New Cornyn, Johnson, Brady, Burgess Bill would help strengthen electric grid infrastructure against extreme weather

The POWER ON Act would help avoid life-threatening outages

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and U.S. Representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30), Kevin Brady (TX-08), and Michael Burgess (TX-26) introduced bipartisan legislation today to help weatherize electric grids across the nation. The POWER ON Act would aid electricity providers and suppliers with federal funding to protect their facilities and infrastructure against extreme weather events, like the winter storm that took place in February.

“Whether we face subzero temperatures, gale force winds, or any other type of extreme weather, Texas’s electric grid must be able to withstand the impact,” said Sen. Cornyn. “This bipartisan legislation is an outstanding start to ensure the life-threatening outages Texans endured this February won’t happen again.”

The 2021 Texas power crisis was most notable of the winter storm, leaving millions of Texans without power. It is the deadliest winter storm North America has seen since the Blizzard of 1996.

“As these types of extreme weather events become increasingly common, we must ensure that our energy infrastructure is prepared to withstand harsh conditions so that disasters like this never happen again. That is why I am proud to join my bipartisan and bicameral colleagues in introducing the POWER ON Act,” said Rep. Johnson.

The outages in Texas caused more than 100 deaths due to carbon monoxide poisoning, hypothermia and other storm-related causes of death. The majority of deaths were ruled hypothermia.

“The failure to secure the resilience of our power infrastructure left millions in the dark and in the cold. This bipartisan and bicameral legislation provides states with much-needed support to improve their electric grids and ensure they are ready for the next extreme weather event. It is critical that Congress acts quickly to send this legislation to the President’s desk so that it can be signed into law,” said Rep. Burgess.

“I am proud to support the POWER ON Act and help protect our citizens from power grid failure in extreme weather events like we saw earlier this year in Texas,” said Rep. Brady. “This bipartisan legislation will help keep the electricity flowing in our communities when future disasters strike.

U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA) and U.S. Representatives Jared Huffman (CA-02), Doug LaMalfa (CA-01), and Doris Matsui (CA-06) are also original sponsors.

Listed is a summary of the POWER ON Act:

On Grid Resiliency Grants:

• The POWER ON Act of 2021 would provide electric grid resilience grants through the U.S. Department of Energy to states and Indian Tribes to carry out projects that enhance the physical resilience of the electric grid.

• Grants will be formula based, as determined by the Secretary of Energy, and allocated annually through an application process.

• Grants may be used for activities, technologies, equipment, and hardening measures to enable the electric grid to better withstand the effects of extreme weather, wildfires, or any other natural disaster.

• Grants will not be provided for new construction but rather to strengthen existing infrastructure, technologies, and equipment.

• Electricity providers may not seek any cost recovery, through raising rates or otherwise, for projects funded through this program.

• The bill authorizes $100,000,000 annually for fiscal years 2022 through 2026.
On Grid Resilience Research and Development:

• The POWER ON Act of 2021 would also provide competitive grants for research, development, demonstration, and commercial application activities to improve the resilience of the electric grid.

• Grants may be used for developing technologies to withstand and address the current and projected impact on electric grid infrastructure of extreme weather, wildfires, or any other natural disaster.