New Padilla, Cornyn Bill Will Help Strengthen Electric Grid Infrastructure Against Extreme Weather

Bill Would Help Prevent Outages from California Wildfires, Texas Freezes

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Today, U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced bipartisan legislation to help weatherize electrical grids across the nation. The POWER ON Act would assist electricity providers and suppliers with federal funding to protect their facilities and infrastructure against future extreme weather events, including heatwaves, droughts and wildfires in California, and freezing temperatures in Texas. 

Last year, California faced some of the largest, record-breaking wildfires in state history. 6 of the top 10 most destructive fires in California occurred in the past three years and at least three of those fires were triggered by utility equipment. Additionally, from 2013 to the end of 2019, California experienced over 57,000 wildfires and the three large energy companies in the state conducted 33 public safety power shutoffs. Millions of Californians were left without power for days on end, leaving communities at risk. 

“Once-in-a-generation weather events are now becoming a regular occurrence,” said Sen. Padilla. “Whether it be public safety power shutoffs or electric system failures due to extreme weather events, we must invest in grid resilience and modernization in order to keep the power on in impacted communities. We can’t leave another family in the dark during wildfire season or without heat in a blizzard. That’s why Senator Cornyn and I are proposing these necessary, smart investments to strengthen our electric grid and create jobs to boost our economy in the process.”

“Whether we face subzero temperatures, gale force winds, or any other type of extreme weather, Texas’s electric grid must be able to withstand the impact,” said Sen. Cornyn. “This bipartisan legislation is an outstanding start to ensure the life-threatening outages Texans endured this February won’t happen again.”

U.S. Representatives Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.), Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), Kevin Brady (R-Texas), and Michael Burgess (R-Texas) introduced companion language in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Summary of the POWER ON Act:

On Grid Resiliency Grants: 

  • The POWER ON Act of 2021 would provide electric grid resilience grants through the U.S. Department of Energy to states and Indian Tribes to carry out projects that enhance the physical resilience of the electric grid.
  • Grants will be formula based, as determined by the Secretary of Energy, and allocated annually through an application process.
  • Grants may be used for activities, technologies, equipment, and hardening measures to enable the electric grid to better withstand the effects of extreme weather, wildfires, or any other natural disaster.  
  • Grants will not be provided for new construction but rather to strengthen existing infrastructure, technologies, and equipment.
  • Electricity providers may not seek any cost recovery, through raising rates or otherwise, for projects funded through this program.
  • The bill authorizes $100,000,000 annually for fiscal years 2022 through 2026.

On Grid Resilience Research and Development:

  • The POWER ON Act of 2021 would also provide competitive grants for research, development, demonstration, and commercial application activities to improve the resilience of the electric grid.
  • Grants may be used for developing technologies to withstand and address the current and projected impact on electric grid infrastructure of extreme weather, wildfires, or any other natural disaster.  

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