Senators introduce flurry of renewable bills

Source: By Jeremy Dillon, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, October 24, 2019

Senators this week introduced a quartet of proposals to encourage the development of renewable energy sources.

The measures to boost wind, solar and geothermal technologies are part of a focus on enacting policies to help carbon-free power sources better compete at lower costs on the electric grid.

Leading the measures is a bipartisan bill, S. 2666, led by Senate Energy and Natural Resources members Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), that would help streamline the permitting process for renewable energy sources on public lands.

In addition to permitting actions, the legislation would direct revenue sharing with local communities hosting production facilities.

“This bill cuts through the bureaucratic red tape to deliver additional affordable and reliable energy for Arizonans, while allowing rural Arizona communities to share in the economic benefits that come from multiple use of public lands,” McSally said in a statement.

The bill would direct more upfront planning to ensure impacts to wildlife, habitats and cultural resources are avoided and minimized, according to a release. That would increase permitting staff.

The proposal would establish the following revenue-sharing formula: 25% to the state, 25% to counties, 15% for permit processing and 35% for fish and wildlife habitat conservation and for increasing access for outdoor recreation.

“By streamlining renewable energy development, especially in a state with abundant wind and solar like New Mexico, we can create quality jobs and help make America more energy independent,” Heinrich said.

Research bills

The other three proposals introduced this week would revamp the federal research and development activities for wind, solar and geothermal generation.

The trio of research bills includes a revamped geothermal research program proposal, S. 2657, from ENR Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and ranking member Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

The measure would look to build on a series of recommendations from the Department of Energy about how to better unleash geothermal over the coming decades, including a provision to better coordinate research access of DOE activities on oil and gas drilling for geothermal.

The legislation would also alter the definition of renewable energy to incorporate thermal resources like cogeneration facilities that use excess flaring from industrial process for energy use.

“Our committee’s June hearing highlighted the opportunity geothermal holds to contribute to America’s energy future, with expanded innovation and deployment,” Murkowski said in a statement. “Our new bill addresses both technical and non-technical barriers that have kept us from realizing geothermal’s full potential.”

S. 2668, backed by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), would direct the development of an updated crosscutting solar energy technology program within DOE with an emphasis on delivering grants for all things solar research and demonstration.

The bill would create a “next generation solar energy manufacturing initiative” to focus efforts on new solar manufacturing techniques and procedures.

“Our legislation creates job opportunities by boosting Arizona’s solar development, and equipping businesses and universities with resources to expand our solar energy industry,” Sinema said in a statement.

S. 2660, from Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.), looks to achieve a similar research and development overhaul for wind energy.

Smith’s bill would set authorization levels for wind research and grants at $104 million in fiscal 2020, rising to $126 million by fiscal 2024.