The legislation passed by the US Senate Monday was downright frankensteinian: a pile of unrelated bills stitched together. Apart from the pandemic relief measures, it contained thousands of pages of government funding and tax credit extensions, like a semester’s worth of homework stapled to the final exam.
But in the end, it includes the most significant federal energy and climate policy in years, setting the agenda for Department of Energy research programs and authorizing higher funding levels for clean energy priorities.
Shortly before the 2016 US election, the Obama administration joined an international agreement to phase out another generation of refrigerants with negative environmental consequences. This agreement—called the Kigali Amendment—was added onto the 1987 Montreal Protocol that banned ozone-depleting CFCs. Some were replaced with ozone-friendly HFCs, but these turned out to be quite potent greenhouse gases.
HFCs exist in incredibly trace concentrations in the atmosphere but would pack enough punch to add around 0.5°C (or 1°F) to global warming by 2100.
Despite US industry being onboard—they were already producing alternative refrigerants—this went nowhere under the Trump administration until now. The implementation of the agreement is in the new legislation. It categorizes these HFCs as regulated substances and requires production or consumption of them to decline 85 percent by 2036.
R&D rolls a 20
The legislation also includes the Energy Act of 2020, which lays out a lengthy to-do list for the Department of Energy (DOE) and others. There is far too much in the act to detail it all, but here are some highlights.
The act directs DOE to, depending on the topic, produce assessment reports, operate research, development, and demonstration projects through grant programs and national laboratories, and even to build new focused facilities. There is renewed or increased funding for renewable electricity including hydroelectric, wind, and solar generation. Following on last year’s DOE report on geothermal potential, funding is specifically directed to advanced geothermal (which applies lessons from oil and gas fracking) and ground-source heat pumps.
The solar and wind research also includes a focus on recycling, which is becoming increasingly important as older installations get retired or retrofitted. Separately, the act addresses the permitting process for renewables on public lands.
Energy storage technology and grid modernization also comes up in a big way. This includes a broad range of programs for electricity storage options on varying timescales, battery recycling, grid architecture modeling, and smart connections with buildings that have their own generation or have flexible loads.
The act boosts funding for…
Go to the news source: The omnibus bill was packed with energy and environment policy