Gardner bill would give a needed boost to renewable-energy storage

As originally published in Colorado Politics

By: Greg Brophy

An energy renaissance is underway across the country, including here in Colorado, where innovative sectors like wind and solar are more than doubling job growth compared to other industries and now employ nearly 60,000 Coloradans. The electricity from renewables in our state has more than doubled since 2010, and accounts for close to 25 percent of our net generation. The main force at work here is Colorado’s nearly 2,000 wind turbines, which produce the majority of our renewable energy in-state.

The next few years will see even more progress in these areas, but these amazing new methods of generating energy have their limitations, as well. Critics of renewable will be quick to point out that wind turbines only work when the wind is blowing — and they aren’t wrong. Fortunately, the renewable energy sector will soon have a better answer to quiet those critics: energy storage.

One of the most important steps utilizing additional renewables is the ability to store that energy for when it’s needed the most. By using advanced energy storage, our energy sector can decouple energy generation with its time of use. This simple feature creates a truly competitive renewables industry.

Although it is unclear when grid-scale energy storage will be available, Colorado’s own U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner has introduced the Energy Storage Tax Incentive and Deployment Act (S.1142), which will harness the financing power of the 30 percent Investment Tax Credit (ITC) that has already successfully jumpstarted the national solar power industry. We should pivot the success of the ITC to encompass advanced energy storage technology — and by doing so, we will effectively strengthen our domestic energy sector as a whole.

Energy storage is a technology-neutral approach, meaning that it is a useful tool regardless of the power source. From wind and solar to natural gas and biofuel, all sources of energy will benefit from better energy storage on the market.

S.1142 does not modify the expiration of existing tax incentives; it adds energy storage as an eligible tax credit while also specifying that energy storage technologies can draw from across electric grid technologies. Doing so will enhance grid efficiency and resilience while creating more jobs and capital formation.

Congress estimates that an energy storage ITC would be much lower in cost than many other tax incentives. And an energy storage ITC would pay for itself through the vastly improved energy efficiency that it would bring to the industry.

Gardner’s legislation would create a renewed focus on energy storage, which would alleviate the tensions of peak power usage — a significant expense for many ratepayers across the country. Using energy storage, valuable electricity could be easily accessed at peak times. This lone factor is worth millions in reduced bills, and it is well within reach.

Finally, energy storage is a good job creator. Over 70,000 people in the U.S. are currently employed by the energy storage industry. With the energy storage ITC, more people will be able to find work in that field. And because energy storage strengthens the viability of other energy technologies, those industries will also benefit from increased job growth due to expanding the ITC.

An energy storage ITC is a good deal for American jobs and consumers. And it’s a good deal for voters, who want to see their taxes go toward initiatives that will have real and immediate impacts in their local communities. Gardner should be applauded for his leadership on this issue and I encourage Congress to take action to include energy storage in end-of-year tax legislation.

Greg Brophy, a former state senator from Wray, is Colorado director for The Western Way.

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