Collins offering bill to boost battery research as GOP pushes energy 'innovation'

Collins offering bill to boost battery research as GOP pushes energy 'innovation'
© Greg Nash

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Health Care: Insurance lobby chief calls Biden, Sanders health plans 'similarly bad' | Trump officials appeal drug price disclosure ruling | Study finds 1 in 7 people ration diabetes medicine due to cost Collins downplays 2020 threat: 'Confident' reelection would go well if she runs Cook Political Report moves Susan Collins Senate race to 'toss up' MORE (R-Maine) is introducing a bill Wednesday to boost the reliability of wind and solar electricity, one of the first of what may be several Republican energy bills in the pipeline.

Collins’s bill looks to provide $60 million annually for five years toward developing batteries and other types of next-generation storage as a backstop for intermittent generation.

The bill comes as other Republicans, who have hailed innovation as the strategy for solving global warming, say they are working on crafting energy legislation that could serve as the party’s alternative to the progressive Green New Deal.

“I expect there’ll be a number of bills that will make up an effort to show that we do have a good alternative, actually a better alternative, to the $93 trillion Green New Deal,” Sen. John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes The Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters Democrats keen to take on Cornyn despite formidable challenges MORE (R-Texas) told reporters last week when discussing his future proposal to deal with carbon capture. “The goal, of course, is to foster innovation in order to maintain U.S. energy independence while reducing emissions.”

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Solar and wind are a rapidly growing portion of the energy sector but still face challenges in supporting all U.S. electric needs.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? MORE has downplayed wind power, suggesting once that it doesn't always work and that Americans would be unable to watch TV if the wind stopped blowing.

Energy experts say the U.S. will need more reliable battery storage if the country becomes more reliant on wind and solar generation.

Collins’s bill would support research and development on batteries through the Department of Energy that could store excess energy supplied to the grid and disperse it over three stages. Short-term batteries would be used to store energy for just a few hours, perhaps saving solar energy from the middle of the day to help serve increased demand once people start returning home from work. Mid-range batteries could be used to store energy for several days to help offset a cloudy day or week. The final type of battery would be used to address seasonal concerns with energy production.

Though the storage options could be used for any type of electric generation, a staff member for the senator said they view the bill as a way to boost renewables that generate electricity intermittently.

Collins’s bill will be sponsored alongside Sen. Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichOvernight Defense: Dems talk Afghanistan, nukes at Detroit debate | Senate panel advances Hyten nomination | Iranian foreign minister hit with sanctions | Senate confirms UN ambassador Senate committee advances nomination of general accused of sexual assault House passes bill requiring CBP to enact safety, hygiene standards MORE (D-N.M.), and they are still looking for additional co-sponsors.

Other Republican efforts on energy are coming together more slowly.

Cornyn’s legislation is designed to incentivize the research and development of new technology for carbon capture natural gas. Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisThe United States broken patent system is getting worse Gun reform groups to pressure GOP senators with rallies in all 50 states To cash in on innovation, remove market barriers for advanced energy technologies MORE (R-N.C.) has discussed solar legislation, though his office said a bill would not be released immediately. Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderThe Hill's Morning Report - How will Trump be received in Dayton and El Paso? McConnell faces pressure to bring Senate back for gun legislation Criminal justice reform should extend to student financial aid MORE (R-Tenn.) earlier this year pitched a Manhattan Project for climate change, a throwback to the World War II program that developed the first nuclear weapons.