Each February, our Wall Street briefing provides a terrific opportunity for me and other members of the Edison Electric Institute leadership team to brief the financial community in New York on what America’s investor-owned electric companies have accomplished on behalf of their customers and to share EEI’s vision for the electric power industry in the year ahead.
If 2017 was a year of change, 2018 is here to remind us that the pace of change is only accelerating. One thing remains constant, however — our industry’s commitment to meeting customers’ needs by building and using smarter energy infrastructure, by providing even cleaner energy, and by creating the energy solutions they want. This commitment guides us, and it also provides opportunities to collaborate and make progress on key policy priorities.
Not only was final passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December a priority for EEI and our member companies, it was a win for electricity customers and for investment in critical energy infrastructure. More important, the legislation maintains the federal income tax deduction for interest expense for regulated electric companies and the federal income tax deduction for state and local taxes, and keeps dividend tax rates low and on par with capital gains.
Passage of tax reform legislation also provides a solid foundation for one of 2018’s major policy initiatives: infrastructure investment.
From a policy standpoint, we fully support streamlining and expediting the process for permitting and siting energy infrastructure — including transmission, natural gas facilities and pipelines, hydroelectric facilities, and renewable energy facilities — to ensure that energy can get where it is needed, when it is needed. We also support better electric-natural gas coordination. And, we believe it is important that infrastructure spending help support development of smart communities.
As we continue our work to provide increasingly clean energy, it is important to remember that our industry always has relied on a variety of resources to generate electricity. We believe a diverse energy mix that combines traditional energy sources with clean and renewable energy sources is critical to ensuring that electricity remains safe, reliable and affordable.
We also know that our customers want and expect clean energy. Our industry has made tremendous progress to transition to an even cleaner generation fleet. Today, more than one-third of U.S. electricity comes from zero-emissions sources. And, as of year-end 2016, the industry’s carbon-dioxide emissions were nearly 25 percent below 2005 levels.
As we work to continue this trajectory, EEI will continue to advocate for policies that support and maintain a balanced and diverse energy mix.
Equally important is the security of the energy grid. To be clear, protecting the energy grid is our priority, and every day we are working to improve grid security, reliability and resiliency. Our security strategies constantly evolve and are closely coordinated with the federal government through a partnership called the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council. The CEO-led ESCC has been central to those efforts over the last several years.
Additionally, EEI member companies continue to change the way they provide services to customers and to individualize those services — for the large customers (like data centers and major corporations) that want to use renewable energy; for the residential customers who want to manage their energy use using connected devices and through web-based platforms; and for the major cities that want to be more sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint.
We are seeing tremendous opportunities in the smart community movement. A smart grid is the foundational piece in building a smart community, and electric companies are working with their communities today on projects that deliver benefits to residents across many areas.
As cities and communities seek smart, sustainable mobility solutions, electric transportation is a critical component. Already, more than a dozen EEI member companies are investing more than $350 million in customer programs and projects to deploy charging infrastructure and to accelerate electric transportation.
We must remain focused and excited about the changes our industry is facing and about our future, as we strive to better serve our customers and ensure a resilient and reliable energy grid. In 2018, EEI will continue to work with policymakers on both sides of the political aisle, to develop an agenda that supports investments in infrastructure, grows the economy and recognizes the importance of maintaining reliable, affordable, secure and increasingly clean energy for all customers.