Trump signs ‘moonshot’ storage bill

Source: By Christa Marshall, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, September 28, 2018

President Trump has signed legislation that mirrors a bill setting what backers call “moonshot” goals and spending for energy storage.

The language echoes provisions in the bipartisan “Better Energy Storage Technology (BEST) Act,” H.R. 5610, from Reps. Steve Knight (R-Calif.) and Bill Foster (D-Ill.), and was included in minibus appropriations legislation the president signed last week.

The text calls for the Department of Energy to set research targets for storage and authorizes $46 million for three large storage demonstration projects. It directs DOE to produce a report “on the potential use of next generation, high capacity and high power batteries in our energy system.”

The idea is 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, including through DOE-supported research projects, helped foster growth in natural gas, according to lawmakers who backed the bill.

“Low cost grid-scale energy storage technologies are critical to improving grid resiliency, reliability, security, and the successful integration of a broad range of generation sources,” the minibus language said.

In a statement after Trump signed the package, Knight said, “With industrial sized energy storage capabilities, the decision to invest in renewable energy sources becomes that much easier and more viable.”

Foster said research on battery storage “is the next frontier in energy development.”

The Bipartisan Policy Center, ClearPath Action and the National Audubon Society supported the “BEST Act.” 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) were co-sponsors (E&E Daily, April 26).

The final language is not as “precise” as the “BEST Act,” according to a Capitol Hill aide. The original bill specified what cost and performance targets should be for storage, in terms of metrics like capital cost per kilowatt-hour.

Instead, the final text states that research should drive storage technology to levels “capable of performance-driven data in a utility environment.”

The U.S. energy storage market has witnessed exponential growth in recent years. In the second quarter of the year, deployments tripled from the same period in 2017. By the end of 2020, installments are expected to more than quadruple from 2017 levels, according to GTM Research.

Yet some advocates are concerned growth could slow and that current levels of research won’t develop new technologies fast enough to adequately back up renewables for long periods of time. Lithium-ion batteries, for example, currently can’t store energy overnight or beyond a few hours.

Some have pushed for a more central hub on storage at DOE, where support currently is scattered across various offices. The Energy Storage Association and some lawmakers also have been pushing for storage to benefit from tax policy available to other technologies.

This month, Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin asking for clarification on whether storage qualifies for the investment tax credit when linked with an ITC-eligible technology like solar.

Also this week, the World Bank announced it was committing $1 billion for a new program to more than triple installations of energy storage in developing countries.