Bill Text (PDF) | One-Pager (PDF)

Washington (July 20, 2023) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate, and Nuclear Safety and co-chair of the Senate Climate Change Task Force, and Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) and Greg Casar (TX-35) reintroduced the Connecting Hard-to-reach Areas with Renewably Generated Energy (CHARGE) Act, comprehensive legislation that would lay the groundwork for America’s clean energy revolution by advancing critical electric infrastructure to strengthen reliability and lower costs for consumers. The legislation positions the United States to proactively plan for and create a reliable, resilient energy grid across broad regions of the country to bridge the gap between the supply of renewable energy and the cities and towns that need to access it. 

Federal policy is key to building a new and improved interstate power line system, just as it was for building the interstate highway system. This comprehensive legislation would enact a series of reforms through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to accelerate a clean energy transition by supporting planning, transparency, competition, and effective oversight of transmission networks that can deliver clean electric energy throughout the nation.

New transmission lines are needed to get clean energy on the grid. In the United States, there are approximately 2,000 gigawatts of total power generation and storage capacity seeking connection to the grid. In 2022, the total capacity of energy projects trying to connect to the grid grew by 40 percent. The Inflation Reduction Act unleashed billions of dollars and tax incentives to support clean energy and transmission projects, and the United States needs to have the right policies in place to ensure that these projects reach their full potential.

“For the United States to run on green energy, we first need to build green infrastructure. While there has been rapid growth of renewable energy resources and skyrocketing public demand for clean energy, there is not nearly enough capacity in our power lines to bridge the gap between clean power and the cities and towns that need it. The CHARGE Act changes that,” said Senator Markey. “A 21st-century electric grid will ensure communities—especially those unserved and underserved—receive the climate-resilient infrastructure they need to transition cleaner, more reliable energy that puts the health of our communities and our planet first. As the Inflation Reduction Act turbocharges a green energy revolution across the nation, it’s essential that we begin now to prepare our infrastructure for the future.” 

“Our patchwork transmission system is blocking billions of dollars in new renewable deployment,” said Representative Ocasio-Cortez. “This same transmission system is also increasingly vulnerable to widespread power outages in nearly every part of the country. The CHARGE Act is the key to updating this transmission network so we can plan for and meet the growing demand for grid resilience and renewable energy across the U.S.”

“As the climate crisis worsens, we must do everything we can to increase grid reliability across the country. That’s why we must pass the CHARGE Act,” said Representative Casar. “Every single family should be able to rely on their utilities.”

Specifically, the CHARGE Actwould:

  1. Require that transmission plans prioritize lower prices for customers and reliability and resiliency of the grid, incorporate de-carbonization goals and severe weather scenarios, and avoid sensitive environmental areas and cultural heritage sites;
  2. Increase data transparency and oversight;
  3. Ensure that utilities follow through on their clean energy commitments;
  4. Create a reliability standard that will ensure electricity can flow between different regions of the country in the event of large-scale or long-duration blackouts;
  5. Require a study on the benefits to and effects on consumers from competitive generation and publicly- and cooperatively-owned generation and transmission;
  6. Establish an advisory committee to improve the governance and stakeholder participation practices of grid operators;
  7. Mandate transparency regarding Regional Transmission Organization and Independent System Operator voting, board meetings, and stakeholder meetings; and, 
  8. Require FERC to develop rules to provide intervenor funding to help individuals or parties from disadvantaged or underrepresented communities navigate and engage in FERC proceedings.

A copy of the legislation can be found HERE. A one-page summary of the legislation can be found HERE.

Cosponsors in the Senate include Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), and Peter Welch (D-Vt.).

Cosponsors in the House include Representatives Mike Levin (CA-49), Paul Tonko (NY-20), Kathy Castor (FL-14), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Rashida Tlaib (MI-12), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Maxwell Alejandro Frost (FL-10), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Juan Vargas (CA-52), Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05), Robert Garcia (CA-42), and Earl Blumenauer (OR-03).

The CHARGE Act is endorsed by Public Citizen, the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), Americans for a Clean Energy Grid (ACEG), Clean Energy Grid Action (CEGA), the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Earthjustice, Digital Climate Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Working for Advanced Transmission Technologies (WATT) Coalition, Advancing Modern Powerlines (AMP) Coalition, and the Center for Biological Diversity.

“We applaud Senator Markey for reintroducing the CHARGE Act. By directing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to implement much-needed interregional planning and cost allocation reforms, this legislation lays the groundwork for the construction of critical interstate transmission lines. The bill also reforms participant funding, a crucial step to help bring more clean energy resources onto the grid, and establishes a sorely needed mandate for a minimum transfer capacity between grid planning regions that will bolster reliability and better enable our electric power system to withstand increasingly frequent extreme weather events. We urge Congress to approve the CHARGE Act as swiftly as possible to help build the 21st-century Macro Grid America needs,” said Gregory Wetstone, President and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE).

“Our clean energy transition depends on building new high-capacity transmission lines. We need legislation that will accelerate this development, unlocking new domestic energy resources and making sure the lights stay on during severe weather episodes like the intense heat waves we’ve experienced across America this summer. CEGA appreciates Senator Markey’s continued dedication to addressing these issues,” said Christina Hayes, Executive Director of Clean Energy Grid Action (CEGA).

“Public Citizen is proud to endorse Senator Markey’s CHARGE Act. Among many other accomplishments, the legislation would impose needed transparency standards, public accountability and governance reform for America’s private RTO grid operators, including subjecting them to the federal Freedom of Information Act; Empower the public and energy justice communities with access to resources to participate in FERC and RTO proceedings by requiring FERC’s Office of Public Participation to provide intervenor funding, and; Ensure the electric transmission buildout maximizes consumer protections through a new Independent Transmission Monitor,” said Tyson Slocum, Director of the Energy Program at Public Citizen.

“To advance opportunities for digitalization, unlocking climate data transparency is key. The Digital Climate Alliance supports the CHARGE Act’s data transparency provisions because they would ensure that residential and consumer electricity consumers have access to real-time data from providers, which will empower climate smart decisions across the U.S.,” said Tom Lawler, Executive Director of the Digital Climate Alliance.

This Congress, Senator Markey has advocated for much-needed grid modernization and responsible transmission development. The 117th Congress version of the CHARGE Act was included as a section of thePromoting Efficient and Engaged Reviews (PEER) Act, introduced by Senators Carper and Brian Schatz (D-Hawai’i). In March, Senator Markey unveiled his Progressive Priorities for Clean Energy Deployment at a Roosevelt Institute convening on “Building the Green Transition.” With his priorities, Senator Markey outlined a proactive, affirmative vision for a path forward on clean energy and transmission deployment and permitting that builds on the successful effort to pass historic levels of funding for environmental justice and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) implementation through the Inflation Reduction Act. Senator Markey’s priorities provide a clear and actionable plan to get clean megawatts on the grid and to lower costs for consumers by transitioning off of expensive and volatile fossil fuels.