What’s in Congress’ infrastructure bill for renewable energy

The Biden administration and leaders in the U.S. Congress unveiled details of the 2,700-page, bipartisan infrastructure package on Sunday that includes $550 billion in new spending. The deal is expected to move quickly – and is likely to change in many ways – before receiving final approval later this week.

So, what’s in the deal for renewable energy? While the legislation won’t, on its own, accomplish President Biden’s climate and clean energy goals, advocates have called the bill a “down payment” on the president’s broader ambitions.

This week, we reached a historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal. Secretary Granholm, Secretary Raimondo, and Gina McCarthy hit the road to discuss how our agenda will invest in electric vehicle infrastructure, support good-paying American jobs, and much more. pic.twitter.com/niZHM5DbNt

— President Biden (@POTUS) July 31, 2021

Electric Vehicles

The bill includes $7.5 billion to build the first-ever national network of electric vehicle chargers in the United States. The White House wants to deploy EV chargers along highway corridors and within communities, with a particular focus on “rural, disadvantaged, and hard-to-reach” communities.

Read more: Electric utilities plan DC fast-chargers up and down eastern US highways

The bill also includes $2.5 billion to purchase zero-emission school buses.

The legislation expands the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s existing program for research and development of EV battery recycling and second-life applications by $200 million for each FY 22-26.

Electric Reliability Council of Texas control room (Courtesy: ERCOT)

Grid Infrastructure

Citing last year’s extreme winter storm and power outages in Texas, the White House says the deal includes $73 billion in clean energy transmission investments – upgrades to power infrastructure and the building of thousands of miles of new transmission lines to facilitate the growth of renewable energy assets.

The bill also includes $46 billion in cybersecurity funding to support critical infrastructure needs and weatherization.

Energy Storage

The bill includes $3 billion for battery material processing grants and $3 billion for battery manufacturing and recycling grants, according to center-left think tank Third Way, as part of the Biden administration’s goal of bolstering American energy storage manufacturing.

“Along with other provisions in the bill designed to help boost domestic manufacturing, such as the 48C manufacturing tax credit and reforms to DOE’s Loan Programs Office, this $6 billion investment could bring us close to the $10 billion we believe is necessary to bring US battery manufacturing up to scale,” Third Way staff wrote in a policy breakdown.

Industry experts will discuss utility-scale energy storage breakthroughs – including software solutions, battery challenges, safety, financing, and grid balancing attributes – during POWERGEN International Conference Sessions in Dallas, Texas, January 26-28. Find more information about the event, and how to register, here.

What’s Missing

While the bipartisan infrastructure package is the Biden administration’s first step to address climate and clean energy goals, advocates are looking ahead to an upcoming $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package, which only requires support from Democrats.

Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, commended steps taken in the bipartisan infrastructure package but said more needs to be done to support the growth of solar:

“To achieve the necessary emissions reductions, solar will have to grow four times faster than we are growing today. That cannot happen without a long-term extension of the investment tax credit, with a direct pay option, or a policy equivalent that would drive more solar installations. We look forward to working with members of Congress and the White House to promote clean energy policies that fully tackle the climate challenge and that bring millions of jobs and hundreds of billions of dollars of investment to all American communities.”

Subscribe to Renewable Energy World’s free, weekly newsletter for more stories like this