USE IT Act and Energy Act passed at year-end benefit electric cooperatives

The year-end government spending and COVID-19 relief bill included long-awaited energy legislation that will be beneficial to electric cooperatives.

The Energy Act of 2020 includes a grant program, supported by the National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association, for cooperatives and municipalities to deploy energy storage and microgrids. It also includes significant research and development funding for solar, wind, fossil energy, nuclear, hydroelectric power, storage, and grid modernization. The act is the first comprehensive modernization of the nation’s energy policies in 13 years, according to a press release by the Energy and Natural Resources Senate Committee. The omnibus bill also extended deadlines for several energy tax incentives.

Separately, the Utilizing Significant Emissions with Innovative Technologies (USE IT) Act, introduced by U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) to incentivize carbon capture technology development and deployment, was included with the omnibus bill. The USE IT Act will improve existing grant programs and regulatory processes for the deployment of carbon capture project and related infrastructure.

At the request of Sen. Barrasso, Basin Electric CEO and General Manager Paul Sukut testified before  the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in support of the USE IT Act in early 2019.

“Legislation such as the 45Q carbon capture tax credit that was expanded last year, as well as the USE IT Act, provide further assistance to relieve the regulatory and financial barriers to carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration, as well as other novel technologies,” Sukut said. “ I thank members of this committee for their support of these legislative efforts.”

The Great Plains Synfuels Plant, operated by Basin Electric subsidiary Dakota Gas, is the largest carbon sequestration project in the world. The facility has captured and transported nearly 40 million tons of carbon dioxide for sequestration since 2000.

Basin Electric has also expanded its interest in developing carbon capture solutions through its partnership with the Integrated Test Center, located at Basin Electric’s Dry Fork Station outside of Gillette, Wyoming. Using flue gas provided by the Dry Fork Station, this test facility provides space for researchers to explore new and innovative solutions to turn carbon dioxide into a marketable commodity.

Wyoming CarbonSAFE, also located at Dry Fork Station, implemented by the U.S. Department of Energy, is investigating the feasibility of underground carbon dioxide emissions storage from coal-based electric generation facilities. Feasibility is determined by whether storage is found to be practical, secure, and permanent. Several deep geologic layers are being studied for their suitability for carbon dioxide storage.