[Senate Report 112-144]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]

                                                       Calendar No. 313
112th Congress                                                   Report
 2d Session                                                     112-144
                       10 MILLION SOLAR ROOFS ACT


                February 7, 2012.--Ordered to be printed


   Mr. Bingaman, from the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, 

                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                         [To accompany S. 1108]

    The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, to which was 
referred the bill (S. 1108) to provide local communities with 
tools to make solar permitting more efficient, and for other 
purposes, having considered the same, reports favorably thereon 
with an amendment and recommends that the bill, as amended do 
    The amendment is as follows:
  1. On page 10, lines 5 through 7, strike ``section 641(p)(3) 
of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (42 U.S.C. 
17231(p)(3))'' and insert ``section 399A(i)(1) of the Energy 
Policy and Conservation Act (42 U.S.C. 6371h-1(i)(1))''.


    The purpose of the S. 1108 is to make solar permitting more 
efficient, with the goal of installing 10 million distributed 
solar energy systems by December 31, 2020, by providing grants 
to local governments that adopt best practices for solar 

                          BACKGROUND AND NEED

    Despite the various state and federal financial incentives 
available to homeowners, such as the 30 percent federal tax 
credit in place through 2016, financing the cost of a 
residential photovoltaic (PV) and solar hot water heating 
systems remains challenging. Like other renewable energy 
technologies, the cost structure of solar energy systems is 
front-loaded with a high initial investment, followed by modest 
maintenance expenses, and zero fuel costs. While the tax credit 
provides a significant consumer incentive by reducing the 
overall system price, it does not fully address the key barrier 
to adoption--high upfront capital cost.
    Installation and permitting costs may account for up to 
forty percent of the total upfront capital cost of rooftop PV 
systems. Reducing these non-hardware costs by standardizing and 
streamlining local permitting processes, updating local 
planning and zoning codes, and improving standards for 
connecting rooftop solar systems to the electric grid may 
dramatically reduce the installed cost of rooftop solar 
    The Department of Energy has established an ambitious 
program, known as the SunShot Initiative, to reduce the total 
cost of solar energy systems by 75 percent. This reduction 
would make PV systems cost competitive with other forms of 
energy without subsidies by the end of the decade. In addition 
to supporting solar research and technology development, the 
SunShot Initiative seeks to reduce installation and permitting 
costs by encouraging local governments to standardize and 
streamline their permitting process. S. 1108 provides a 
stationary basis and direction for the Department's efforts by 
directing the Secretary to establish a grant program to 
encourage local governments to adopt best practices for solar 

                          LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

    S. 1108 was introduced by Senator Sanders on May, 26, 2011 
and is cosponsored by Senators Boozman, Bingaman, Coons, 
Shaheen, Whitehouse, Lautenberg, and Feinstein. The Committee 
on Energy and Natural Resources held a legislative hearing on 
S. 1108 on July 12, 2011. The Committee held a business meeting 
on December 15, 2011 and ordered S. 1108 to be favorably 
reported with an amendment.


    The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, in open 
business session on December 15, 2011, by majority vote of a 
quorum present, recommends that the Senate pass S. 1108, if 
amended as described herein.
    The rollcall vote on reporting the measure was 13 yeas, 8 
nays, as follows:
        Yeas                           Nays
Mr. Bingaman                        Mr. Manchin
Mr. Wyden*                          Mr. Barrasso*
Mr. Johnson                         Mr. Risch*
Ms. Landrieu*                       Mr. Lee*
Ms. Cantwell                        Mr. Paul*
Mr. Sanders                         Mr. Coats
Mrs. Stabenow                       Mr. Hoeven*
Mr. Udall                           Mr. Corker*
Mrs. Shaheen
Mr. Franken
Mr. Coons
Ms. Murkowski
Mr. Portman*

    *Indicates vote by proxy.

                          COMMITTEE AMENDMENT

    During its consideration of S. 1108, the Committee adopted 
an amendment under section 399A(i)(1) of the Energy Policy and 
Conservation Act (42 U.S.C. 6371h1(i)(1)) as the source of 
funds for the offset. The amendment substitutes the 
authorization of appropriations for energy sustainability and 
efficiency grants to subsection 3(i), which offsets such funds 
as may be appropriated to carry out S. 1108 by reducing amounts 
authorized to be appropriated under section 641(p)(3) of the 
Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (42 U.S.C. 

                      SECTION-BY-SECTION ANALYSIS

    Section 1. Sets forth the short title.
    Section 2 defines key terms used in the bill.
    Section 3(a) directs the Secretary to establish a program 
to provide competitive grants, challenge grants, or both, to 
local governments or consortia of local governments that have 
adopted or offer a commitment to adopt best practices for solar 
permitting for properties located in the United States.
    Subsection (b) directs the implementation of the program 
described in subsection (a). Paragraph (1) requires the 
Secretary to provide voluntary certification and recognition 
for local governments that have adopted best practices for 
solar permitting. Paragraph (2) requires the Secretary to 
design criteria for awarding competitive grants, challenge 
grants, or both, that would promote greater standardization, 
efficiency, and uniformity for solar energy permitting across 
jurisdictions and would require that grants are awarded: only 
to local governments or consortia of local governments that 
have adopted or offer a commitment to adopt best practices for 
solar permitting and have provided quantitative metrics to 
measure success; to a diversity of geographic locations and 
population sizes; and with preference for grant recipients that 
have partnered with States, public utility commissions, or 
other stakeholders to adopt or enhance standards and policies 
to overcome barriers to distributed generation. Paragraph (3) 
authorizes competitive grant funds to be used for: training or 
development of materials, tools, or information to make the 
local permitting process for solar energy systems more 
standardized, efficient and less expensive; solar energy system 
deployment projects or programs to pilot new permitting 
strategies or processes; and other programs or projects to 
achieve the training, development, and deployment objectives, 
determined by the Secretary. Paragraph (4) authorizes challenge 
grants funds to be used for solar energy system deployment 
projects and programs to pilot new permitting strategies or 
    Subsection (c) authorizes the Secretary to rescind grant 
funds from any recipient that is unable to implement the steps 
necessary to adopt the best practices for solar permitting.
    Subsection (d) establishes a non-federal cost match not to 
exceed fifty percent for grant recipients.
    Subsection (e) authorizes the Department of Energy to use 
up to 5 percent of the funds made available for each fiscal 
year for administrative expenses. Grant recipients are 
permitted to use funds up to 5 percent for administrative 
    Subsection (f) directs the Department of Energy to consult 
with the Department of Treasury and grant recipients to ensure 
that each program carried out by the grant recipient under 
section 3 is coordinated with other applicable incentive or 
financing programs of the Federal Government or any other 
applicable program.
    Subsection (g) establishes the national goals of installing 
distributed solar energy systems on not less than 10,000,000 
properties located in the United States and to achieve cost 
reductions in the price of solar energy that are consistent 
with the SunShot Initiative of the Department of Energy by 
December 31, 2020.
    Subsection (h) requires submission of reports. Paragraph 
(1) requires that 270 days after enactment of this Act, the 
Department of Energy issue a report to Congress detailing 
recommendations necessary through this and other programs to 
meet the goals established in subsection (g). Paragraph (2) 
requires that not later than 2 years after the date on which 
funds are first made available, the secretary shall submit to 
Congress a report that contains a description of the progress 
of grant recipients in implementing and maintaining best 
practices for solar permitting.
    Subsection (i), as proposed to be amended by the committee 
amendment, offsets funds appropriated to carry out section 3 by 
reducing amounts authorized to be appropriated for energy 
sustainability grants under section 399A(i)(1) for the Energy 
Policy and Conservation Act (42 U.S.C. 6371h-1(i)(1)). Section 
399A(i)(1) authorizes appropriation of $250 million for fiscal 
year 2013. Subsection (i) authorizes such sums as may be 
appropriated to carry out section 3, up to $50 million for each 
of fiscal years 2012 through 2016, to be offset by reducing 
amounts authorized to be appropriated under section 399A(i)(1) 
by up to $250 million in fiscal year 2013.


    The following estimate of costs of this measure has been 
provided by the Congressional Budget Office.

S. 1108--10 Million Solar Roofs Act of 2011

    Summary: S. 1108 would direct the Secretary of Energy to 
establish a grant program to support efforts by state and local 
governments to develop best practices to use in permitting 
certain solar energy projects. Assuming appropriation of the 
authorized amounts, CBO estimates that implementing S. 1108 
would cost $109 million over the 2012-2017 period. Pay-as-you-
go procedures do not apply to this legislation because it would 
not affect direct spending or revenues.
    S. 1108 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA).
    Estimated cost to the Federal Government: The estimated 
budgetary impact of S. 1108 is shown in the following table. 
The costs of this legislation fall within budget function 270 

                                                             By fiscal year, in millions of dollars--
                                                   2012     2013     2014     2015     2016     2017   2012-2017
                                  CHANGES IN SPENDING SUBJECT TO APPROPRIATION

Authorization Level............................        0        0       50       50       50        0       150
Estimated Outlays..............................        0        0       14       26       37       32       109

    Basis of estimate: S. 1108 would authorize the 
appropriation of $50 million annually over the 2012-2016 period 
for the Secretary of Energy to make grants to state and local 
governments to support efforts to standardize and improve the 
efficiency of local permitting processes for solar energy 
projects with less than one megawatt of capacity. The bill 
would specify terms and conditions for the use of such grants 
and require the Secretary of Energy to report to the Congress 
on the program's impact.
    To carry out those activities, S. 1108 would authorize the 
Secretary to use funds already authorized to be appropriated 
under section 399A of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act. 
That provision authorizes appropriations totaling $250 million 
in each of fiscal years 2012 and 2013 for grants and loans to 
local governments and other public institutions for a variety 
of energy-related activities; no funds are authorized for those 
purposes in later years. Thus, relative to current law, S. 1108 
would authorize no net increase in funding in 2012 and 2013 but 
would effectively authorize the appropriation of $50 million in 
each of fiscal years 2014 through 2016. Assuming appropriation 
of those amounts, CBO estimates that resulting spending would 
total $109 million through 2017, with $41 million in additional 
spending occurring in later years.
    Pay-As-You-Go Considerations: None.
    Intergovernmental and private-sector impact: S. 1108 
contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as 
defined in UMRA. Local governments would benefit from grants 
authorized in the bill. Any costs to those governments would be 
incurred voluntarily as conditions of federal assistance.
    Estimate prepared by: Federal Costs: Megan Carroll; Impact 
on State, Local, and Tribal Governments: Ryan Miller; Impact on 
the Private Sector: Amy Petz.
    Estimate approved by: Theresa Gullo, Deputy Assistant 
Director for Budget Analysis.


    In compliance with paragraph 11(b) of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee makes the following 
evaluation of the regulatory impact which would be incurred in 
carrying out S. 1108.
    The bill is not a regulatory measure in the sense of 
imposing Government established standards or significant 
economic responsibilities on private individuals and 
    No personal information would be collected in administering 
the program. Therefore, there would be no impact on personal 
    Applying for grants authorized by S. 1108 may impose some 
additional paperwork on the local governments and consortia of 
local governments applying for the grants, and will require 
grant recipients to submit implementation plans and certify how 
the funds will be used. The Committee does not expect these 
additional paperwork burdens to be substantial in either time 
or financial cost.


    S. 1108, as ordered reported, does not contain any 
congressionally directed spending items, limited tax benefits, 
or limited tariff benefits as defined in rule XLIV of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate.

                        EXECUTIVE COMMUNICATIONS

    The views of the Administration on S. 1108 are included in 
the testimony from the Department of Energy received by the 
Committee at its July 12, 2011, hearing, which is set forth 

Statement of Steven G. Chalk, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Renewable 
Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Department of 

    Chairman Bingaman, Ranking Member Murkowski and Members of 
the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to discuss the 
Department of Energy's (DOE's) solar and geothermal energy 
programs. Today, I am pleased to discuss the Department's 
perspective and answer questions related to the Department of 
Energy Administrative Improvement Act (S. 1160), the 10 Million 
Solar Roofs Act of 2011 (S. 1108) and the Geothermal 
Exploration and Technology Act of 2011 (S. 1142). However, the 
Administration is still reviewing these bills and we do not 
have a position on any of them at this time.

                            solar technology

    We thank the committee and the sponsors of this legislation 
for your strong leadership on solar technologies over the 
years. The Department has set an ambitious goal for solar 
energy with the SunShot Initiative (SunShot)--to reduce the 
total costs of solar energy systems by about 75 percent so that 
they are cost competitive with other forms of energy without 
subsidies before the end of the decade. In 2012, under SunShot, 
the Department will support solar research across the 
development pipeline, from basic photovoltaic (PV) cell 
technologies to manufacturing scale-up to total system 
    Reducing the total installed cost for utility-scale solar 
electricity to roughly 6 cents per kilowatt hour without 
subsidies will result in rapid, large-scale adoption of solar 
electricity across the United States. Reaching this goal will 
help re-establish American technological leadership, improve 
the nation's energy security, and strengthen U.S. economic 
competitiveness in the global clean energy race.
    SunShot takes a unique approach to developing solar energy. 
Historically, solar investments focused on achieving 
incremental efficiency improvements to solar cells and arrays. 
SunShot focuses on reducing the installed cost of the system as 
a whole, including non-technical barriers. In addition to 
investing in improvements in cell technologies and 
manufacturing, the SunShot Initiative also focuses on steps to 
reduce installation and permitting costs, which account for 40 
percent of the total installed system price of solar 
electricity.\1\ This includes efforts to streamline and 
digitize local permitting processes and to develop codes and 
standards that ensure high performance over the approximately 
20-year lifetime of residential solar products. Decreasing the 
installed cost of solar is one of the key goals of SunShot.
    As the United States is the world's largest consumer of 
electricity and, at the same time, has the largest solar 
resource of any industrialized country, SunShot is well-
positioned to help the Nation realize the significant benefits 
from the wide-scale use of solar energy. SunShot underscores 
solar energy's benefits to the United States and will have 
multiple positive impacts for the country, including:
     Achieving solar energy cost parity with baseload 
energy rates. Attaining a total installed system cost of 
utility solar equivalent to the wholesale cost of electricity 
from fossil fuels ($0.06 per kWh) would likely result in rapid 
and large-scale adoption of solar electricity across the United 
     Increasing solar photovoltaic market share. As 
recently as 1995, the United States manufactured 43 percent of 
the world's PV materials, whereas today our manufacturers are 
only responsible for 6 percent.\2\ Expanding the use of solar 
will help boost the U.S. solar manufacturing industry while 
driving innovation and providing long lasting, domestic jobs to 
support global PV demand that will represent a multibillion 
dollar industry.
    \2\PV News (2/1993, 3/2001, 3/2006) and Navigant Consulting (2/
     Reducing greenhouse gas emissions--Solar 
technologies have the potential to significantly reduce the 
amount of conventional fossil-based electricity generation 
necessary, which in turn would reduce the amount of greenhouse 
gases emitted into the atmosphere.
    Recently, as part of ongoing Market Transformation 
activities, DOE announced a Funding Opportunity Announcement 
(FOA) which we are calling the ``Race to the Rooftop'' to help 
standardize, streamline and digitize the permitting process, 
while improving interconnection and net metering standards, 
increasing access to financing, and updating planning and 
zoning codes. This national competition engaging teams of local 
and state governments along with utilities, installers, and 
nongovernment organizations, will help standardize processes, 
cut upfront fees and paperwork, and reduce the overall costs 
associated with permitting and installation, making it easier 
and cheaper for homeowners, businesses, and their local 
communities to deploy solar energy. The standardization and 
uniformity of local permitting efforts under the ``Race to the 
Rooftop'' are similar to the challenge grant provision in the 
10 Million Solar Roofs Act, which calls for applicants to 
develop best practices for solar permitting.
    The proposed legislation, S. 1108, employs a bottom-up 
approach so that local teams can identify approaches best-
suited for them. A bottom-up approach, coupled with a 
preference for applicants that have partnered with states, 
public utility commissions, or other stakeholders, could allow 
for local and regional variability while still increasing the 
speed and scale of installation across large geographic areas. 
This approach could also allow states to expand existing state 
programs that have been effective in promoting rooftop solar 

                         geothermal technology

    The Department is committed to developing and deploying a 
portfolio of innovative technologies for clean, domestic 
geothermal power generation. Geothermal energy is a baseload 
energy resource with a small environmental footprint and emits 
little to no greenhouse gases.
    Despite geothermal's enormous potential, in 2010, only 15 
MW of new geothermal power generation was added to the grid in 
the United States. There are two principal barriers facing the 
geothermal industry: the high cost and risk of exploration and 
most of the identified hydrothermal resources have already been 
    Drilling costs represent approximately 42 percent of 
geothermal project development costs, and financing costs are 
significantly higher for exploratory drilling than for plant 
construction.\3\ Removing the obstacles to exploratory drilling 
is vitally important to increasing our geothermal power 
generation capacity. In many cases, geothermal resources have 
no surface expression, leaving our nation's hydrothermal 
potential--estimated at 30 GWe by the U.S. Geological Survey--
untapped and inaccessible. Exploratory drilling could also 
identify resources for enhanced geothermal systems (EGS), which 
have the potential to produce 16,000 GWe of power in a wide 
range of geographic areas throughout the U.S.\4\
    \4\Augustine, Young, and Anderson, Updated U.S. Geothermal Supply 
Curve, National Renewable Energy Laboratory and US Department of 
Energy, February, 2010, http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fyl0osti/47458.pdf.
    Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 
(Recovery Act), DOE invested $97.3 million in 24 hydrothermal 
exploration projects, at which 34 exploration wells are 
planned. It is expected that from these wells, 400 MW of new 
resources will be confirmed by 2014.
    DOE is also funding seven EGS demonstrations. At Desert 
Peak, Nevada, the initial stages of reservoir stimulation were 
successfully completed--a critical milestone in creating an 
enhanced geothermal reservoir.
    DOE supports projects in low temperature geothermal 
resources as well. For example, DOE is working with industry to 
develop and field test a variable phase turbine which has the 
potential to generate 30 percent more power from low 
temperature geothermal resources than current power conversion 
technologies, at a lower cost.
    DOE's National Geothermal Data System (NGDS) effort is a 
distributed information system for data sharing in its second 
year of development, which will enable the availability of 
comprehensive and accurate data to facilitate geothermal 
development. The NGDS is scheduled to be fully operational in 
August 2014, at which time it will make geothermal data from 
major geothermal centers, DOE-funded geothermal projects and 
state geological surveys or universities publicly available.\5\
    \5\NGDS data sources include: DOE Geothermal Data Repository (Boise 
State University); Energy & Geoscience Institute (University of Utah); 
Geo-Heat Center (Oregon Institute of Technology); Stanford Geothermal 
Program (Stanford University); Great Basin Science Sample and Records 
Library y (University of Nevada, Reno); SMU Geothermal Laboratory 
(Southern Methodist University); and state geological surveys 
represented by Arizona Geological Survey and the American Association 
of State Geologists (AASG).
    Geothermal heat pumps (GHPs) for building applications also 
face barriers impeding greater marketplace adoption: high 
initial cost associated with the installation of the ground 
loop heat-exchanger, lack of consumer knowledge in GHP 
benefits, and limitations in GHP design and business planning 
infrastructure. DOE is developing a roadmap that will serve to 
strategically direct activities in geothermal heat pumps.
    Through the Recovery Act, DOE currently funds 26 projects 
deploying geothermal heat pumps. $24M of the $58M Recovery Act 
funds allocated to GHPs have been spent in 15 states in both 
new and retrofit applications. Two projects are completed and 
several more are already providing data for performance 
analysis. The Recovery Act projects incorporate innovative 
business and financial strategies and/or GHP technologies and 
applications designed to overcome the initial cost premium that 
has prevented GHPs from being directly cost-competitive with 
other HVAC technologies, and from gaining wider marketplace 
    DOE currently has projects in many of the areas identified 
for further RD&D and commercial application in S. 1142, 
including district heating and cooling at large institutions, 
use of hot water in shaft mines, combined GHP-solar PV and 
desiccant projects, and use of carbon dioxide as a refrigerant 
fluid for heat exchange.
    The Department is also addressing other obstacles to 
geothermal development such as delays in the siting and 
permitting process which increase overall project costs and 
could further strain economics. Currently, it takes 
approximately seven years for a new geothermal project to move 
from exploration to power generation.
    While the Administration is still reviewing the bill, there 
are serious technical concerns that would need to be addressed. 
Any new program should be consistent with applicable laws, and 
structured to mitigate risks and costs to the taxpayer.

      s. 1160--department of energy administrative improvement act

    S. 1160 proposes a variety of changes intended to improve 
the administration of the Department of Energy. The Department 
is still reviewing this bill and does not have a position on it 
at this time. However, I will address Sections 4, 6, and 7 as 
they relate to the Department's current authority.
Section 4
    Section 4 of S. 1160 concerns the administration of the 
Department's ``Other Transactions'' (OT) Authority. Section 4 
is similar in many respects to DOE's current OT Authority, 
which is codified at Section 646(g) of the DOE Organization Act 
(42 U.S.C. 7256(g)). However, there are some important 
    Currently, the Department has two kinds of OT Authority: 
Research OT Authority and Prototype OT Authority. Research OT 
Authority is used to carry out a public purpose of support or 
stimulation (e.g., RD&D projects). By contrast, Prototype OT 
Authority is used for the pre-acquisition development of 
technology prototypes. Such prototypes are used to evaluate the 
technical or manufacturing feasibility or utility to DOE's 
mission of a particular technology, process, concept, end item, 
or system.
    Section 4 provides DOE with permanent and independent OT 
Authority similar to the authority Congress provided the 
Defense Department in 1991. However, the precise scope of DOE's 
OT Authority is left undefined in S. 1160.
    Additionally, Section 4 of S. 1160 requires the Secretary 
to determine that ``the use of a standard contract, grant, or 
cooperative agreement for the project is not feasible or 
appropriate'' before the Department's OT Authority can be used. 
Section 4 restricts the delegation of this authority to 
officials ``appointed by the President and confirmed by the 
Section 6 and 7
    Section 6 of S. 1160 provides the Secretary with direct 
hire authority for ``highly qualified scientists, engineers, or 
critical technical personnel'' for two years following the 
enactment of the Act. Similarly, Section 7 provides the 
Secretary with special hiring and pay authority for persons 
with ``expertise in an extremely high level in a scientific or 
technical field.'' The Secretary's authority under Section 7 is 
permanent, but not more than 40 persons may be hired under this 
authority at any time.
    Sections 6 and 7 are analogous to Sections 621(b) and (d) 
of the DOE Organization Act (42 U.S.C. Sec. 7231(b)-(d)). 
Section 621(b), which expired after four years, allowed the 
Secretary to appoint 311 scientific, engineering, and 
administrative personnel without regard to civil service laws 
and to fix their compensation at ``super grades'' (formerly GS-
18, now Executive Level IV). Section 621(d), which is still in 
effect, authorizes the Secretary to appoint 200 scientific, 
engineering, professional, and administrative staff without 
regard to civil service laws, but subject to a GS-18 pay cap 
(now Executive Level IV).
    Additionally, Congress granted the Department's ARPA-E 
program special hiring authority. The Director of ARPA-E has 
the authority to make appointments of scientific, engineering, 
and professional personnel ``without regard to the civil 
service laws,'' ``fix the basic pay of such personnel'' up to 
Level II of the Executive Schedule, and provide ``additional 
payments'' up to a certain cap.


    In conclusion, I would like to again thank this Committee 
for its leadership in supporting both solar and geothermal 
energy technologies.
    It is important to tap valuable assets like solar and 
geothermal energy to continue growing our economy to expand the 
Nation's clean energy portfolio and energy security.
    I would be pleased to address any questions the Committee 
might have.

                        CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW

    In compliance with paragraph 12 of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee notes that no 
changes in existing law are made by S. 1108, as ordered