U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; and Angus King, I-Maine, have introduced the Storage Technology for Renewable and Green Energy Act of 2013 (STORAGE) to encourage the development of renewable energy as a source of electricity and lower consumer costs through the deployment of energy storage technologies.
“Building out more energy storage will increase the amount of renewable power on the grid, reduce our country’s need for new power plants and make the U.S. energy system more reliable,” Wyden says. “These systems don’t make energy – they make energy better. With all of the attention given to new sources of power, it’s only appropriate that energy storage gets its time in the sun.”
Wyden and Collins introduced a previous version of the bill in the last Congress. As in the 2011 version of the bill, the STORAGE Act of 2013 offers a 30% investment tax credit to businesses for the use of technologies that can store energy during non-peak hours and distribute it to meet peak electricity demand.
According to the senators, the latest version of the bill lowers the qualifying threshold to encourage small businesses to take advantage of on-site storage technologies. The bill also provides a 30% tax credit to homeowners who install energy storage on their property to help serve their own energy needs or capture energy from on-site renewable energy generation.
Finally, the STORAGE Act provides a 20% investment tax credit of up to $40 million per project for grid-scale storage systems. The total amount available for these projects is capped at $1.5 billion.
BLM Bill Spurs
A new rule adopted by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will allow the agency to temporarily segregate lands in a wind or solar energy right-of-way application from the location of mining claims or other land appropriations.
Under existing rules, lands proposed for exchange or sale can be closed to the filing of mining claims. However, lands included in a proposed right-of-way application remain open to the location and entry of mining claims while the BLM is considering the application.
According to the BLM, efforts to resolve conflicts between mining claims and renewable energy applications have been in development for two years.
Temporary rules established in April 2011 helped resolve conflicts because the interim rules granted the BLM authority to temporarily remove lands included in a renewable energy right-of-way application and lands offered for wind or solar energy lease from land appropriations like mining claims.
By temporarily segregating lands covered by pending wind or solar right-of-way applications or lands identified as potential renewable energy leasing areas, the BLM can help ensure that new resource conflicts will not arise with respect to mining claims.
Under the final rule, lands with right-of-way applications for solar or wind energy development could be segregated from the location and entry of mining claims. Such segregations would only be authorized as needed and would not necessarily cover all lands where renewable energy right-of-way applications have been filed.
A segregation would be effective for two years and could be extended for an additional two years if the appropriate BLM state director determines that an extension is necessary for the orderly administration of the public lands, notes the agency.
The Senate Agriculture Committee passed a farm bill that includes funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). REAP provides grants, feasibility studies and guaranteed loans that help farmers and rural businesses invest in wind systems that lower operating costs.
However, on May 15, the House Agriculture Committee passed its own version of the farm bill, without REAP funding.
The two versions will now go to their respective chambers. If passed, the bills will go to full conference where negotiations will begin. Congress is expected to work on a new five-year farm bill. Efforts to pass a similar farm bill in 2012 failed. The most recent farm bill, which passed in 2008, was extended until Sept. 30.
According to the Distributed Wind Energy Association (DWEA), which represents the distributed and community wind industry, REAP can help lower the cost of a wind turbine for farmers and others. Progress in these areas was jeopardized by inadequate funding in earlier versions of the farm bill.
“REAP is a great program,” says Lloyd Ritter, DWEA’s Capitol Hill representative. “Unfortunately, it has become caught up in the partisan politics of the day.”
As an example of REAP benefits, DWEA cites the experience of Mattituck, N.Y.-based Shinn Estate Vineyards, which used a REAP grant to help install a 10 kW wind system and a solar system at its organic winery.
“The REAP grant made the numbers work for us and allowed us to become the first winery on the East Coast entirely powered by the wind and sun,” notes David Page, Shinn’s co-owner and vintner.
PC Party Bill 39
Defeated In Ontario
The Ontario legislature has voted down Bill 39, the Ensuring Affordable Energy Act – a measure that sought to limit provincial wind development, eliminate the feed-in tariff and give municipalities a greater voice in planning renewable energy projects.
The bill, which was introduced by Progressive Conservative (PC) party member Lisa M. Thompson, is founded on the proposed notion that wind energy is a leading culprit for rising electricity prices in Ontario.
However, Brandy Giannetta, Ontario regional director at the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), says such claims are misinformed.
“The PC Party continues to ignore a number of studies that have conclusively demonstrated that wind energy has made only a minor contribution to rising electricity costs in Ontario in recent years,” she says, citing a CanWEA-commissioned Power Advisory LLC study that shows wind energy is responsible for about 5% of the total rise in provincial electricity costs.
Ontario’s leading political parties – the ruling Liberal Party, the New Democratic Party (NDP) and the PC Party – are all trying to navigate around a perfect storm of low demand, surplus generation and rising power prices.
Following the legislature’s vote, Thompson issued a statement that expressed her disappointment for a defeat she suspects was politically motivated.
“The NDP and Liberals could have supported the bill to at least get it into committee, where all three parties could have put their political stripes aside and worked together on a thoughtful affordable energy plan where municipalities could have their say,” Thompson said.
The PC Party has repeatedly cited wind energy as Exhibit A in what they view as wasteful government spending. In the recent past, PC Party leader Tim Hudak, who was unsuccessful in his attempt to unseat then-Premiere Dalton McGuinty of the Liberal Party in 2011, has called for the abolishment of the province’s Green Energy Act and the dismantling of the Ontario Power Authority. w
Senators Introduce STORAGE Act
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