Power on, America: Why the infrastructure bill is a win for the energy sector
After much negotiation, the bipartisan infrastructure bill has become law and will help the electric sector as it continues to invest in our nation’s future grids. The $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) includes funding that addresses energy, transportation, and water, including $65 billion allocated for electric and grid infrastructure. Another $47.2 billion is dedicated to resilience, including cybersecurity.
Giving clean electricity the green light
From powering essential businesses to heating and cooling our homes, we rely on electricity for nearly every aspect of our lives. As we integrate more clean energy into our electricity grids, we must modernize our approach to ensure we continue to deliver reliable and affordable power to the people and businesses that depend on it.
IIJA’s $65 billion in federal spending includes the most significant electric and grid infrastructure investment in American history. It provides funding to deploy innovative “smart” grid technology (i.e., digital networks/devices that allow more granular situational awareness), energy efficiency, and weatherization.
Significantly, it also increases funding to the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to help low-income Americans reduce their energy costs.
Ensuring cybersecurity and responding to extreme weather
While the electric utility industry and our government counterparts have made strides in addressing cybersecurity risks in recent years, the bill’s increase in funding will further support the industry’s efforts to keep pace with the changing security and grid landscapes.
Increased digitization of our grids in response to customers’ needs — such as electric vehicle (EV) charging, control over their energy usage, and desire to use weather-dependent renewable sources — has the downside of increasing vectors for cyber-attacks.
Specifically, a provision in the IIJA requires that the Secretary of Energy carry out a program to promote and advance electric utilities’ physical security and cybersecurity, prioritizing those with fewer resources. This provision builds on the existing successful partnership between the American Public Power Association (APPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) to bring more resources, training, and cyber and physical security tools to small and medium-sized electric utilities.
Extreme weather events have also significantly impacted our nation and cost nearly $100 billion in damaged infrastructure in 2020. This legislation helps enhance our ability to respond in the aftermath of major natural disasters.
Promoting electric vehicle adoption
The law provides funding to the states to create a national EV charging network.
By investing $7.5 billion in EV charging and alternative fuels (including hydrogen), this vehicle infrastructure will help public power utilities continue to provide their communities with the unique transportation support and programs needed to support EV and hydrogen vehicle adoption.
This landmark legislation is a strategic investment in reliable energy, competitive cybersecurity, and EV charging stations to help the electric sector continue to deploy clean energy, help integrate the transportation sector into our grids, and address climate change. APPA applauds Congress, the White House, and the staff who worked tirelessly to get this legislation over the finish line.
Joy Ditto is president and CEO of the American Public Power Association.
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