In a strong bipartisan fashion, both the House and the Senate have approved the energy bill conference report (H.R. 6), The Energy Policy Act of 2005, clearing the way for President Bush to sign the bill into law. The energy bill includes many electricity provisions, as well as wide-ranging fuel diversity, energy efficiency and conservation, research and development, and energy tax provisions.
H.R. 6 includes language that would create an electric reliability organization (ERO) with the ability to develop and enforce mandatory reliability standards in North America. The House of Representatives passed the comprehensive energy bill by a vote of 275–156 on Thursday, July 28; the Senate approved the bill Friday by a 74–26 vote.
Several agencies and companies have released statements applauding the passage of the bill. Edison Electric Institute President Tom Kuhn said that American consumers would be the ultimate beneficiaries of comprehensive energy legislation.
"We commend members of Congress for their strongly bipartisan support of the Energy Policy Act, which will lay the foundation for a more secure, reliable and affordable energy future," Kuhn said. "This legislation will end 13 years of uncertainty in our national energy strategy by clearly charting a path that promotes expanded energy production as well as improved efficiency and conservation." Underscoring the legislation's key elements, Kuhn said it will help reinforce the nation's transmission grid and strengthen electric reliability, modernize U.S. electricity regulations, and broaden the availability of a diverse mix of both conventional and renewable fuels to power the nation's economy, while also promoting greater efficiency and conservation.
"A reliable, affordable and environmentally sustainable supply of energy has long been the cornerstone of American well-being and economic growth," Kuhn said. "This energy legislation is tailor made to ensuring that remains the case for years to come."
The North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) applauded Congress as well. “By including the NERC-supported reliability language in this energy bill, Congress has made a clear statement that we must now get on with the job of establishing an industry-led, selfregulatory reliability organization that will have the ability to set and enforce mandatory reliability standards throughout North America,” said Michehl R. Gent, NERC President and CEO. “We thank Congress for finishing the job that was started so many years ago. NERC is prepared to move quickly to transition to the ERO envisioned in the bill once it is signed by the President and becomes law,” he added.
NERC and a broad coalition of industry, regulatory, and consumer groups have long supported the passage of a comprehensive energy bill that includes reliability provisions. Those provisions ensure that the new electric reliability organization will operate fairly and effectively to maintain the reliability of the bulk electric system throughout North America.
Dominion was one energy company that came out with a statement approving of the passage of the bill. "The bill, while not perfect, is a vital first step in developing a comprehensive policy for ensuring energy reliability and security," said Thos. E. Capps, chairman and chief executive officer. "It encourages much-needed investment in our nation's energy production and delivery infrastructure and promotes the use of a diverse mix of fuels and renewable technologies to generate electricity."
Important points of the legislation include:
- Mandatory, enforceable standards for maintenance and operation of the nation's electric transmission networks and new federal authority to ensure that critically needed lines are built.
- Provisions designed to ensure a diverse fuel supply for the production of electricity and federal support and tax incentives for clean coal, nuclear and renewable power generation technologies.
- Opportunities for increasing natural gas supplies and possibly reducing prices by encouraging domestic production, boosting imports of liquefied natural gas and improving the permitting process for drilling.
- Energy conservation provisions, including stricter energy efficiency standards for many products. The bill offers tax credits for investments in energy-efficient buildings and equipment, low-emission vehicles, and technology utilizing renewable resources.
The legislation also takes important steps to modernize the laws and regulations governing the nation's electric utility industry while maintaining high levels of consumer protection.