Funding Mechanism Uncertain for $15 Billion Proposed in Quadrennial Review, Moniz Says

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By Rebecca Kern

April 27 — The Obama administration still needs to work with Congress on how to fund the majority of the more than $15 billion in new spending programs and tax credits proposed in the White House's Quadrennial Energy Review released last week, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said April 27.

The QER outlines methods to modernize and update the country's aging energy transmission, storage and distribution infrastructure.

“For the Department of Energy we have about $450 million in our FY 2016 budget request that is directly connected to QER recommendations,” Moniz said at an event for media held by the Christian Science Monitor in Washington.

But he also noted there are about $15 billion of additional resources “that we are available to discuss with Congress how one might address these infrastructure needs.”

Moniz also noted that there are some projects proposed in the QER that involve more modest resource investments, including two state grant programs to “really help seed grid reliability and more generally energy assurance activities.”

He took an optimistic note toward working with Congress on the proposals in the QER, saying that the reaction from the leaders of the energy committees in both chambers has been “very positive.”

Moniz is scheduled to testify on the QER before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on April 28. This will probably be followed by a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing in several weeks, he said.

Cyberattacks, Climate Biggest Threats

Moniz said the greatest risks to the nation's electric grid are cyberattacks and extreme weather. The frequency and source of cyberattacks on energy infrastructure are increasing, he said.

“Internally, one of the first things I did was create a department-wide cybercouncil, which has been important in going across both our civilian energy structure and nuclear security structure,” he said.

He said the DOE has been working closely with EEI, the association of investor-owned electric utilities, and has created a group headed by Tom Fanning, chief executive officer of the Southern Co., a large regional energy company, focused on cybersecurity.

He noted that James Clapper, director of national intelligence, is setting up a group on cyberforensics as well.

“This is a big area. It's one of those areas where establishing a set of static rules doesn't do it because we've got to stay ahead of the bad guys all the time,” Moniz said. “So far, we have not had any major actual disruption of our energy infrastructure. But it ain't for lack of people trying.”

Yucca Mountain Approach

Moniz also said that he thinks Yucca Mountain isn't a good solution for storing spent fuel.

“We continue to feel that Yucca Mountain is just not workable and it is not consent-based. The state continues to strongly resist it. Experience suggests that for nuclear facilities, if you don't have a consent-based approach from community, to state, to federal government, things never seem to get over the finish line,” he said.

He said the administration has supported a consent-based process for siting. They have several options in the works for spent fuel storage, including pilot storage facilities with interest from a private facility in Texas and a public facility in another state.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rebecca Kern in Washington at rkern@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Rothman at hrothman@bna.com