House lawmakers introduce solar and storage incentive bill

Source: Christa Marshall, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, April 26, 2018

Lawmakers pushed bills yesterday to promote a key solar incentive and do for energy storage what hydraulic fracturing did for natural gas.

In the House, Reps. Steve Knight (R-Calif.) and Bill Foster (D-Ill.) introduced H.R. 5610, the “Better Energy Storage Technology Act,” which aims to set “moonshot” research goals for storage, similar to what occurred with solar power.

The legislation would also provide $45 million for the Department of Energy to establish three large storage demonstration projects by 2028. The money would be matched by the private sector.

The research goals are modeled after programs such as DOE’s SunShot Initiative, which set aggressive targets for reducing solar costs, some of which were achieved early. Similarly, a federal push to develop hydraulic fracturing technology helped foster the gas boom, the lawmakers said.

“One of the biggest challenges facing the growth of renewable energy sources like wind, solar and other alternative producers is a lack in commensurate development of energy storage technology,” Knight said in a statement. “This bill will consolidate the research in this field to foster rapid development.”

The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), Ryan Costello (R-Pa.), Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.), Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) and Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio). The Energy Storage Association, Bipartisan Policy Center Action, the Natural Resources Defense Council and ClearPath Action are backing the measure.

Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) recently introduced similar language in the Senate.

There are existing energy storage programs scattered throughout DOE, and the agency recently announced plans for a “beyond batteries” initiative. The U.S. industry has experienced rapid growth in recent years and is expected to double its market value this year, according to GTM Research.

However, groups like ESA say storage should have the same federal incentives as other technologies, including inclusion in the investment tax credit available to solar.

Possible help for states

Separately, Democrats in both chambers introduced legislation yesterday mandating a national study on net metering to guide states wanting to start or expand programs.

The “National Evaluation of Techniques for Making Energy Technologies More Efficient and Resilient Act,” from Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), would require the Energy Department to forge an agreement with the National Academy of Sciences to review challenges and opportunities with net metering.

Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are co-sponsors of the bill. Reps. Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.) and Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) introduced companion legislation in the House.

Net metering allows users of renewables — particularly solar — to be compensated for excess energy sent to the grid. The policy is credited with helping bring rooftop panels online in many states but has stirred controversy when incentives were blocked or rolled back.

Most recently, renewable advocates warned that Michigan’s solar market could stall after the state’s Public Service Commission replaced the state’s net-metering policy (Energywire, April 19).

DOE is conducting a congressionally mandated net-metering study and released a request for information last September (Greenwire, Sept. 14, 2017).

“DOE’s study focuses on a cost-benefit analysis of net metering, while the National Academy of Sciences’ study takes the broader aim of helping provide guidance for states looking to expand net-metering efforts,” said Hassan spokesperson Ricki Eshman.

Eshman added that Hassan thinks NAS is “best equipped” to prove proper guidance because it is a nonpartisan, research-focused organization.