The House passed its version of the massive economic stimulus package Wednesday with some energy-specific items in it, including:
• $32 billion to upgrade the national energy transmission and distribution system using “smart grid” technology that better manages power flow, allows for demand response and incorporates renewable power sources better.
• $16 billion to help improve energy efficiency of public housing.
• $6 billion to weatherize lower-income homes.
• $80 billion to $100 billion loan guarantee program for renewable energy, a three year extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for such sources.
Here’s the full bill as it now stands.
What’s Texas get out of it? About $15.8 billion, second only to California, according to data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislators. This includes $2.4 billion for highways, $292.8 million for weatherization and $194.7 millon for ‘State Energy Program.’
The Working Group for Investment in Reliable and Economic electric Systems, or WIRES (the guys that build and operate power lines, like CenterPoint Energy) praised the transmission-related elements of the package as “an important recognition that the electric transmission grid is vital to the nation’s economic health.”
But there are still a lot of barriers to overcome to make the planned spending turn into real recovery, said Jim Hoecker, former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman and WIRES’ legal counsel.
“There are few ‘shovel-ready’ transmission infrastructure projects that will create jobs tomorrow. We have yet to figure out how to better plan, site, integrate and pay for major expansions and upgrades to the high-voltage system. Right now, the average lead time for transmission development will effectively delay the advent of the green energy economy for up to a decade or more. Congress must focus on addressing today’s unnecessarily complicated and protracted regulatory processes.”
The bill heads to the Senate, where it likely won’t see a vote until next week. Some don’t expect the Senate version of the bill to be as kind to “green” energy projects, and note there’s even $50 billion in loan guarantees for the nuclear industry in the Senate package, $2 billion for the development of “near-zero emissions” coal power plants, $1 billion for the Department of Energy’s Clean Coal Power Initiative, and $1.6 billion for carbon capture at industrial plants.
While NASA didn’t get what it wanted out of the package, some Texans are pleased, including Oilman-turned-wind-power-booster T. Boone Pickens, who pointed out the plan passed has many of the components of his Pickens Plan -such as “investing in renewable energy, encouraging conservation, rebuilding our nation’s transmission grid and using domestic resources in transportation to reduce our dependence on foreign oil…”
“… but we cannot lose sight of the real goal — to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, which will have immense positive benefits for our nation in the near and long-term.”