As the demand for energy increases the need to find more sustainable avenues of generating power becomes paramount. The federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) is taking steps to shape the future of power generation, sustainable energy, and sustainable transportation.
The BIL is expected to provide more than $70 billion in funds over the next five years to support future energy infrastructure, which spans a variety of different subsects.
“The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has played a very important role over the last 50 years in doing basic research and development, and safeguarding our national nuclear stockpiles,” said Phil Jonat, WSP USA national leader for electrification. “But with the BIL, they're really being asked to increase their spending on deployment and open up the future for sustainable energy and transportation.”
Most of the U.S. electrical infrastructure is privately owned and operated for profit. The BIL funding will involve public sector entities such as state departments of environmental protection as well as public utility commissions, but money will also be available for private sector firms to pilot and deploy new technology. This funding will act as the catalyst that will push the market in directions that Congress views as important, such as domestic supply chains, cybersecurity and green hydrogen.
One of the areas of opportunity that Jonat noted specifically was in the electric grid.
“The electric grid is really being viewed by our legislators as the key to solving climate change,” Jonat said. “We can electrify almost everything. And as we electrify our lives, the electric grid will become cleaner and more resilient.”
This commitment is shown in the funding levels for 12 grid infrastructure programs, set at $33.1 billion – nearly half of the money earmarked for energy. “These really are historic levels of funding that have never been seen before,” he added. “As we go through a historic energy transition from a dirty energy economy towards a new, clean energy economy, we are we are going to see some disruptions.”
For example, moving away from gasoline powered cars to electric cars will increase demand on the raw materials that need to be mined for the batteries, such as nickel, much of which is imported from Russia. “We need alternatives, and luckily there are alternatives that are readily available.”
Lithium iron phosphate batteries, for example do not rely on nickel in a large scale. “There are innovative chemistries out there already that many WSP clients are utilizing in their batteries.”