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Kathy Castor files bill to spur investment, research in energy tech

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Hours after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal rule for electricity markets that encourages grid operators to pay large users to reduce consumption at peak times, Tampa Bay area Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor filed an energy bill that she says will spur investment and research in widespread distributed energy technology, such as rooftop solar.

“Energy efficiency and renewable sources are at the heart of our clean energy future,” said Castor. “We can create jobs by unleashing American ingenuity to cut carbon pollution, and generate local energy and savings. American businesses should help produce and sell the energy of the future.

Castor filed the bill with a Republican: New York Rep. Richard Hanna.

The proposed legislation focuses on identifying and researching technical and regulatory hurdles that inhibit expanded use of clean energy resources; creating a national strategy by way of a panel of experts to develop, implement, site and integrate distributed energy technology; and creating a competitive grant program for public and private companies that demonstrate how to achieve successful integration of distributed energy technology.

Castor also supported extending the Solar Investment Tax Credit for five years (2017-2021), which passed in the year-end omnibus appropriations bill. Castor said that tax credit will create 61,000 jobs in 2017 alone and benefit at least a dozen solar companies in Tampa Bay.

The Supreme Court ruled 6-2 on Monday to reverse a May 2014 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to strike down the 2011 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regulation.

The regulation concerns what FERC calls “demand response,” which is when, in an attempt to manage demand for electricity, regional electrical grid operators agree to pay big electricity users such as factories, businesses, schools and hospitals to cut consumption at peak times. It is aimed at improving grid reliability, lowering costs and encouraging clean energy.

The case involved the government’s energy regulator against power companies that opposed a regulation that threatened to cut into their profits. The utilities said the agency had exceeded its authority by extending its power over the retail markets.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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