Congress Moving on Energy and Construction Legislation
Major Tech Figures Fight Climate Change With New Coalition
> CONGRESS HAS BEEN ACTIVE RECENTLY on legislation that
concerns electrical contractors.
In October, federal lawmakers launched an effort to block
the Clean Power Plan. Published in the Federal Register in
September, the Clean Power Plan became open to legal and
legislative challenges. The highly politicized plan requires states
to cut carbon emissions. ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR reported,
in the October issue, that the plan faces lawsuits from states’
attorneys general and the coal industry. Now, Congress is
rumbling with opposition.
Rep. Ed Whitfield and Sen. Mitch
McConnell, Republicans from Kentucky,
have introduced separate but similar
legislation that would block the Clean Power
Plan. Introduced under the Congressional
Review Act, such maneuvers have been
successful only once, and these legislations—
if passed—would certainly
suffer a presidential veto.
It’s not all bad news for
clean power, though. In the
wake of the Paris Climate
Agreement, Congress has
extended the tax credits for solar and wind power for another
five years. As of this writing, the legislation, which was included
in the federal budget bill, was not law but was expected to pass.
According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the extensions
will add 20 gigawatts (GW) of solar and 19 GW of wind power.
On the other end of notoriously intermittent renewable-
energy technologies, transmission and storage is vital.
The House recognized this with the passage of the North
American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015,
which focuses on energy transmission, distribution and
storage. Due to fears of the bill undermining current
initiatives, the Obama administration has threatened
to veto such a bill.
Finally, not strictly energy-related, the House
and Senate passed the Fixing America’s Surface
Transportation (FAST) Act, funding highways
and mass-transit projects. It is the first
long-term highways bill in
over a decade. President
Obama signed it into law
on Dec. 4.
—RICK LAEZMAN AND
> AS THE DEBATE over climate change
continues, many figures in the tech
industry have been among the most vocal
in the fight against it. Now, many of the
biggest names in the field are teaming up
to form a climate change supergroup.
The Breakthrough Energy Coalition
aims to back technology being developed
to fight climate change. Involved parties
include Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO
of Amazon.com; Richard Branson,
founder of Virgin Group; Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft; Jack Ma, founder
and chairman of Alibaba Group; Mark
Zuckerberg, founder, chairman and CEO
of Facebook; and many more.
“The existing system of basic
research, clean-energy investment,
regulatory frameworks, and subsidies
fails to sufficiently mobilize investment
in truly transformative energy solutions
for the future,” according to a statement
on the coalition website. “We can’t
wait for the system to change through
The coalition calls for a public-private
partnership between governments,
researchers and investors, with an
emphasis on being proactive rather than
reactive. However, it emphasizes that little
progress can be made without the direct
involvement of major world governments.
“Only our governments have the
mandate to protect the public interest as
well as the resources and mechanisms
to do this,” the website states. “We know
government investment in research can
lead to the creation of industries that
advance the common good and are driven
by private capital… . However, current
governmental funding levels for clean
energy are simply insufficient to meet the
challenges before us.”
The money is where the coalition
comes in. This group aims to form a
network of private capital to help build a
structure that will accelerate the change
to an “advanced energy future.”
The announcement of the coalition
coincided with the start of the U.N.
Climate Change Conference, which took
place in Paris from Nov. 30–Dec. 11, 2015,
and ended with a global agreement to
combat climate change on Dec. 12, 2015.
For more, visit www.
—MAT T KRAUS
Bezos Branson Gates Ma Zuckerberg