Let's Talk Legislation: The BEST Act Addresses Energy Storage

The Better Energy Storage Technology Act, or BEST Act, addresses a crucial piece of the clean energy puzzle: energy storage.

The BEST Act, S.1602 and H.R.2986, was introduced by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) in May of this year. The bill authorizes $300 million to support innovation that would improve energy storage systems over the next five years and requires the Department of Energy to draft a ten-year plan to develop new technology. The legislation was introduced along with other Republicans’ energy bills, such as carbon capture legislation, that put reducing greenhouse gas emissions in their sights. More and more, Republicans in both chambers of Congress have introduced legislation that tackles individual aspects of climate change by incentivizing innovation.

The bill has bipartisan support in both the House and Senate proving that legislators understand that to pursue decarbonization and renewable energy sources, there must also be investment in storage technology. Senator Collins, while testifying about the bill, said, “The BEST Act would help advance energy storage technologies to improve the efficiency of the nation’s electricity grid, while helping to promote wider use of clean, renewable energy.”

Right now, American energy storage capability is a serious concern because it’s nearly impossible to transition to cleaner forms of energy without adequate storage capacity. Solar and wind energy are productive under favorable weather conditions, but by improving their storage capacities to handle peak loads of energy, these sources become an even more attractive alternative to fossil fuels. If reducing carbon emissions is a sincere goal, improving energy storage is one of the very first steps we must take.

In fact, the Energy Storage Association (ESA) has made it a mission to improve American energy storage and encourage action federally and on the state level. The ESA, in many ways like the BEST Act, works to connect businesses and innovators to actively develop and improve energy technology for communities all over the country. The organization, along with others such as Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions and Clearpath, have endorsed the BEST Act.

Not only is energy storage a crucial piece of the fight against climate change, but improving storage capabilities will also reduce energy costs for the average American. If solar and wind producers can produce an abundant supply of energy in ideal conditions, consumers’ demand will be easily filled at more affordable prices. The hydropower industry also utilizes energy storage technology, and pump-storage hydropower, which utilizes bodies of water at separate elevations, accounts for ninety-five percent of utility-scale energy storage in the country.

The Department of Energy used a similar, innovation-focused strategy in the SunShot program, launched in 2011, to reduce the price of solar energy by the end of the decade. By 2017, the solar industry, thanks in part to Sunshot, had blossomed, and prices declined significantly. In residential areas, solar power went from 52 cents per kilowatt per hour to 16 cents per kilowatt per hour. This program has yielded significant results because it encourages companies to innovate and improve their technology. The Department of Energy is still actively working toward 2030 solar goals. 

The BEST Act truly encourages innovation to develop the very best technology for the American energy sector. Instead of using the heavy hand of government to mandate a solution, Senator Collins and her colleagues have devised a plan that funds American experts in the Department of Energy and beyond to do what they do best: innovate.

Karly Matthews