NEMA, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, will be pressing Congress in the next few months to preserve language in House and Senate energy bills that would benefit the industry, the consumer, and the nation. NEMA succeeded in getting several provisions written into the legislation, including (1) language requiring efficiency ratings for transformers to conform to those in NEMA standard TP 1, TP 2, and TP 3; (2) provisions requiring lighted exit signs and traffic signs be certified Energy Star® products; (3) a federal product procurement standard for motors based on the NEMA Premium® motor efficiency standard; (4) higher energy efficiency goals for new federal installations and retrofits; and (5) the establishment of a consortium to develop solid-state lighting technology.

“We’re gratified that this important legislation is moving toward passage,” says NEMA President Malcolm O’Hagan. “Electric efficiency was last addressed by Congress in 1992 and electric infrastructure was last addressed in 1978. In the last decade, we have witnessed considerable progress in the development of energy efficient technologies; legislation has not kept pace. Since 1978, the entire nature of the electric power business has changed. It’s high time for this legislation.”

In recent weeks, the national news media has focused on a few politically controversial issues, such as drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the automobile Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard, and, in some cases, have inferred, since neither one passed in the Senate energy bill, that there is nothing notable remaining in the legislation. “That is unfortunate,” says O’Hagan. “The conference committee has a very important task before it. What the conferees decide will help shape our nation over the next decade.”

Both the House and Senate bills are now referred to as H. R. 4., after the House bill passed last August, but significant differences need to be worked out in conference. The original H.R. 4, for instance, had no electricity infrastructure provisions. While NEMA was influential in the crafting of both the House and Senate versions, the association would choose certain provisions over others in the hybrid. NEMA favors, for instance, most of the Senate’s electrical efficiency provisions because they include explicit NEMA language covering such products as transformers and exit signs. NEMA supports House provisions, however, for national standards for interconnection and metering, as well as for transmission siting and funding originally included in draft bill H. R. 3406. That bill was developed by the House Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee at the end of 2001, but was never brought to the House floor for a vote.

NEMA also supports provisions for tax incentives for advanced meters and tax deductions for efficient commercial buildings.

During the last few hours of Senate debate in late April, Senators produced a flurry of new tax and energy policy amendments; many are important to NEMA members, including those that would:

  • mandate a high temperature superconducting technology demonstration for electric infrastructure, which will benefit cable manufacturers;

  • authorize federal cost sharing funds for state rebate programs for energy efficient products;

  • require public housing projects to purchase Energy Star® labeled products;

  • change mandatory climate change reporting to voluntary;

  • reduce the value of a credit for electricity from renewables from 3 cents to 1.5 cents per kWh in the Renewable Portfolio Standard, which would provide incentive for renewables at less cost to electricity users;

  • extend tax credits for fuel cells as small as 0.5 kW capacity;

  • make microturbines eligible for business tax credits available to fuel cells (the amount of the credit allowed is higher for fuel cells);

  • designate back-pressure steam turbines as eligible for the tax credit available to combined heat and power plants;

  • extend tax credits for businesses with small wind turbines;

  • extend the wind energy production tax credit;

  • widen definition of renewable fuels for electric generation, which will allow broader use and more competitive generation;

  • allow utilities that sell certain electric transmission assets to pay the tax liability over an 8-year period with no interest, as opposed to paying the full tax liability immediately, which would stifle the formation of independent transmission companies;

  • authorize rural and remote community electrification grants;

  • provide tax credits for high efficiency gas furnaces; and

  • provide tax credits for high efficiency manufactured homes.

  • O’Hagan says, “We’ll continue to work to with members of both chambers to ensure that the bill that goes to the President’s desk for signature retains the best features in the House and Senate bills and sets enlightened energy policy. The bottom line is that the nation needs an energy bill. Energy efficiency improvements and enhanced electric infrastructure are vital to our economic prosperity. It’s time to pass comprehensive energy legislation.”

    NEMA is the leading trade association in the United States representing the interests of electroindustry manufacturers. Founded in 1926 and headquartered near Washington, D.C., its 400 member companies manufacture products used in the generation, transmission and distribution, control, and end-use of electricity. Annual shipments of these products are in excess of $100 billion.