The Obama Administration will announce a road map to modernize the nation's energy infrastructure on Tuesday in Philadelphia, where an aging system of pipes, wires, rails and waterways is struggling to adapt to a dramatically shifting energy environment.
A delegation headed by Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit Philadelphia Tuesday afternoon to unveil the initial installment of the first-ever Quadrennial Energy Review, which focuses on how to transform the nation's energy transmission, storage, and distribution infrastructure.
Biden, joined by Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren, will announce the results of the review at the Market Street headquarters of Peco Energy Co., the regional utility that received a $200 million stimulus grant in 2009 to help finance the modernization of its electricity delivery system.
Obama launched the review in a January 2014 memorandum that stated the nation's aging infrastructure is increasingly challenged by transformations in energy supply, markets and patterns of end use, combined with the impacts of climate change and cyber and physical threats.
"Any vulnerability in this infrastructure may be exacerbated by the increasing interdependencies of energy systems with water, telecommunications, transportation, and emergency response systems," the memorandum stated.
According to an administration fact sheet issued Tuesday, the review identifies opportunities the delivery systems can provide for a clean and secure energy future, as well as some potential vulnerabilities. It also proposes policy recommendations and investments to protect, expand and modernize infrastructure.
The federal review comes amid a boom in domestic oil and gas production from hydraulically fractured shale formations, which has shifted the U.S. energy policy debate from worries about scarcity to how much and what kinds of U.S. energy should be exported. That debate is taking place amid a ongoing political struggle over the role the United States should play in addressing global climate change.
Philadelphia, where the city-owned gas utility is facing increasing regulatory pressure to replace its crumbling distribution system, is a showcase for both old and new systems.
Industrial and political leaders are currently debating ways to promote the region as an energy hub for fossil fuels produced from Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale, which in five years has become the nation's most prolific source of natural gas.
Delaware River refineries that formerly processed imported oil are being retooled to refine domestic oil delivered from the Midwest by rail, or repurposed to serve as export terminals for Marcellus Shale natural gas liquids delivered here by pipelines. But the operators of the expanding systems of pipelines and oil trains face increasing public apprehension and resistance.
The federal review initially focused on transmission, storage and delivery systems because the longevity and high costs of energy infrastructure will strongly influence the nation's energy mix for decades to come. In subsequent years, the review process will focus on supply and end-use infrastructure, as well as supply chains, according to the administration.
The Department of Energy coordinated the quadrennial review. A series of meetings were conducted across the country last year, each focusing on specific aspects of energy infrastructure.
Biden on Tuesday is also set to unveil two executive actions to modernize the electric grid.
The energy department is announcing a Partnership for Energy Sector Climate Resilience with 17 utility chief executives to explore ways to harden electricity systems to extreme weather events.
And the US Department of Agriculture is announcing $72 million to support six new rural electric infrastructure projects including major investments to drive solar energy.