It's energy storage week in San Jose, California. Today was the first day of the Energy Storage North America (ESNA) conference, which is in town along with most of the important players in the energy storage industry.
(It's always energy storage week at Greentech Media. Some of our recent coverage includes the massive energy storage mandate in California, FERC's ruling on pay-for-performance energy storage, and new zinc-air battery technology from Eos.)
Katherine Hamilton, the Policy Director of the Energy Storage Association (ESA) and a lobbyist for the industry, spoke at the pre-conference workshop on the sordid details of developing legislative policy. One of her goals as a lobbyist is "finding champions" such as Chris Gibson (R-NY), a congressman with an Iraq combat background and a Ph.D. in government from Cornell. (According to Hamilton, "He gets energy storage" and often mentions energy storage in his stump speeches.) Much of Hamilton's time is spent educating and communicating with staffers, the people who actually read and write policy.
Here's a brief rundown of the legislation that Hamilton and the ESA are looking to impact.
Investment Tax Credit
Senate bill S1030 and House version HR1465 contain language looking to provide an investment tax credit (ITC) for energy storage, "just like solar," according to Hamilton. She notes that the ITC has bipartisan support in the House and Senate, although the bills differ in the actual amount and will have to be reconciled. The House bill puts the grid-scale credit at 30 percent, while the Senate bill is at 20 percent but added language "that lowers the threshold so that third-party-ownership firms can take advantage of solar-plus-storage." Senator Ron Wyden - and, importantly, his staff "likes energy storage," according to Hamilton. Wyden is Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and is in line to be Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee when Max Baucus retires next year.
MLP Parity Act
Renewables are currently excluded from taking advantage of a master limited partnership (MLP) tax structure. Senate bill S795, the MLP Parity Act, allows energy storage projects to use the MLP corporate tax construct as well. Hamilton helped develop the language to include electrical as well as thermal storage. She notes that "this bill has gotten a lot of buzz" and could "really help the energy storage industry." (We've reported on MLPs here.)
R&D Tax Credit Reform
A tax credit is only useful if a firm is making a profit. And that doesn't help pre-revenue companies, entities that invest heavily in innovation R&D for new technologies. Hamilton is promoting innovation through tax reform and ways to help pre-revenue firms take advantage of the R&D credit.
"Any Train That's Moving"
In the spirit of "getting on any train that's moving," Hamilton is working to incorporate energy storage language into FEMA disaster rebuilding plans, defense authorizations, and grid resilience conversations.
In additon to pushing legislative levers, Hamilton looks to influence administrative policy as well. She notes that ESA has been in conversations with the Energy Information Administration to begin tracking energy storage. The EPA "is where climate change rulemaking is going to occur"; Hamilton wants to make sure that energy storage is considered as one of the solutions in any carbon constrained regulatory construct.