Amid a growing focus on grid resilience, lawmakers in 20 US states have introduced about 69 microgrid-related bills so far this year.
The legislation comes as state lawmakers are increasingly taking steps to support grid modernization, including exploring the role that microgrids and new energy management technologies can play in updating the grid, according to an April 7 report on trending energy topics from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).
In part, grid modernization efforts focus on energy resilience, driven by extreme weather events like wildfires, hurricanes and tornados, NCSL analysts said in the report.
While some states last year enacted laws supporting backup generation, “policymakers are also increasingly considering the role that microgrids can play in enhancing resiliency during grid outages while also providing services during normal grid conditions,” NCSL analysts said.
In a trend that is continuing, last year seven states enacted laws creating “commercial property assessed clean energy” programs, known as C-PACE, according to the report. The C-PACE financing structure allows owners of commercial and industrial properties to obtain low-cost, long-term financing for energy efficiency, renewable energy and resiliency upgrades, which can include energy storage, the analysts said.
Some of the bills introduced this year have only a passing reference to microgrids, such as budget bills, but others are centered on them. One of the key themes among the bills is the effort to build up the ability to keep important community infrastructure operating when the power is out.
New Mexico, Tennessee approve microgrid bills
The New Mexico Legislature, for example, passed a bill (HB 245) clarifying that grid modernization projects may include distribution system hardening projects for circuits and substations designed to reduce service outages or service restoration times. The projects can include energy storage systems and microgrids that support circuit-level grid stability, power quality, reliability or resiliency or provide temporary backup energy supply, according to the bill, which was signed by New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on April 6.
In Tennessee, lawmakers approved a bill (SB 795) that authorizes local governments to establish commercial property assessed clean energy and storm resiliency programs.
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The C-PACE programs can cover increased water or wastewater resilience using energy storage, microgrids and other measures. The bill was sent to Gov. Bill Lee for his signature on April 6.
Bills pending from coast to coast
Meanwhile, about a dozen resilience-related microgrid bills are moving through legislatures across the US. Bills that don’t make it through this legislative session may be laying the groundwork for future action.
“It’s very encouraging that lawmakers around the country are seeing the benefits that microgrids can bring, especially for resilience. And that’s good because microgrids are going to be needed more and more as we face more disruptions and surprising humanitarian crises in the US, like the recent freeze in Texas,” said Cameron Brooks, president of E9 Insight, a regulatory advisory firm that tracks public utilities commissions.
Some of the pending bills affecting microgrids include:
- A 6760 and S 4321, companion bills in the New York General Assembly that establish a $100 million program to develop microgrids to protect key community services during power outages.
- HB 1487 and SB 1538, companion bills in the Florida Legislature that create a resiliency pilot program for schools.
- SB 784, a bill in the Oregon Senate that authorizes utilities to recover the costs of resiliency investments, including for microgrids.
- HB 619, a bill filed April 2 in the Louisiana House that authorizes parishes to create C-PACE resilience programs.
- SB 509 and SB 358 are North Carolina bills requiring the state’s energy office to issue energy resiliency grants and authorizing the establishment of a statewide C-PACE program, respectively.
- HB 6571 and HB 6413 are bills in the Connecticut General Assembly that would create a C-PACE program and require a study on creating a Municipal Energy Security Authority, respectively.
- SB45, SB 99 and SB 533 are bills in the California Legislature that would lead to a $5.5 billion bond issuance with $175 million for wildfire mitigation, including microgrid grants, set up a grant program for local governments to develop community energy resilience plans, and require utilities to set up microgrids, respectively.
- SB 1999 and HF 2024 are companion bills that would create the Minnesota Innovation Finance Authority, which would help finance clean energy, microgrid and other qualified projects.
- S 3593 and A 5382 are companion bills in the New Jersey Legislature requiring the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to issue requests for proposals for microgrid demonstration projects for electric fleet and heavy-duty vehicles.
- HB 376 is a bill in the New Hampshire General Court that would set up a committee to study how microgrids could be used in the state. State lawmakers approved similar legislation before, but the bill was vetoed in 2019 over provisions that required utilities to buy power from biomass plants.
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