Two competing bills emerged on Capitol Hill today to spur more research and development dollars into grid-scale battery storage.
The first measure — unveiled by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), among others — represents the first in what is expected to be a litany of Senate Republican measures to infuse additional research funding into innovation technology that could help decrease greenhouse gas emissions in the power sector.
Collins’ bill, the “Best Energy Storage Technology Act,” would authorize nearly $300 million over the next five years for Department of Energy activities that the Maine senator described as similar to the department’s SunShot campaign, which helped to reduce the costs associated with solar energy deployment by nearly 75% over the past decade.
“One of the biggest hurdles to commercializing energy storage is cost,” Collins said on the Senate floor this afternoon. “To overcome this obstacle, our bill specifically directs the Department of Energy to work to decrease the costs of this exciting technology.”
Energy storage has largely been heralded as a “holy grail” to better unleashing a low-carbon power sector. Energy Secretary Rick Perry has looked to better focus DOE research into a cohesive strategy to advance the technology for faster and cheaper deployment.
The bill would direct DOE to make cost strides on “highly flexible, longer-duration and seasonal storage systems,” Collins said. It would also support the demonstration of five grid-scale energy storage projects while also directing DOE to establish a 10-year strategic plan to set research and cost-reduction goals.
Also attached to the bill as original co-sponsors are Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Angus King (I-Maine).
“As we rely more and more on renewable energy sources like wind and solar, it is critical to invest in energy storage to enhance grid resiliency,” Gardner said.
The second proposal, from Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.) and Smith, would look to achieve similar goals as the Senate bill, but it would attach additional funding to achieve those aims by providing about $1 billion over the next five years.
The bill would also direct DOE to better coordinate its energy storage research and development into a cohesive strategy, and it would open up some funding to “public and private entities wishing to expand their energy storage capabilities,” according to a news release.
“Expanding access to clean energy through increases in grid-scale energy storage is fundamental to addressing climate change, enhancing our Nation’s energy security, and bolstering our economy,” Casten said in a statement.