U.S. legislation would authorize $3 billion for marine R&D

Bills now in Congress would authorize appropriations totaling $3 billion over 12 years to promote development and use of marine renewable energy technologies, including wave, tidal, and in-stream energy.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, introduced the Marine Renewable Energy Promotion Act of 2009, S.923, April 29 for consideration by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., introduced companion legislation, H.R.2148, in the House April 28. The Science and Technology, Energy and Commerce, and Ways and Means committees will consider that bill.

The bills would authorize an appropriation of $250 million each year to carry out the new program for fiscal years 2010 through 2021. Senate and House members previously called on the Department of Energy to allot $250 million from economic stimulus funds for renewable energy to support marine renewable technologies. (HNN 3/31/09)

The legislation would direct the secretary of Energy to establish a marine renewable energy research and development program separate from the department’s wind and hydropower program. (HNN 3/11/09) The marine R&D program would focus on: developing new technologies; reducing manufacturing and operational costs of technologies; increasing facility reliability; integrating marine renewable energy into the national energy grid; and identifying opportunities for collaboration and development of economies of scale between wind and marine renewable energy sources.

The legislation would direct DOE to establish a marine-based energy device verification initiative to provide a bridge to commercial deployment for wave, tidal, current, or thermal energy capture device design and development efforts.

Bills include environmental component

The program also would: identify environmental effects of marine renewable energy and ways to address any negative effects; apply advanced systems engineering and system integration to identify critical interfaces and develop standards for marine renewable energy; transfer information to industry stakeholders as public information; and develop incentives for industry to comply with standards.

The bills also would have an adaptive management and environmental component, establishing a fund to provide grants to help marine renewable energy projects comply with federal, state, or local regulatory permit requirements. DOE also could use amounts from the fund to provide assistance to state resource agencies that are processing applications for permits required for projects that have received assistance from the fund.

The bills define marine renewable energy as energy from: waves, tides, and currents in oceans, estuaries, and tidal areas; free-flowing water in rivers, lakes, man-made channels, and streams; and differentials in ocean temperature or ocean thermal energy conversion.

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