On April 20, 2016, the Senate passed the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016, the first broad energy bill to come out of the Senate since 2007. The bill had been stalled for weeks over disagreement about whether to include funding for Flint, MI (which ultimately was not part of the bill), but in the end it passed 85 to 12 with broad bipartisan support.
The bill includes a wide range of provisions, including ones that:
- reform the hydropower relicensing process;
- allow federal mortgage lenders to consider energy efficiency when implementing loan eligibility requirements and determining ability of an applicant to repay;
- raise the conservation standards for federal buildings; and
- fund research and development in areas such as marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy, carbon capture technology, cybersecurity, and energy storage.
While the bill had bipartisan support in the Senate, it has received somewhat mixed reviews outside of that chamber. Back in January, when the bill was still in limbo, the Obama administration praised certain elements while expressing concern with other parts of the legislation, such as the practicality of reforms to the hydropower relicensing process. Edison Electric Institute applauded the passage of the bill, in particular the repeal of a ban on fossil fuel-generated energy at federal buildings, whereas the Sierra Club opposed it for not going far enough on renewable energy.
In terms of next steps, the Senate bill will need to be reconciled with the version passed by the House back in December 2015. In the meantime, the Senate has moved on to more energy-related matters, debating appropriations for the Department of Energy and related agencies for the fiscal year 2016.