House Science Panel Advances Bipartisan Battery Storage Bill

February 13, 2020
In The News

A House committee advanced a bill that would direct the Energy Department to boost its research on batteries and other energy storage for utilities to better handle increased wind and solar power.

The Better Energy Storage Technology Act (BEST Act) (H.R. 2986) was advanced by voice vote on Wednesday after the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee approved three amendments, also by voice vote. Those included an amendment making technical changes offered by the House bill’s author, Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.). The BEST Act would direct the Energy Department to establish a battery energy research and demonstration program within its Office of Electricity to encourage grid-scale energy storage systems.

The BEST Act battery storage bill has been touted by Democrats and Republicans alike as one of the few measures that could be passed in the current Congress to help cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change.

The Senate version (S. 1602) was introduced by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and has six Republican co-sponsors. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee advanced Collins’ BEST Act in October, and it is among the energy and climate measures being considered by Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) for a broader energy package for possible Senate floor consideration this year.

A second amendment offered by Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) would establish a battery recycling program within the Energy Department. Tonko said demand for lithium, nickel, and cobalt materials is expected to soar over the coming decade to meet increased consumer purchases of electric vehicles. The DOE program under his amendment would direct the department to launch a program to recover and re-use those valuable mineral components.

A third amendment by Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) would encourage research and development of advanced manufacturing technologies to improve the efficiency of energy storage manufacturing.

House Science Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) said more advanced battery energy systems would help address the intermittent nature of wind and solar energy, with storage methods ensuring that the electric grid can absorb more renewable energy power in the decades to come.

The measure also would boost research of pumped hydro-power systems, which use water that can be pumped to higher elevations and stored, and then later released to lower reservoirs to produce additional power.

Grid Security Bills Pass

The House Science Committee advanced four other measures at Wednesday’s markup, with all of the bills and amendments that were offered passed by voice vote.

They included the Clean Industrial Technology Act (H.R. 4230) by Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.) to authorize a DOE-led research and demonstration program for advanced technologies to cut emissions from the steel, cement, chemical, and other manufacturing sectors. The committee passed a Casten amendment making technical changes to his bill.

Other bills marked up by the committee were:

The Advanced Geothermal Research and Development Act (H.R. 5374) by Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) to direct DOE to carry out a research and demonstration program to advance commercial geothermal energy production. It passed along with one Lucas amendment to clarify which groups, including nonprofit research organizations, are eligible for grants; and a Tonko amendment calling for research to focus on areas with “high economic potential” for geothermal heating;

The Grid Modernization Research and Development Act (H.R. 5428) by Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) to have DOE help develop various electric grid improvements, including “smart grid” technologies to improve resilience to storms and power outages. The committee also approved one amendment to the bill by Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas) making a technical correction; and

The Grid Security Research and Development (H.R. 5760) by Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) to bolster the DOE Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response by authorizing an interagency program for electric grid cybersecurity and grid resilience. Three amendments passed: a Bera amendment making technical changes; an amendment by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) to spur new technologies to aid timely restoration of power after emergency shut-offs; and an amendment by Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) to create a Critical Infrastructure Test Facility to improve cybersecurity testing.