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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 CollinsSenate Democrats negotiating changes to coronavirus bill On The Money: Senators push for changes as chamber nears vote on .9T relief bill | Warren offers bill to create wealth tax GOP says Ron Klain pulling Biden strings 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 CornynBottom line This week: Senate takes up coronavirus relief after minimum wage setback Senate mulls changes to .9 trillion coronavirus bill 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 TrumpProsecutors focus Trump Organization probe on company's financial officer: report WHO official says it's 'premature' to think pandemic will be over by end of year Romney released from hospital after fall over the weekend 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 HeinrichUSPS adding up to 165K fuel efficient or electric delivery vehicles Democrats propose executive actions on electric vehicle acquisitions New rule shakes up Senate Armed Services subcommittees 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 TillisMcConnell backs Garland for attorney general GOP senators demand probe into Cuomo's handling of nursing home deaths CNN anchor confronts GOP chairman over senator's vote to convict Trump MORE (R-N.C.) has discussed solar legislation, though his office said a bill would not be released immediately. Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderCongress addressed surprise medical bills, but the issue is not resolved Trump renominates Judy Shelton in last-ditch bid to reshape Fed Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes 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.