Members of Congress urge the DOE to use infrastructure funds for microgrids

July 8, 2022
The Department of Energy received a nudge last week from two members of Congress — Reps. Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., and Andrew Garbarino, R-N.Y. —  to remember microgrids when allocating funding from the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

The Department of Energy (DOE) received a nudge last week from two members of Congress — Reps. Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., and Andrew Garbarino, R-N.Y. — to remember microgrids when allocating infrastructure funds.

In a letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, the congressmen cited Section 40101 of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) that establishes $5 billion in grants to shield the electric grid from harm caused by extreme weather, wildfires and natural disasters.

The letter noted that innate ability of microgrids to “island during these events and provide local power off-grid makes them an ideal application for this program.”

“Microgrids have a successful track record of protecting critical energy users through disasters like wildfires in California, the devastation of Superstorm Sandy in New York and New Jersey, and Winter Storm Uri in Texas,” said the letter, which was signed by 20 members of Congress.

Microgrids also can aid the grid by providing it with energy or other reliability services, the letter said, averting the likelihood that power outages will occur in the first place.

“The multiple value streams created by microgrids will maximize federal funding dollars, extending local resilience for communities and resilient power for the grid itself,” the June 30 letter said.

And, finally, the letter pointed out the environmental benefits of microgrids, particularly that they reduce emissions relative to traditional backup power sources and that they commonly use renewable resources and energy storage, as well as lower emission technologies such as fuel cells or linear generators.

“At times over the last few years, we’ve felt powerless as our communities have been subjected to power outages and power shutoffs due to extreme weather events, an overloaded power grid and intensifying wildfires,” Panetta said. “Microgrids are a solution to keeping the power on in our homes and communities by operating independent of the grid and using clean energy. Congress made resiliency a priority when we passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and the Department of Energy should give microgrid projects their full consideration as they allocate infrastructure funding.”

Panetta was named Microgrid Person of the Year 2021″ in December 2021 by Microgrid Knowledge for his work on the MICROGRID ACT, which proposes a 30% investment tax credit for microgrid controllers.

Think Microgrid on importance of letter

Cameron Brooks, executive director of Think Microgrid, an education and advocacy organization that is a division of Microgrid Knowledge, praised the move by the congressional members.

“As we reinvest in the infrastructure that drives our society and economy, it is clear that the challenges ahead require these systems to be resilient to climate impacts and ready to integrate flexible clean energy resources. We think it’s important that these lawmakers reiterate their intentions to the Department of Energy as it implements the IIJA,” Brooks said.

The letter also was endorsed by the Microgrid Resources Coalition and Advanced Energy Economy.

In addition to Panetta and Garbarino, the letter was signed by Rep. Sean Casten, D-Ill.; Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán, D-Calif.; Rep. Troy Carter, D-La.; Rep. Deborah Ross, D-N.C.; Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev.; Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif.; Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis.; Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del.; Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif.; Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif.; Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas; Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y.;  Rep. Thomas Suozzi, D-N.Y.; Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio; Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif.; Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif.; Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J.; Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Calif.

Read the letter here.

Watch representatives of the DOE, Schneider Electric and the Association of Defense Communities discuss the impact of the bipartisan infrastructure act — and other federal climate and energy programs — on microgrids at Microgrid 2022.

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded RealEnergyWriters.com, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

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