Steve Hauser is CEO of the Association of Edison Illuminating Companies.
As a new year begins, with several significant federal grant opportunities for electric utilities, I can't help but experience a little déjà vu as I reflect on the somewhat unexpected and chaotic Congressional funding journey we've been on over the past two decades.
Many of you still remember the billions of dollars that more than a hundred utilities received as a small part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. These grants provided funding for transmission, distribution, battery storage, and projects to manage customer loads.
This ARRA funding was a perfect example of the old adage that "Congress only passes significant legislation in response to a crisis." While the financial crisis that had intensified over the previous year or two was the main motivation for ARRA, it offered a much-welcomed vehicle for providing utilities with unplanned and unexpected support they would otherwise not have received from the federal government.
What is often forgotten when reflecting on the 2009 ARRA funding, is the legislation that had been passed a couple of years earlier, which provided a framework and conduit for delivering federal funds to the industry.