On 24 September, the US House of Representatives passed HR 4447, the Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act, by a vote of 220-185. The legislation combines a series of bills that would authorise new research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) initiatives at the Department of Energy across each of DOE’s applied energy research programes and authorise new funding for electric vehicle infrastructure, energy efficiency programmes, electric grid modernisation, and environmental justice programmes. The bill also includes a phasedown of the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a top legislative priority for House Energy and Commerce Committee Democratic leadership this year.
The Act supports the objectives of Congressional Democrats to implement policy achieving economy-wide net-zero emissions by 2050. The bill focuses on investing in clean energy innovation programs and setting up a foundation upon which future energy and climate legislation could be built. House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Frank Pallone (Democrat, New Jersey) called the bill a “down payment” in the fight against climate change.
It is notable that the bill does not include any broad economy- or electric sector-wide emissions reduction policies or regulatory mandates that were a major feature of the draft CLEAN Future Act legislation, or HR 2, the Moving Forward Act that were both considered earlier this year.
The legislation is a work product of three House Committees – the Energy and Commerce Committee, the Natural Resources Committee, and the Science, Space, and Technology Committee. The Energy and Commerce and House Natural Resources Committees included bills in the package that were included in previous legislation that focused on authorising funding for clean energy and EV infrastructure and deploying renewable energy on public lands. The Science, Space, and Technology Committee, which has jurisdiction over all federal non-defence research and development activities, included a suite of legislation it has developed throughout the 116th Congress to re-authorise and create new RD&D programmes focused on a wide range of renewables and infrastructure areas including solar energy, wind energy, geothermal, CCUS, nuclear energy, grid modernisation, energy storage and industrial emissions technologies.
The bill also authorises increased funding for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) and incorporated an amendment to add emissions reduction and climate change mitigation to DOE’s research and development mission.
With the passage of the Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act in the House, Congress could move to a conference negotiation on an energy bill after the presidential election if floor time for the Senate bill can be made availalble. However, the combination of electoral politics and the Supreme Court nomination process prior to the November elections, and the need to address federal appropriations for Fiscal Year 2021 and a possible COVID-19 stimulus package may diminish the political will required to move an energy package this year.
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