Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee Holds Hearing on Islanded Energy Systems

Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee Holds Hearing on Islanded Energy Systems
August 1, 2015 Stephanie Nowers
U.S. Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources

July 14, 2015

In the lead-up to the unveiling of the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing on islanded energy systems. The hearing featured testimony about the energy and infrastructure challenges facing islanded grid communities from representatives of Alaska, Hawaii and U.S. territories. Committee Chairs Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) spoke about the need to address these unique challenges through federal policy action.

“Most remote locations pay at least twice the national average for electricity,” said Murkowksi, highlighting the high costs paid by the United States’ islanded grid communities from Maine to Guam. “While the nation’s regional grids have a diverse set of energy sources to draw from, most isolated areas simply do not have that luxury. Instead, their energy costs are directly tied to the cost of oil.”

“Energy is the lifeblood of any economy,” added Cantwell. “Part of our responsibility is ensuring that these [islanded] communities have viable economies ensure and there is a need for reliable and affordable energy.”

In his testimony, the Honorable Robert Underwood, President of the University of Guam, addressed the problems associated with importing costly fossil fuels. “Our greatest export from Guam is money,” Underwood said. “As soon as we get it, we export it and $300 million a year, roughly 7.5% to 8% of our gross island product, goes to fossil fuel. If we were able to capture portions of that export through efficiencies and the establishment of renewables, we could keep the money circulating in the Guam economy, generate jobs, improve the quality of our lives, and make significant strides towards energy independence.”

The draft text of the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 includes a section on “Hybrid micro-grid systems for isolated and resilient communities” which would redefine the term “micro-grid” to include islanded grid systems with a mix of conventional and alternative energy resources. This section also outlines strategies to promote the development of hybrid micro-grid systems for isolated communities. The Islanded Grid Resource Center will be tracking the progress of this bill and its implications for islanded grid communities.

For a recording of the hearing, visit the committee’s website.

More information on the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 – including the full bill text, a one-pager, and markup information – can be also found on the committee’s website.