Jan
04
2018

Kicking Off 2018 and Examining the Energy Playbook

Now that the universe is properly aligned, with the University of Georgia once again playing for the national college football title, PACE has great hopes for 2018. Should that sense of optimism extend to Washington, D.C. and progress for energy consumers? This early in the year, there are more questions than answers.  

First, of course, Congress and the Administration have to settle out how to pay the bills. A series of short-term spending Continuing Resolutions for FY2018 runs out soon, and until a solution is reached, there’s not enough oxygen to fully undertake other important discussions on tax extenders, infrastructure, an $81 billion disaster aid package, and energy legislation. As well, team rosters have changed up heading into the new season, with the Senate now standing at 51 Republicans – 49 Democrats.

Just as tax reform was crossing the finish line and being signed by the President, tax extenders legislation (S. 2256) was also introduced, carrying some important provisions, including the nuclear production tax credit that can help Plant Vogtle reach completion. The House hasn’t been quite as proactive, although Ways & Means Chairman Kevin Brady says he will work on the issue.

Infrastructure (recall this HUGE Trump campaign promise) legislation is once again being discussed, but until spending and budget get more clarity, it is difficult to know under which sofa cushions we might find $600 billion to $1 trillion to pay for a package that can do enough good to matter (and attract the needed votes). Rep. Bill Shuster, who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has announced his retirement. Will this motivate him to champion a bipartisan legislative package as part of his legacy, or weaken his ability to cajole others in the diverse Republican caucus?

Several other items remain on the D.C. to-do list. In November, the International Trade Commission recommended that President Trump levy quotas and tariffs on foreign companies that have flooded the U.S. market with artificially inexpensive solar panels. His decision is due before the end of January.

On January 10, two days after Georgia triumphs over Alabama, energy policy watchers will finally learn what FERC plans to do with DOE’s “suggestions” about valuing energy resiliency. How will the deep freeze across many regions, that has caused natural gas spot prices to spike and increased reliance on coal and oil as generation fuels, affect the outcome and rhetoric next week?

The answers to these infrastructure and energy policy questions are elusive, but there are many good minds on both sides of the aisle thinking and working together to reach answers.

May the best team win on Monday, and may temperatures warm up for many of us soon.