Energy bill includes language benefiting bioenergy, algae

By Erin Voegele | July 29, 2015

On July 22, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources introduced a bipartisan energy bill, titled the “Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015.” The committee was scheduled to hold business meetings on the bill on July 28 and July 30 to markup the legislation.

According to information released by the committee, the legislation includes five titles, including those focused on efficiency, infrastructure, supply, accountability, and conservation. The process to put the bill together included listening sessions with stakeholders held in Washington, D.C, and across the nation. The committee also held four legislative hearings on 114 pieces of legislation.

 A summary of the bill published by the committee indicates Title III of the bill, which focuses on supply, includes provisions aimed at providing an energy supply that is increasingly abundant, affordable, clean, diverse, and secure. The title focuses on renewable energy, traditional resources, and non-fuel minerals. In the summary, the committee said the responsible development of American resources, including hydropower, geothermal, bioenergy, and rare earth elements, will strengthen our economy, competitiveness and security for decades to come.

According to documents published by the committee, section 3017 of the bill focuses on biopower. It amends section 9008 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 to provide research assistance for the development of biopower and bioheat projects. It also expands the authority of the Biomass Research and Development Board to consider biopower and bioheat projects and authorizes grants to support innovation and market development of biopower and bioheat systems. The bill would require the secretaries of agriculture and energy to set up two working groups to collaborate on project implementation and to share best practices. In addition, the legislation would establish a low-interest loan program in the USDA’s Rural Development Office to support the construction of residential, commercial or institutional and industrial bioheat systems. The bill would also permit loans for bioheat and biopower residential, commercial or institutional, and industrial wood energy systems to be made under the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program under Section 2 of the Rural Electrification Act of 1936.

The bill would also benefit algae research and development. According to the Algae Biomass Organization, the legislation includes language that would prioritize research and development of carbon utilization technologies under the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fossil Energy program. The bill would add “improving the conversion, use, and storage of carbon dioxide produced from fossil fuels” to the list of DOE Fossil Energy research and development objectives.

“We thank the committee for acknowledging the growing importance of carbon utilization technologies in addressing our nation’s energy future and economic health,” said Matt Carr, executive director of the ABO. “Innovators across the country are developing processes that can transform carbon dioxide into valuable products that range from plastics to fuels, and from feeds to fertilizers. This prioritization will hasten the day the algae industry can create thousands of jobs by using the waste gases from power plants to make valuable products we need, while giving those power plants a chance to reduce their emission for a profit rather than at a cost.”

Additional information on the bill can be downloaded from the committee’s website.