Make energy infrastructure great again
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President TrumpDonald John Trump20 weeks out from midterms, Dems and GOP brace for surprises Sessions responds to Nazi comparisons: 'They were keeping the Jews from leaving' Kim Jong Un to visit Beijing this week MORE has been vocal on the need to improve America’s infrastructure, and for good reason. Any American driver can point to a bridge, road, or pothole that threatens them on the daily commute. No doubt, investments are needed to improve the physical infrastructure we rely on to get around and do business, but rarely think about – except when we blow out a tire.  

Another thing we rarely think about is the reliability and effectiveness of our energy infrastructure. Access to reliable and affordable electricity has been the foundation of economic growth in the American economy. Electrifying America was one of the greatest economic development initiatives of the 20th century.

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Right now, an energy revolution is taking place that can modernize our grid for the 21st century and beyond. New technologies are showing their value for the grid, and many states are working to ensure that old rules do not prevent them from making their electricity systems secure, clean, and reliable. It is time for the federal government to do the same for the whole country.

Last week, Advanced Energy Economy sent recommendations to congressional leaders for ways to modernize energy as part of their plan to rebuild the country’s infrastructure. Any national infrastructure bill should embrace these recommendations and build a 21st century electricity system to power our homes and our economy.

We agree with President Trump and leaders in Congress that streamlining regulations can accelerate the deployment of advanced energy resources, providing benefits to both the economy and environment. Better coordination between federal agencies can help reduce regulatory review that currently takes up to seven years.

Getting electric power to consumers should be another focus of infrastructure rebuilding. We need transmission to get power to consumers from distant locations where it is being developed. But it is also crucial to consider non-transmission, or “non-wires,” solutions that can do the job at a lower cost. Both need to be incorporated into transmission planning to keep the lights on for all Americans at a price they can afford.

When it comes to transportation, infrastructure rebuilding should also embrace vehicle electrification. Our roads and bridges need rebuilding, but we also need to make our roadways compatible with electric cars, trucks and buses as they grow in market share. That begins with putting electric vehicle (EV) charging stations on interstate highways. Federal law intended to prevent commercialization of public facilities impedes installation of EV charging infrastructure at highway rest stops. This makes no sense, and the law should be amended by Congress.

Finally, a comprehensive infrastructure policy should leverage private capital to capture energy savings for government buildings, schools and hospitals. Energy service companies have developed a financing mechanism – performance contracting – to upgrade buildings with more efficient products at no cost to costumers. The companies are paid the savings from the project, thus incentivizing more efficiency savings. Federal agencies have already leveraged $5 billion over the past five years. Private industry could leverage another $10 billion in capital to produce over $14 billion in savings for federal facilities.

We all agree the United States is in pressing need to upgrade its infrastructure. Energy has not always been part of the infrastructure conversation – but it should be.

Energy is a foundational input to American prosperity. Any infrastructure upgrade needs to incorporate energy infrastructure into the plan. Congress has many ways – both established and requiring new legislation – that can bring our energy infrastructure up to par for a 21st century economy and beyond. As a $200 billion U.S. industry with more than 3 million employees, we in advanced energy call on Congress to do just that.

For years, members of Congress – whether in the Capitol or on campaign trails – have called for an all-of-the-above energy approach to power a growing American economy. The advanced energy industry has proudly been a vital part of that strategy. By removing barriers to investment, our industry can provide affordable energy solutions to all Americans, while bringing jobs into the communities that need them most.

Dylan Reed is Head of Congressional Affairs for Advanced Energy Economy, a national business association for companies making our energy system more secure, clean, and affordable.