Various media outlets have reported that the US House of Representatives officially passed the Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act (H.R. 4447) in late September. If this bill becomes law, the US government will provide funding to advance clean energy technologies, electrify transportation, modernize grid systems, and improve energy efficiency of homes across the country.
The bill represents a rare bipartisan effort in the current US Congress, as it was first jointly introduced by Representatives Tom O’Halleran (Democrat-Arizona) and Marwayne Mullin (Republican-Oklahoma). The bill calls for the US Department of Energy (DOE) to establish a grant program and a technical assistance program to nurture the development of energy storage technologies and microgrids. The two programs would serve at least six rural electric cooperatives or non-profit entities, helping them set up demonstration projects in which electricity generated from renewable sources is used to support energy storage systems and microgrids.
Representative Frank Pallone Jr. (Democrat-New Jersey), who is the Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said that the bill is a win for both economic development and “environmental justice”. Pallone pointed out that the funding and technical assistance coming from the bill can accelerate the recovery of communities impacted by pollution or the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the bill can promote information sharing so that citizens know more about other environmental risks in their locales. He added that since the measures in the bill are very practical and attainable, there is a strong probability that the bill will become law by the end of this year following negotiation with the Senate.
The bill proposes a budget of US$5 million annually for sustaining the grant and technical assistance programs between 2020 and 2025. Its proponents have been asserting that the funding, wherever it might go, would create well-paying jobs. The US Energy Storage Association (ESA) naturally champions the passage of the bill.
Kelly Speakes-Backman, CEO of ESA, said that both parties in the US Congress are putting forward numerous proposals that promote the development of the domestic energy sector. These include raising investments in R&D, backing demonstration projects, adoption of energy storage at local DOE offices, and improving resiliency of rural communities via the deployment of energy storage. At the same time, the US government is also keen on incorporating energy storage into its plans related to electrification of transportation, build-out of infrastructure, and development of domestic workforce. Speaks-Backman further stated that her organization welcomes efforts from all levels of government to upgrade the country’s electric power system for the 21st century. Bills like H.R. 4447 will make utility services more flexible, efficient, sustainable, and affordable.
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