Congressional Update: The Advancing Grid Storage Act of 2017

By Harper Gay posted 10-05-2017 15:38


In the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, Senator Al Franken (D-MN), with Senator Heinrich (D-NM) as cosponsor, introduced a bill to improve electrical grid reliability and resiliency. The Advancing Grid Storage Act of 2017 was introduced on September 25. The bill is divided in three sections, an energy storage research program, a technical assistance and grant program, and an energy storage system demonstration and deployment program. The bill calls for appropriations of up to $300 million between 2018 and 2022, with the majority of the funds dedicated to demonstration and deployment. 

The International District Energy Association would like to promote Franken and Heinrich’s act. Members involved in generation, both non-profit and for-profit, could stand to benefit from the support it promises to provide for thermal energy storage. The act explicitly defines energy storage systems to include equipment or facilities capable of “storing thermal energy for direct use for heating or cooling at a later time in a manner than avoids the need to use electricity at that later time.”  

Thermal energy storage investment can be vital in strengthening reliability of services and resiliency in the face of extreme weather events. If deployed as intended, energy storage assets can deliver significant cost savings during periods of peak power demand and high prices. The act has received the approval of the Energy Storage Association and is currently under consideration by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. IDEA will be working to support this legislation and attract additional sponsors.

On infrastructure investment, on October 3, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-9th PA) stated that the Trump Administration could release a detailed outline of what to expect from an eventual legislative package the week of October 9. The Administration and Department of Transportation officials have long promised further guidance on infrastructure investment at the end of the third quarter 2017 and may yet hit their mark. Tax reform, often considered a precondition for, or package deal with infrastructure investment, has begun to move, but as Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chair Senator Thune (R-SD) notes in The Hill, it may not be attractive enough to pull the necessary democratic support for passage into law and an opening on infrastructure.