The Expanding Access to Sustainable Energy (EASE) Act will assist rural communities and rural electric cooperatives overcome the barriers to renewable energy storage and grid improvements by providing access to relevant resources and expertise
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) announced that provisions based on their legislation to help rural communities access renewable energy were included in a comprehensive package that passed the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The Expanding Access to Sustainable Energy (EASE) Act would assist rural communities and rural electric cooperatives overcome the barriers to renewable energy storage and grid improvements by providing access to relevant resources and expertise. In 2013, the Department of Energy (DOE) created the Solar Utility Network Deployment Acceleration (SUNDA) project, in partnership with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), to increase the adoption of solar energy in rural communities across the country. The SUNDA project ended in 2018, but the EASE Act would implement similar initiatives and make it easier for rural communities and their electric cooperatives to plan, implement, and maintain their own renewable energy storage and microgrid projects.
“As our country faces pressing energy issues, now is the time to explore new solutions across every zip code,” Klobuchar said. “Our bipartisan Expanding Access to Sustainable Energy Act will help provide rural communities and rural electric providers with technical assistance and support so they can take advantage of potential energy storage and microgrid projects. By extending expertise and support to rural communities and rural electric providers, we can increase rural community energy resiliency and autonomy, spur economic activity, and improve public and environmental health.”
“I am pleased the EASE Act received bipartisan support in the Senate,” Moran said. “This sensible bill would increase grid reliability and resilience for all those who depend on renewable energy, especially those in rural communities. Electric cooperatives across Kansas are powering the economy and keeping the lights on for farmers and ranchers, and this legislation would eliminate barriers to storing renewable energy and would make needed grid improvements.”
The need to improve energy grid capacity and resiliency, as well as the intermittency of solar and wind power, has increased interest in energy storage, which can contribute to meeting electricity demand during peak times. In 2017, the U.S. generated 4 billion megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity, but had only 431 MWh of electricity storage available. Although tax incentives have aided development of renewable energy projects, some of the most significant barriers to exploration and establishment of new renewable energy projects like storage in rural communities is navigating the planning, implementation, and maintenance of these projects. Some of these major barriers to development of new rural projects can be reduced by providing communities and rural electric cooperatives with access to relevant resources and expertise, as well as best practices from communities and electric providers that have successfully deployed similar projects.
In her time in the Senate, Klobuchar has supported a comprehensive approach to combatting climate change that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote the development of energy efficient technologies and homegrown energy resources. As a member of the Senate Climate Action Taskforce, she has fought to ensure that efforts to address the threat of climate change are a part of our nation’s energy and environmental policy. Klobuchar strongly supports the Paris Climate Agreement and has pushed the Administration to rejoin the Agreement. She has also opposed cabinet members who doubt the science of climate change and deny that it is occurring.
In June, Klobuchar introduced new legislation to estimate the impact of federal government contracts on climate change. The Buy Clean Transparency Act would address greenhouse gas emissions associated with international trade by determining the emissions associated with bids for federal government contracts focused on public projects. The legislation would not only help mitigate climate change—it would also create good jobs and benefit domestic manufacturers who engage in sustainable practices but whose efforts have been underappreciated during bids for federal projects. In May, she joined her colleagues to introduce the Clean Energy for America Act, legislation that would consolidate the current 44 energy incentives into three technology-neutral provisions that encourage clean electricity, clean transportation, and energy efficiency.