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Energy and Climate Legislation Led a Busy Week in Washington, D.C.

February 21, 2021


The Biden administration and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill are moving quickly to advance energy and climate initiatives. To sweeten the pot, ARPA-E is offering $100 million in funding.

The Biden administration this week launched a new research working group, outlined its innovation agenda, and announced a $100 million funding opportunity from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to support transformational low-carbon energy technologies.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, lawmakers on the U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue recently reintroduced the Growing Renewable Energy and Efficiency Now (GREEN) Act, which includes a five-year extension of the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC).

Also in Congress, bills to create a Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator aimed at leveraging $100 billion of public funds to finance up to $463 billion in total investment over the next four years were recently introduced in the House and Senate.

And, in an exclusive interview with pv magazine USA, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) President and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper said the organization plans to “go big” in its efforts to drive pro-solar energy initiatives.

“We think that there is a climate crisis under way, we think that there is an economic crisis under way, and we think that solar can help address both of those and bring equity to our energy systems,” Ross Hopper said. “This is the time to be aggressive.”

Even the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is upping its environmental game, announcing that it will create a new senior environmental justice and equity position to ensure that FERC decisions don’t unfairly impact “historically marginalized communities.”

Lots to cover. Here are key developments reported over the last week:

White House Creates ARPA-C: The Biden administration on February 11 announced a Climate Innovation Working Group as part of the National Climate Task Force and also launched an Advanced Research Projects Agency-Climate (ARPA-C). The working group is intended to help coordinate and strengthen federal government-wide efforts to foster technologies that can help reach the goal of net-zero economy-wide emissions by 2050. It will be co-chaired by the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, Office of Science of Technology and Policy, and Office of Management and Budget.

Key areas that the group will take on include:

  • Zero net carbon buildings at zero net cost, including carbon-neutral construction materials;
  • Energy storage at one-tenth the cost of today’s technology;
  • Advanced energy system management tools to plan for and operate a grid powered by zero-carbon power plants; and
  • Carbon-free hydrogen at a lower cost than hydrogen made from polluting alternatives.
DOE announced a $100 million funding opportunity through ARPA-E.

 

ARPA-E Funding Opportunity: The DOE announced $100 million in funding via the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to support what it said would be “transformational low-carbon energy technologies.” The ARPA-E announcement seeks proposals for early-stage research into potentially disruptive energy technologies. Details on the opportunity can be found here.

GREEN Act Reintroduction: Lawmakers on the U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue recently reintroduced the GREEN Act, which includes a five-year extension of the solar ITC.

The legislation is expected to make comprehensive use of the federal tax code to help combat the threat of climate change and expand the use of renewable energy. SEIA called the bill “critical” and noted several key solar provisions, such as the five-year ITC extension and a direct pay option for large projects.

National Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator bills: Legislation to create a Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator that can leverage $100 billion of public funds to finance up to $463 billion in total investment over the next four years were recently introduced in the House and Senate.

The expectation is that the Accelerator eventually will be pulled into a larger bill, most likely an infrastructure and climate package. The Accelerator would make up a significant piece of President Biden’s goal of $2 trillion in infrastructure spending.

As currently envisioned, the Accelerator would seek investment and procurements in areas such as renewables, storage, transportation, transmission, resiliency, efficiency, reforestation, agriculture, and industrial de-carbonization. The bills currently structure the Accelerator as an independent nonprofit capitalized with $50 billion and topped up with $10 billion a year for its first five years.

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