Federal Omnibus Increases Support for Energy Storage

The 2018 federal omnibus spending bill signed into law last week demonstrates a continuing, bipartisan commitment by Congress to sustain public investment in energy technology innovation. The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) clean energy innovation investments will receive nearly $1.5 billion more in FY2018 than the prior fiscal year.

Notably, the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (OE) received a 32% increase to its grid energy storage applied research and development budget—among the biggest increases in DOE’s budget—raising FY2018 investments in grid storage to $41 million as requested previously by House Republicans. These investments ensure progress on the next generation of batteries and other storage technologies, which will assist DOE in making the grid more resilient. Additionally, DOE will invest $10 million in demonstrations of innovative pumped hydro storage projects and has received the green light to continue the work of the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research with an appropriation of $24 million.

As OE Assistant Secretary Bruce Walker has discussed previously, DOE’s Grid Modernization Lab Consortium is developing a “North American all-energy systems model” to identify grid vulnerabilities across the entire country, inclusive of linked infrastructures like pipelines and water, and to identify investments such as energy storage that will increase grid resilience. That’s one of the many reasons the Energy Storage Association (ESA) looks forward to hosting Assistant Secretary Walker as a keynote speaker at the 28th Annual Energy Storage Conference & Expo in Boston on April 18 - 20, with Grid Resilience taking center stage that Friday as a full-day theme for speakers, panel discussions, and expo floor demonstrations.

While ESA commends Congress for making long-term investments in energy storage innovation, more needs to be done to remove barriers to energy storage and to accelerate its deployment. The omnibus bill conspicuously left out the bipartisan, bicameral Energy Storage Deployment and Incentive Act, which would clarify the eligibility of all energy storage technologies for investment tax credits—a key demand driver of innovation made available to other technologies like solar power and fuel cells.

Also notably absent from the omnibus bill was the Advancing Grid Storage Act to equip smaller utilities, municipalities, and rural cooperatives with tools to include energy storage in grid design and planning for first-time investments. Given the enabling role energy storage increasingly plays throughout the nation’s electric grid, ESA will continue to advocate that Congress include storage as an eligible investment in energy infrastructure, rural energy programs, and federal disaster planning.