Lawmakers to vote on solar, storage bills

Source: Christa Marshall, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee will vote on legislation this week to establish new federal research programs for solar fuels and electricity storage.

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is introducing the “Electricity Storage Innovation Act” today ahead of a markup later in the week.

The legislation would establish a Department of Energy research program on storing and converting electrical power into chemical energy.

It calls for the secretary of Energy to tap resources and expertise from the national labs and existing DOE programs to build a new research initiative.

The bill would also authorize $100 million for fiscal 2017 through 2020 for DOE’s Basic Energy Sciences program and the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office for the new program.

Separately, the committee will vote on legislation from Rep. Steve Knight (R-Calif.) to establish a solar fuels basic research initiative at DOE.

Like the storage bill, Knight’s measure calls for DOE to create new research teams for the program leveraging “expertise from the national laboratories, universities and the private sector to the extent practicable.” The proposal would authorize $100 million for the program.

Solar fuels refer to the conversion of solar energy into chemical energy, a process also known as artificial photosynthesis. The technology holds the potential of creating a range of fuels in a lab by combining sunlight, water, air and materials.

In theory, the technology could replace biofuels by harnessing the power of the sun and materials in a lab without the need for vast farmland to grow crops like corn for ethanol.

At a House hearing last month, scientists told lawmakers about the need for investment to push solar fuel and energy storage research (E&E Daily, June 16).

DOE has supported much of the existing investigations and provided $1.85 billion for basic energy research for fiscal 2016.

A committee spokesperson said the bills do not have Senate companions.

Schedule: The markup is Thursday, July 7, at 2 p.m. in 2318 Rayburn.