Positive, Tentative Congressional Steps on Ocean Renewables

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 232-187 with 14 Not Voting to approve H.R. 4761 — the Deep Ocean Energy Resource (DOER) Act — an important piece of legislation for the budding U.S. ocean energy industry. The approval includes funding of $100 million over five years. While the move by Congress is still a ways away from becoming law, ocean energy representatives see it as a positive move.

The House approved the Inslee Amendment on a voice vote, which increases from $6 million per year to $20 million per year the amount allocated for direct grants to ocean renewable projects. These grants require 50% matching funds from private investment; however, $20 million represents a minimum investment. The DOER Act contains various features that will help foster ocean renewable development, including Section 10 (authorizing Secretary to pass rules that would allow use of decommissioned oil rigs for all purposes in Section 8(p) of the OCSLA, including offshore renewable testing and development); Section 14 (distributing funds to support environmental studies in connection with bio-fuels, wind…or other energy production (which would include ocean); Section 26 (as amended, providing a minimum of $20 million annually to fund a grant program for ocean renewable energy projects). In addition, the DOER Act contains provisions that will allow states a greater share of royalties from offshore energy development, which will allow offshore renewable developers to gain state support for projects. Also, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy & Water approved $4 million to fund Section 931 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Section 931 requires the DOE to “conduct a program of research, development, demonstration and commercial application for cost-competitive technologies that enable the development of new and incremental hydropower capacity, adding diversity of the energy supply of the United States, including: (i) Fish-friendly large turbines. (ii) Advanced technologies to enhance environmental performance and yield greater energy efficiencies. (…) The Secretary shall conduct research, development, demonstration, and commercial application programs for (i) ocean energy, including wave energy (…) and (iv) kinetic hydro turbines.” While ocean energy advocates had requested $50 million and received $4 million, they said this move by Congress represents a “sea change” in Congressional attitudes towards ocean renewable power. That being said, these Congressional commitments have not been finalized into law — that will require further congressional action.

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