The federal government has an essential role to play to ensure that our nation’s infrastructure is safe, secure and modern. The Council believes that there is broad bipartisan support to make the necessary upgrades to all the components of American infrastructure, which include transportation systems, water and wastewater treatment plants and systems, the electric grid and natural gas pipelines, the built environment in our cities and much more.
Revived investment in U.S. infrastructure will deliver multiple benefits, from increased competitiveness of the U.S. economy, to increased national security, enhanced resilience to extreme weather events and thousands of potential new jobs.
To help elaborate the importance the energy sector to American infrastructure, the Council has prepared a set of principles to offer the federal government as it considers new legislation to strengthen and improve American infrastructure. A few key concepts are highlighted below.
Energy Infrastructure is Critical
The U.S. energy system is a critical component of the nation’s infrastructure. Any federal investments made to modernize infrastructure needs to prioritize energy systems – because the delivery of safe, secure and reliable power, heat and fuels is an essential and fundamental input for operations in all sectors.
The next-generation energy system will be bi-directional and much more integrated with the built environment, which will increasingly enable customers to interact with it.
This will require smart infrastructure solutions—backed by improved cybersecurity protocols—that facilitate the collection of data via sensors along distribution networks, advanced analytics, and the incorporation of communications technologies to optimize performance, preempt problems, and allow for rapid response.
The next-generation energy system will also need to integrate demand-response protocols for increased electric grid efficiency, as well as utility-scale and distributed renewable and clean energy technologies, which will require upgrades and expansion to the grid system.
Energy storage will also play a larger role in the power, buildings, and transportation sectors.
Lighting systems represent 20 percent of U.S. energy use and upgrading outdoor lighting systems can result in significant cost savings while providing other security, connectivity, and efficiency services.
Through more strategic and systemic approaches to modernization, the U.S. can integrate complementary assets, advance new market structures, and accelerate deployment of clean energy technologies.
New and Renovated Buildings Should Embrace Efficiency, Resilience and Connectivity
To ensure the responsible use of taxpayer dollars, federal funding for the construction and renovation of schools, hospitals, state and local buildings, and other projects should require energy-efficient and resilient building construction practices, as well as performance metrics. These measures will ensure that wasteful energy systems are phased out and replaced with cost-effective technologies and practices.
The built environment is home to the latest in market trends for the integration of energy technologies, including smarter systems, incorporation of distributed generation, advances in heating and cooling and supporting the electrification of vehicles.
Holistic Approach Needed for Infrastructure Investments
Investment decisions should reflect overarching objectives including resource efficiency, consumer savings, environmental performance, resiliency, and sustainability. Projects also should optimize design, construction, and operation for resilience, and incorporate—to the extent possible—the use of third-parties to ensure that projects meet their performance objectives.
Tools to partner with local governments – which are responsible for the implementation of a significant portion of infrastructure investments – should be embraced. These could include competitive grant programs and other authorization measures that will create market-based incentives that will guide investment dollars to the right place and will better leverage private capital flows.
Investing in the Future
As the U.S. economy becomes more digitally driven, energy infrastructure that is reliable, affordable, smart, and resilient becomes even more critical. The extensive power grid and natural gas system in the U.S. have fueled the nation’s economic growth and ensured its global competitiveness to date. The Council offers its views in BCSE Principles on Federal Infrastructure Policies to help keep this positive progress going in the right direction.