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Klobuchar co-sponsors bill to expand renewable energy access in rural areas

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL-Minn.

U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan., introduced new bipartisan legislation to help rural communities access renewable energy.

The Expanding Access to Sustainable Energy Act will assist rural communities and rural electricity cooperatives to overcome the barriers to renewable energy storage and grid improvements by providing access to relevant resources and expertise.

In 2013, the Department of Energy created the Solar Utility Network Deployment Acceleration project, in partnership with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, to increase the adoption of solar energy in rural communities across the country. The SUNDA project ended in 2018, but the EASE Act would implement similar initiatives and make it as easy as possible for rural communities and their electricity cooperatives to plan, implement and maintain their own renewable energy storage and microgrid projects.

"We need a comprehensive energy strategy that puts America back in control of our energy supply—one that creates jobs, reduces our dependence on foreign oil, keeps energy costs affordable for all Americans, and responds to the challenges of global climate change," Klobuchar stated in a news release. "This bipartisan legislation will improve rural community energy resiliency and autonomy, spur economic activity, and improve public and environmental health."

The need to improve energy grid capacity and resiliency, as well as the intermittency of solar and wind power, has increased interest in energy storage, which can contribute to meeting electricity demand during peak times. In 2017, the U.S. generated 4 billion megawatt-hours of electricity, but had only 431 MWh of electricity storage available.

Although tax incentives have aided development of renewable energy projects, some of the most significant barriers to exploration and establishment of new renewable energy projects like storage in rural communities is navigating the planning, implementation and maintenance of these projects. Some of these major barriers to development of new rural projects can be reduced by providing communities and rural electricity cooperatives with access to relevant resources and expertise.