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December 22, 2020

Washington, DC — Arguably the most comprehensive bipartisan Energy bill in at least a decade was included in the Covid-19 relief package of laws just passed by the U.S. Senate and U.S. House. Among other items, the legislation includes priorities (nuclear renaissance, carbon capture utilization and storage, energy storage, grid modernization) that Energy Fairness has discussed for more than a decade.

“This comprehensive package will keep the cost of energy affordable and reliable while taking the U.S. a long way down the path towards meeting carbon emissions targets,” said Paul Griffin, Energy Fairness Executive Director.

Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), in partnership with their House-Senate authors, recognized the significant role carbon-free nuclear energy will play in reducing carbon emissions by authorizing a myriad of initiatives that promote a nuclear power renaissance. Specifically, the bill includes sections directing the Department of Energy to ensure the availability of advanced nuclear fuel for the next generation of nuclear reactors.  It also authorizes funding for fusion power R&D to promote the establishment and eventual competitiveness of a U.S. fusion power industry. Energy Fairness has written consistently about the promise of this new form of nuclear power.

Recognizing that nuclear power won’t be the only existing source of baseload electricity needed to sustain affordable and reliable power while reducing carbon emissions, the Energy Act of 2020 provides substantial support to make carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) a commercial reality. For the past several years, we’ve routinely discussed the necessity, promise, and potential of CCUS and the inclusion of these robust provisions in the act only bolster our arguments. For example, the bill includes separate sections establishing RD&D programs for carbon storage and carbon utilization and a section supporting the establishment of large-scale pilot projects to study and test storage and utilization technologies.

Affordable, reliable, and cleaner energy will not be the only variable in the equation needed to solve the carbon reduction equation. The bipartisan energy bill recognizes this fact by including several provisions that promote the viability of new energy storage technologies. In particular,  the bill creates a new RD&D program to develop energy storage pilot projects and a technical assistance program to help municipally owned and rural electric cooperatives study the potential of storage technologies working hand-in-hand with microgrids.

“As a member of the Energy Storage Association, Energy Fairness commends the authors of the Energy Act of 2020 for recognizing the important role that carbon capture and energy storage technologies can play in shaping our energy future to the benefit of consumers,” said Griffin.

Another set of forward-thinking provisions included in the legislation addressed the need to modernize the aging and dated U.S. electric grid, a topic we discussed in our most recent blog post. The National Academy of Engineering recognized electrification and the electric grid as the most outstanding engineering achievement of the 20th Century. Nonetheless, the grid has not kept up with the electric demands of 21st-century life. The Energy Act seeks to remedy the grid’s current inadequacies by 1) authorizing RD&D activities examining the integration of renewables and electric vehicles, 2) creating a grant program to carry out projects related to the modernization of the electric grid, 3) promoting RD&D to examine how CCUS, advance nuclear and renewables will work together in a 21st Century Grid.

“The Energy Act of 2020 is the most comprehensive energy legislation in a decade. It addresses carbon emissions from many different angles while seeking to keep energy affordable and reliable. Energy Fairness commends all the Senate and House members who worked on this truly bipartisan and historic legislation,” said Griffin.