- Promoting a domestic supply chain for energy storage technologies, particularly batteries, could be an area of bipartisan focus for the 117th Congress and a big theme within the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, aides say.
- Investing in upstream and midstream battery supply chains has the potential to stimulate the economy, improve supply chain security and promote domestic manufacturing jobs, Jacob McCurdy, professional staff member on the committee, said Wednesday at a policy forum hosted by the U.S. Energy Storage Association.
- President Joe Biden has indicated that clean energy policy will be a priority for his administration, and storage could be a critical part of that. "We think a lot about building the grid systems and how to make them work — we now have to recognize that storage needs to be a central component of that strategic thinking," Gina McCarthy, whom Biden recently tapped as his national climate advisor, said at the event.
Since his inauguration, President Biden has moved to rejoin the Paris climate accord, and signed a number of executive orders as part of his broader goal to move the U.S. towards 100% clean electricity by 2035.
In terms of energy storage, the industry needs a deployment strategy, McCarthy said.
"We have to explain to the general public that we have the answers to this," she said, referring to challenges related to intermittent renewables. "We have storage capacity that makes sure that when we generate energy we can hold it and release it at the times when we need it," she added.
As the House and the Senate move towards passing a COVID-19 recovery package, there’s a decision to be made about accomplishing that through a budget reconciliation process, which could be done without Republican support, or a bipartisan one, said David Hoppe, senior principal with 38 North Solutions. In the case of reconciliation, the key area to watch will be addressing the tax component of the package, which could include some of the things Biden has mentioned during the campaign — like raising corporate taxes — or potential investment tax credits (ITCs) for clean energy and energy storage, according to Hoppe.
"My guess would be, once that package opens up there’s going to be a lot of people who want to get into that… to move as quickly as possible towards putting something into law, or extending some of the ITCs that exist already," Hoppe said.
But the priority for Democrats remains COVID-19 relief, Katherine Monge, senior counsel to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, said. She doesn’t expect to have significant green energy provisions added to the next COVID-19 relief package, although "no one should read that as not being committed to doing green energy. We’re just looking at, what does the economy need right now?"
But one area that appears to be a point of consensus is the importance of building domestic supply chains around storage resources — a need that has been particularly highlighted over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to McCurdy.
"In my view, on this issue you kind of need to go whole hog — you can’t just focus on the manufacturing piece and then have to rely on foreign supply chains for the materials or even the cells of the battery," McCurdy said, adding that he thinks there will be bipartisan backing for investing in jobs to manufacture batteries and associated materials, as well as in the capacity to process those materials within the U.S.
Domestic supply chains will be a big theme on the energy and natural resources committee, Brie Van Cleve, who works for committee Chairman Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., agreed.
"I’m not a betting woman, but I would bet that we would have at least a hearing — if not five or six — this Congress, very soon, on this topic," she said.