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US Senators introduce bill to accelerate energy storage deployment with targeted funds

Minnesota Senator Al Franken authored the bill, with Martin Heinrich acting as co-sponsor. Image: Official portrait photograph.

Two US Senators introduced a bill in Congress at the beginning of this week that would require the national Secretary of Energy to establish research and demonstration programmes and deployment strategies for energy storage, if passed.

Al Franken, Senator for Minnesota, and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, both Democrats, have pushed for the creation of the Advancing Grid Storage Act (AGSA), S.1851, which at the moment stands at the earliest stage of the legislative process. It still needs to be considered by committees before being sent to Senate or the House from where it can then gain presidential approval. It will next go up before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Both men played up the potential for the act to create jobs in their jurisdictions, while improving the reliability of electricity supplies, helping integrate renewable energy sources and lowering costs through investment.

  • The act would authorise US$50 million in dedicated funding for energy storage R&D activities within ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy), aimed at driving down the costs of energy storage systems at component level, including electrochemical and power conversion aspects.
  • A technical assistance programme worth US$500 million would be created by the act, paying out over five years to help both commercial and non-profit organisations find opportunities, assess feasibility, overcome permitting and interconnection issues, perform financial assessments and carry out engineering work as required.
  • The act would also establish a competitive grant programme, again worth US$500 million and payable over five years, to help various groups, authorities and agencies, from utilities to schools, states and tribes, to be able to afford the upfront capital costs of deploying energy storage systems. Winning projects would enhance resiliency, help integrate renewables and optimise use of the grid. Grants will be capped at US$5 million per project, up to 50% of total project cost.

“Investing in 21st century energy infrastructure is good for families, businesses, and communities in Minnesota and across the country,” said Franken.

“My legislative proposal would modernise our energy technologies, bring more jobs to Minnesota, save money, and make energy delivery more efficient and reliable."

“Energy storage complements renewable resources like wind and solar to increase full-time availability and provide backup power in case of emergencies. By investing in modernizing our energy infrastructure we can help make our electrical grid more resilient and reliable, while helping families and businesses save money,” Heinrich said.

“This bill encourages innovation to promote clean energy storage, and will help create clean energy jobs in New Mexico and across the country."  

Energy Storage Association CEO: Act will improve efficiency, sustainability, resiliency and affordability of power

Heinrich and Franken’s bill was warmly welcomed by Kelly Speakes-Backman, CEO of the nationwide Energy Storage Association, who said the trade group “applauded” the Senators’ efforts.

“AGSA will provide assistance to state and local governments, smaller utilities, public power districts and rural cooperatives who seek to modernize their electric infrastructure with advanced energy storage systems. These advances will make the grid more efficient, sustainable, resilient and affordable, to the benefit of homes and businesses across the US,” Speakes-Backman said.

“Investing in 21st century grid infrastructure will generate significant benefits to all electricity users. Energy storage has proven to be a reliable solution for many of the challenges we face in modernizing our grid infrastructure. AGSA is an important next step in modernizing the grid for even more Americans, and will ensure the US continues to lead the world in the advanced energy storage industry – bringing jobs and investment to communities across the country.”