Source: Washington Examiner | John Siciliano | March 10, 2015

The Department of Energy is slow-walking a major energy policy plan that will direct administration policy on a plethora of major infrastructure projects, but the reasons for the delay are not clear.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, the renowned physicist from MIT, gave a March 9 update on when to expect the first iteration of what will eventually be four installments of energy policy recommendations referred to as the Quadrennial Energy Review.

Moniz told the National League of Cities on Monday that they can expect to see the first report in a matter of weeks — not mentioning that he told reporters at another state gathering more than a month ago that the granddaddy of all energy policy reports would be out no later than the end of February.

DOE had originally slated its release for much earlier in the year. A Jan. 9, 2014, presidential executive order directs the quadrennial review task force chaired by the Energy Department to “submit a Quadrennial Energy Review Report to the President every 4 years beginning with a report delivered by January 31, 2015.”

So, what has happened to make DOE kick the can down the road, so to speak?

Moniz has been giving keynote addresses at state gatherings for months to promote the quadrennial review, even releasing some of the analysis that was used to inform the review to keep people interested.

At the League of Cities event, Moniz’s remarks could suggest that the administration may be fretting over the usefulness of the recommendations to states and local governments. Fearing, as with other gigantic policy documents of the past, that its usefulness will not go beyond the Beltway. Or, be used as a bookend on some committee’s shelf.

The quadrennial review is a key part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the document that outlined the administration’s climate agenda, including the promulgation of Environmental Protection Agency power plant rules for eliminating carbon from smokestacks.

Undoubtedly, the administration is probably making plans for rolling out the plan in a major address of some kind to make a splash in the states and ensure it is relevant, observers say.

Moniz explained to League of Cities members, in much greater detail than in past speeches to similar organizations, the hurdles the nation faces when it comes to energy infrastructure that the quadrennial review will address.

One area is that of electric grid “reliability,” which he said the report will address.

Reliability in electric policy circles usually implies EPA regulations on the utility sector, and the potential for affecting reliability by forcing coal plant retirements.

These are issues that states and local governments will face in the coming year as EPA finalizes its rules for existing power plants that the administration is acutely aware of. It has been reaching out to states with a message of assistance and federal funding.

Moniz told reporters earlier in the year that the quadrennial review will not address the impacts of EPA regs on the electric grid, while at the same time — including Monday — played up a $63 million program that includes grants for states to help them plan for reliability impacts of the rules. Moniz has said that the grants would be used to help states in the implementation of the EPA climate rules for existing power plants.

Moniz also brought up a curious point about the oil and gas industry’s dependence on electricity for petroleum and natural gas production from, say, “fracking.”

He said the quadrennial review will address the interdependence between electricity use and oil and gas production, especially as the power sector switches from using coal to using more natural gas.

“Oil and gas supplies rely upon reliable electricity to operate. But, in turn, particularly our power sector relies on natural gas. A complex interdependency that we have to be careful about,” he said.

He also played up areas of the quadrennial review that will deal with “heat waves” that place strain on power plants and the electricity delivery system.