January 27, 2021
WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) urged former Governor Jennifer Granholm, nominee to serve as Secretary of Energy, to prioritize research into energy storage technology, saying it “opens the door” to full renewable power deployment worldwide. Senator King has been a leading voice on this value of energy storage technology for years, arguing improvements in this sector will unlock the full potential of the clean energy economy. The issue has been among Senator King’s top legislative priorities; recently, he introduced the Joint Long-Term Storage Act, which seeks to speed up deployment of long-duration energy storage technologies through strategic collaboration between federal agencies and was signed into law last month as part of the omnibus spending bill, and cosponsored the Energy Storage Tax Incentive and Deployment Act, bipartisan legislation which would establish an investment tax credit (ITC) for business and home use of energy storage.
Senator King also spent some of his time in the hearing sharing his concern of the difficult job transitions that will come with the shift from fossil fuels to renewables, warning of the impact on “stranded workers."
During his questioning of Governor Granholm, King said: “Somebody asked me my priorities on energy and I said ‘it’s storage, storage, and number three is storage,’” said Senator King. “There is research money in the bill we just passed. There is no more important work that you can be doing. And the example is, someone earlier mentioned the revolution in energy production by hydrofracking, which in fact was invented – in large measure – because of support from research funds at the Department of Energy. If we can break through with cost-effective storage, that really opens the door to full electrification, and full renewable electrification, so I hope that’s an emphasis that you will maintain while you work at the department.”
Also during today’s hearing, Senator King touted the groundbreaking research being done by the University of Maine to develop and deploy deepwater floating turbines off of Maine’s coast. Senator King underscored the collaboration between the University of Maine and the Department of Energy (DOE) on the New England Aqua Ventus I project, and invited Granholm to observe the research first-hand by visiting the University; in response, Governor Granholm replied that she would “very much like to come see” the project.
“Offshore wind is one of the greatest potential energy sources, and the real frontier is floating where the continental shelf is too deep,” said Senator King. “And I want to mention that the leading research on floating offshore wind technology being done at the University of Maine at Orono – they’ve been working with the Department over the past five years on the Aqua Ventus project. I commend that to you because if we’re going to tap the higher capacity factor and the enormous potential for offshore wind it’s going to have to be in deeper water and that means some kind of floating technology as you mentioned. So I would like to invite you to the composites lab at the university to see the amazing work that’s being done up there in this field.”
Senator King has been a strong advocate for UMaine’s offshore wind research, and recently celebrated a major investment in the project from the Department of Commerce. In 2019, Senator King welcomed then-Assistant Secretary Daniel Simmons to UMaine for a tour of the university’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center (ASCC) which houses the offshore wind work being done by students and researchers.
Additionally, Senator King responded to arguments from his colleagues about the potential for job losses in the fossil fuel industry as the U.S. moves toward a clean energy economy. During his second line of questioning in today’s hearing, he pushed for the DOE to work with the President and other departments to be mindful of the difficult transitions ahead in communities across the nation.
“One of the things that we’re struggling with in this hearing is that the changes in employment patterns occasionally by the movement to the carbon free economy are obvious,” said Senator King. “What’s hard to calculate is the changes – the drastic changes to our economy if we don’t make this transition. And the impacts all over the country in agriculture, in industry, in fisheries, in all of our coastal resources, everything from water in California – you name it. There’s an enormous cost on the other side that has to be part of this equation. Those of us who are concerned about climate change and doing something about it – not because it feels good or it looks good on a brochure but there are very practical national security and other implications of this that we really have to take account of and move forward on.”
“Which is, what I call “stranded workers” – workers who are in traditional industries when there are changes. This is a part of our history, what’s different today about our transitions is time,” Senator King continued. “In 1850, something like 94% of American workers were working in agriculture in one way or another, now it’s probably 5 or 6%. That’s a huge, earthshaking transition but it took 170 years. Now we’re seeing transitions that take decades and sometimes in some communities a matter of years. So I believe in what Senator Manchin and Governor Granholm are saying: we have to be thinking about how to ease these transitions and how to take account of them and not just say ‘oh well we’re not going to this and that anymore and those people can do something else’. Often they can’t – particularly in the place that they work. So we’ve got to be thinking about a strategy of protecting and transitioning people to a different economy in a hurry. And it can’t be something that just is an afterthought or something we hope will happen by the nature of things. So, Governor Granholm, I hope you’ll be thinking about that in the councils of the Administration, that the goals are important for the country but there are going to be transitions problems along the way and they should be dealt with consciously and deliberately and compassionately.”
A forceful advocate for clean energy solutions wherever they can be found, Senator King is a founding member of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, and a lead sponsor on a range of bills that encourage energy efficiency and research on clean energy technologies, such as the Battery and Critical Mineral Recycling Act which aims to incentivize the recycling of rechargeable and electrochemical batteries needed to meet the United States’ growing clean energy needs and decrease dependence on critical mineral imports.