DOE’s Moniz says Obama budget includes $365 million for grid modernization

President Barack Obama’s proposed Fiscal Year 2016 budget, released the week of Feb. 2, includes “an elevated focus on infrastructure,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said on Feb. 4 at the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) Energy Policy Outlook Conference in Washington, D.C.

The budget includes a 42 percent increase proposed for energy efficiency and renewable energy, up to $2.7 billion, Moniz told TransmissionHub.

Discussing FY16 infrastructure budget proposals, he said that those proposals are aligned with the Quadrennial Energy Review, which Obama initiated as part of his climate action plan to focus on energy infrastructure and identify threats, risks and opportunities for U.S. energy and climate security.

The Office of Electricity has a large proposed increase, “and a big part of that is for a big grid modernization initiative,” he said.

It involves additional offices but the Office of Electricity is the lead, he said, adding, “This will be a $356 million initiative, building on what we have started this year — looking at advanced grid control, cyber and real-time response to disruptions, system control and power flow, grid sensing and measurement [as well as] design and planning tools.”

He continued, “Also within that amount [are] state and tribal grants for transmission, storage and distribution (TS&D) reliability, and that program will be $28 million, complemented by an infrastructure reliability initiative for, again, state, local and tribal energy assurance planning grants, to be awarded competitively, for $36 million, so a total of [about] $63 million that we have proposed for these state grants in the budget.”

The QER, which may be released “within a month or so,” will have more expansive discussion on some of the needs in terms of working with states, localities and tribes, including information on “resilience of infrastructure and what we need to do to harden infrastructure,” he said.

The QER will also discuss “the related infrastructures,” going beyond the pipes and wires, such as the inland waterways, docks, rails and all of the infrastructures that move multiple commodities, and it will lay out the kind of program that is needed to address those related infrastructures for enhancing energy security and the ability to address environmental challenges through the energy infrastructure, Moniz said.

Highlighting major energy happenings, Moniz noted that oil and gas production in the United States has continued to rise. Also, natural gas prices are low, and over the last several months, oil prices have been “extremely low” as well, he said.

Additionally, in this last year, there has been a continuing and “rather dramatic” reduction in costs across the board in terms of renewable resources, with deployment being influenced strongly by what is happening in the states through, for example, renewable portfolio standards.

Energy efficiency has also seen cost reduction, through, for instance, LEDs, Moniz said, adding that DOE has picked up the pace in terms of energy efficiency standards.

Among other things, he also noted that DOE strongly continues to push development and cost reduction in terms of carbon capture sequestration.

“[I]n the budget, another way of moving towards carbon capture was the proposal – of course, this requires Congressional action – ” to provide a new investment tax credit for carbon capture projects,” he said.

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