Linemen Wins and Losses from the Trillion Dollar Infrastructure Bill

2,702 pages is a lot to dig through.


The overarching goal of the $1 trillion dollar plan is to secure the energy infrastructure of the State against all physical and cybersecurity threats.


The deal’s $73 billion investment is the single largest government spending project in clean energy transmission in American history.


The Quick Breakdown for Overhead and Transmission Linemen:


Good News for Linemen:

✔️Impact grants for disruptive events and power outages

✔️Amend the Federal Power Act to streamline construction permits

✔️Strong set aside impacts for smaller utilities


Bad News for Linemen:

No further progress on the Lineman Legacy Act stuck in Senate

Department of Energy Revolving Loan Fund will still support projects that fail to be constructed

Overall very limited specification on rural transmission priorities


Biggest Remaining Unknowns for Linemen:

🟧What happens with the Transmission Facilitation Fund?

🟧How does the Grid Deployment Authority actually impact the speed of powerline construction?


Good News for Linemen:

✔️Impact grants for disruptive events and power outages

The infrastructure orders repairs to crumbling physical infrastructure such as roads and bridges, expansions to broadband internet access, replacement of lead water pipes, financial support for clean energy projects, and improving the weatherization and cybersecurity of vulnerable infrastructure.


The impact for the power grid is a new grant program for disruptive events and power outages. The eligible recipients include "(A) an electric grid operator; (B) an electricity storage operator; (C) an electricity generator; (D) a transmission owner or operator; (E) a distribution provider".


The grant applicant must show that the capital will be used to make 'supplemental efforts to existing hardening of the eligible entity planned for any given year' or 'reduce the risk of any future disruptive event'.


This broadly defined grant seems to be written very loosely and will give the Department of Energy strong authority to essentially fund whatever project they deem necessary.


This is a positive for lineman particularly journeyman traveling in storm recovery.


✔️Amend the Federal Power Act to streamline construction permits

The goal of this amendment is to speed up the regulatory process needed to verify and approve construction permits of powerlines.


Major infrastructure projects are notoriously tough to build in 21st-century America, and that seems especially true for transmission lines, however critical they are in transforming the energy system.


The gap is growing between the transmission network’s capacity and the need to link wind farms in the Great Plains and Intermountain West, solar farms in the Southwest and hydropower resources in eastern Canada to other regions hungry for carbon-free energy.


The amendment to the FPA designates National Interest Transmissions Corridors that will receive priority treatment. These are broadly defined as corridors that are expected to experience energy transmission constraints in the coming years.


One such project is The Grain Belt Express.


This project is meant to carry up to 4,000 megawatts of wind power in western Kansas to its endpoint in Indiana, part of the 11-state system of grid operator PJM.


After initially being denied by Missouri regulators, Grain Belt won a court battle to allow a rehearing in 2018, only to have another court in Illinois overturn that state's approval of the project weeks later — underscoring the whack-a-mole reality of multistate projects.


This is a positive for lineman, particularly those working on large intrastate projects.


Grain Belt Express Transmission Project
Grain Belt Express Transmission Project

✔️Strong set aside impacts for smaller utilities


The catch-22 with federal dollars up for grabs is the administrative and operational hurdles needed to not only apply for the dollars but also manage the reporting. For many small utilities across the country the idea of competing for multi-million dollar grants awarded post-power outage or as part of the National Interest Transmissions Corridors.


We were pleased to find as part of the Grid Infrastructure Reliability Plan there was a specific set aside for small utilities: 'A State or Indian Tribe receiving a grant under the program shall ensure that, of the amounts made available to eligible entities from funds made available to the State or Indian Tribe under the program, the percentage made available to eligible entities that sell not more than 4,000,000 megawatt hours of electricity per year is not less than the percentage of all customers in the State or Indian Tribe that are served by those eligible entities'.


This is encouraging for lineman working at smaller utilities.


Bad News for Linemen:

No further progress on the Lineman Legacy Act stuck in Senate

As recently highlighted by our team, The Lineman Legacy Act remains stuck in congress.


This would classify utility line workers as emergency responders. In February, the bill was read in the senate before being referred to the Committee of Homeland Security and Governmental affairs. While the infrastructure bill is a strongly project based piece of legislation, the recent hurricane season has highlighted the need for further resilience support for linemen across the southeast in particular.


Department of Energy Revolving Loan Fund will still support projects that fail to be constructed

As outlined below as a remaining major question market the Department of Energy will be financing the planning and construction of many new projects across the country. One vehicle is a revolving loan fund.


This legislation will not seek loan repayment in the scenario a project is not completed or even begun. From a lineman perspective this means more federal dollars going to impact studies and research and less going to actual line construction.

Rural Completed Powerline Project
Rural Completed Powerline Project


Overall very limited specification on rural transmission priorities

As described in the legislation 'Each State regulatory authority shall consider establishing rate mechanisms allowing an electric utility with respect to which the State regulatory authority has ratemaking authority to timely recover the costs of promoting demand-response and demand flexibility practices'.


While the regulatory language does include some flexibility much of the smart grid monitoring trends leave rural areas in the dark. Past Department of Energy funding proposal have included specific earmarks prioritizing rural transmissions and it is disappointing to see the lack of rural focus through the entirety of the grid infrastructure and grid resilience plan


Biggest Remaining Unknowns for Linemen:

🟧What happens with the Transmission Facilitation Fund?

A revolving $2.5 billion Transmission Facilitation Fund will be created through th