The Department of Energy released its Quadrennial Energy Review (QER) on April 21, 2015, which includes a series of recommendations to upgrade the country’s aging energy infrastructure (from our natural gas infrastructure to rail and fleets), continue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve the electric grid’s reliability and revisit the country’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve policies among other issues.
The report, which has been underway since early 2014, is the Obama administration’s attempt at setting the stage for future years. It includes the following sections:
- Increasing the Resilience, Reliability, Safety and Asset Security of transmission, storage and distribution (TS&D) Infrastructure
- Modernizing the Electric Grid
- Modernizing U.S. Energy Security Infrastructures in a Changing Global Marketplace
- Improving Shared Transport Infrastructures
- Integrating North American Energy Markets
- Addressing Environmental Aspects of TS&D Infrastructure
- Enhancing Employment and Workforce Training
- Siting and Permitting of TS&D Infrastructure
- Analytical and Stakeholder Process
Many of the issues addressed in the report cross multiple agencies and impact state authorities. The administration hopes the QER will help initiate these important discussions with relevant stakeholders.
The release of the report is timely as activity is ratcheting up in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Both bodies have begun to schedule hearings at their respective energy committees, and the first major energy bill in almost a decade will be seriously considered. The administration’s nod toward improving energy infrastructure is sure to draw some support across party lines; however, other recommendations, such as those focused on improving methane emissions reporting in natural gas development, will face a difficult time given the Republican majorities in Congress. Congress also must pass an extension to the Surface Transportation Act, which could become a vehicle for some of the recommendations outlined in the report.
As we approach the summer driving season, both Congress and the executive branch have energy legislation on their radar and will be ramping up the rhetoric as things begin to move legislatively. This report is important for anyone in the energy industry (utilities, oil and gas companies, renewables, coal, nuclear, storage and power markets); for the supporting industries such as rail, barge and equipment companies; and for energy intensive manufacturers.