Photo: Illustration/Verdant Power deploying tidal turbines in New York (Courtesy of Verdant Power)

US: Bill to strengthen marine energy passes House

The United States House of Representatives has passed a bipartisan legislation to increase federal investments in marine energy under the Water Power Research and Development Act.

Illustration/Verdant Power deploying tidal turbines in New York (Courtesy of Verdant Power)
Illustration/Verdant Power deploying tidal turbines in New York (Courtesy of Verdant Power)

Led by Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), and Congressmen Don Young (R-AK), and Ted Deutch (D-FL), the Water Power Research and Development Act strengthens water power programs at the Department of Energy (DOE) and provides funding for research, development, demonstration, and commercialization of marine energy.

The legislation passed the House as part of a funding and COVID relief package, and will authorize $186.6 million for the DOE Water Power Technologies Office over the next four years, including $137.4 million for federal investments in marine energy.

Suzanne Bonamici said: “Our ocean holds tremendous potential to mitigate the climate crisis, but for too long the power of waves, tides, and currents has been an untapped clean energy resource.

“We must expedite our transition to a 100% clean energy economy, and scaling up the development of marine energy technologies can help sustainably power our homes, buildings, and communities, and also create good-paying jobs.

“I am thrilled that our Water Power Research and Development Act will be signed into law because it will accelerate innovative research and development, including the efforts of Oregon State University and the Pacific Marine Energy Center. I appreciate the support and collaboration of Rep. Don Young and Rep. Ted Deutch in moving this bill forward”.

“Reducing the increasing impacts of climate change requires that our nation move toward renewable sources of energy,” said Congressman Ted Deutch. “Harnessing marine and hydrokinetic power from ocean currents, waves, tides, and other sources can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and decrease carbon emissions. This bill will invest in research, development, and deployment of marine and hydrokinetic power that is currently being conducted by research centers, such as Florida Atlantic University. This is an investment in the energy of the future and one that I strongly support”.

Importantly, the bill authorizes funding for existing and new National Marine Energy Centers, including the Pacific Marine Energy Center – operated by Oregon State University, the University of Washington, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks – and Florida Atlantic University’s Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center.

Bryson Robertson, Co-Director of the Pacific Marine Energy Center at Oregon State University, said: “The Pacific Marine Energy Center at Oregon State University is working at the forefront to advance science, facilitate innovation, and develop the future workforce for what will become a multi-billion dollar marine energy sector. Enactment of the Water Power Research and Development Act sends an important and clear signal that the US remains committed to pursuing a commercially viable domestic marine energy sector that can reliably contribute toward a carbon-free energy portfolio. This is an exciting time for this emerging field.” 

After a measure passes in the House, it goes to the Senate for consideration. A bill must pass both bodies in the same form before it can be presented to the President for signature into law.

The Water Power Research and Development Act first passed the House in September. Bonamici has long advocated for funding for marine energy and she co-led the Marine Energy Research and Development Act last year. She also led her colleagues in securing $109 million in federal investments in marine energy for Fiscal Year 2021.

The Water Power Research and Development Act is also one of many recommendations included in the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis’ comprehensive Climate Action Plan that outlines a science-based path to reach net-zero emissions no later than mid-century and net-negative thereafter.