program but never delivered one.

 

The Senate legislative package targets aging nuclear power plants as well as yet-to-be-built small modular reactors. It sets aside $6 billion for the Department of Energy to spend on nuclear facilities that are under threat of being shut down due to economic factors like cheap natural gas. It also sets aside $6 billion in funding for microreactors, small modular reactors and advanced nuclear reactors.

 

Utilities like Energy Harbor (Davis-Besse, Perry), Southern (Voglte) and Exelon with multiple plants in Illinois, will be happy if the president gets to sign a bill with these provisions in it. Political volatility in the House makes predicting an outcome a long odds bet.

 

The House is in its August recess for now and there won't be any real movement on the bill until after Labor Day. Stay tuned.

 

 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 23, 2021

Good call, Dan. I prefer to believe enough House Republicans will join with science-minded Democrats to keep support for existing plants intact.

Currently, CA Gov. Newsom is scrambling to build gas plants to keep our state's grid from crumbling. With this infrastructure bill and Diablo Canyon's future in limbo, it couldn't happen at a better time.