U.S. mayors plan funding for distributed energy, smart grids and more

While the Trump Administration continues to move the United States towards a 19th century energy policy, including proposals to bail out unnecessary, inflexible coal and nuclear plants, states and cities continue to move forward.

As the latest progress, a recent two-day summit by U.S. mayors in New Bedford, Massachusetts, hammered out a six-point energy recommendation to be included in the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ (USCM) National Infrastructure Plan that will be presented later this year.

The six principles call for tax and other incentives to promote additional investment in distributed generation, energy storage and microgrids, as well as preservation of and extension of tax credits and other incentives to support renewable energy. The recommendations also contain a host of other tax reform and funding recommendations that are largely focused on climate resiliency.

This document follows on USCM President Mitch Landrieu’s call for infrastructure proposals that include water and energy, at a conference where USCM endorsed a 100% by 2035 renewable energy target. It is not an accident that Landrieu is mayor of New Orleans, a city that took many years to rebuild after flooding in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Several measures hit an intersection of climate resiliency and clean technology, including several points that mentioned smart grids, microgrids and grid modernization.

Eventually these infrastructure proposals will go to the U.S. Congress, however it is unclear what will happen then. Both houses of the U.S. Congress are controlled by President Trump’s Republican Party, and the House of Representatives has many Republicans who affiliate themselves with the Freedom Caucus.

While some individuals in both the Republican Party and the Tea Party have embraced renewable energy, both the Republicans and particularly the Freedom Caucus have emphasized lower taxes and a reduced role for the federal government, which directly conflicts with additional support for municipalities.

The U.S. Congress is expected to take on the complicated challenge of tax reform soon. As such, it is not accidental that the first point of the “New Bedford Principles” is to seek and energy-friendly tax reform package that does not undermine current progress. And despite the disasters which have unfolded this summer, it may be a challenge in the current political environment to even get that.