Senate energy bill includes investment in solar and energy storage

Senate energy bill includes investment in solar and energy storage

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After a full year of hearings, business meetings and bipartisan negotiations, U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), today released the text of their energy innovation package.

The American Energy Innovation Act (AEIA) will modernize domestic energy laws to ensure the United States remains a global energy leader while also strengthening national security, increasing our international competitiveness and investing in clean energy technologies.

Solar power is mentioned in Section 1205, where the bill authorizes the Secretary to establish a solar energy technology program to address near-term, mid-term and long-term challenges in solar energy development through 2025. Section 1301 on battery storage is more robust, saying the bill would establish a research, development and deployment (RD&D) program to advance energy storage technologies; directs the Secretary to carry out at least five demonstration projects, as well as a competitive pilot project grant program; establishes a joint long-term demonstration initiative with the Secretary of Defense; facilitates a technical and planning assistance program for rural electric cooperatives and municipal utilities; establishes an energy storage materials recycling prize competition; and directs the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to issue a regulation on energy storage cost recovery.

“This bill is our best chance to modernize our nation’s energy policies in more than 12 years,” Murkowski said. “By working together to pass it into law, we can promote a range of emerging technologies that will help keep energy affordable even as it becomes cleaner and cleaner. Our bill also addresses national needs by taking overdue steps to enhance our cybersecurity, grid security, and mineral security. I’m proud of the bipartisan work we have done and encourage all members of the Senate to work with us to advance it through the legislative process.”

“This legislation is the result of strong bipartisan work with my colleagues on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to make a down payment on emissions-reducing technologies, reassert the United States’ leadership role in global markets, enhance our grid security and protect consumers. Importantly, this bill will connect energy-producing communities, including in states like West Virginia and Alaska, to new markets and job opportunities while laying the groundwork for the Department of Energy to advance new and necessary critical emissions-reducing technologies,” Manchin said.

The key provisions in the AEIA focus on energy efficiency; renewable energy; energy storage; carbon capture, utilization, and storage; advanced nuclear; industrial and vehicle technologies; the Department of Energy; mineral security, cyber and grid security and modernization; and workforce development.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held legislative hearings and business meetings throughout 2019 and, following regular order, reported more than 50 energy-related bills to the full Senate on an individual basis. Most of those measures have now been compiled in the AEIA.

Earlier today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed cloture on the motion to proceed to S. 2657, a Murkowski-Manchin geothermal research and development bill that will serve as the legislative vehicle for the bipartisan energy innovation package. When a vote on the motion to proceed to S. 2657 is successful, Murkowski and Manchin will offer a substitute amendment featuring the full text of the AEIA.

The Sierra Club said the legislation is a mixed bag.

“In the face of a growing climate crisis, this important energy package invests in renewable power, clean manufacturing, energy efficiency, and the innovation-driving ARPA-E program. But it also would undermine bedrock environmental laws, weaken public lands protections and ramp up dirty energy fueling climate change. And it skipped saving Americans billions of dollars by not updating building efficiency codes. That’s unacceptable,” said Alexandra Adams, senior director of Federal Affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a statement. “We look forward to working with Congress develop a stronger bill, one that powers our communities with smarter, cleaner energy and protects our families and economy from harm.”

ACORE also expressed disappointment that the bill didn’t go further to fight climate change.

“ACORE supports initiatives like the Better Energy Storage Technology (BEST) Act,” said Gregory Wetstone, president and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy, in a statement. “However all should understand that federal investment in future innovation, while constructive, is not nearly a sufficient response to the climate crisis. In 2020, any energy bill should include provisions to accelerate near-term renewable energy deployment. More specifically, ACORE calls on Congress to include critical clean energy tax incentives in this package.”

ACORE also sent a letter, along with almost two dozen other groups, to the House Committee on Ways and Means and Senate Committee on Finance urging them to enact critical clean energy tax incentives this year, since they were not included in the Senate energy package. In the letter, ACORE says tax incentives remain the industry’s most effective federal policy tool, but many of them are phasing down, in need of modernization, or will soon expire.

For the full bill text, click here. For a high-level summary, click here. For a section-by-section, click here.

News item from the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources. Updated Feb. 28.

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