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Knight Bill To Spur Energy Innovation Advances

Bill Would Establish Groundbreaking Research Program

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Washington, July 7, 2016 | Daniel Outlaw (202-225-1956) | comments

A bill by Rep. Steve Knight (CA-25) that would authorize a research initiative focused on new ways to create storable solar energy at the Department of Energy (DOE) passed a key committee on Thursday. 

H.R. 5638, the Solar Fuels Innovation Act, was introduced by Rep Knight earlier this week. The measure would institute a research program at the DOE Office of Science to develop the advanced chemistry needed in order to convert sunlight into storable fuels. Knight says that the process of creating fuels from sunlight, also known as artificial photosynthesis, could revolutionize solar energy, allowing us to harness and store sunlight in the form of chemical fuels. 

The legislation would also provide direction and accountability for translational research in solar fuels, focusing the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) on early stage research that cannot be undertaken by the private sector. This will allow innovative companies to take advantage of research conducted in our national labs and universities and translate that knowledge into new energy technology. Because the bill directs funds already authorized for the DOE Office of Science it creates no new costs and instead focuses limited tax dollars on basic research.

“This legislation would chart the path on breakthrough technology to turn sunlight into storable fuels, fundamentally changing the way we get energy and leading to entirely new economic sectors,” said Knight. “By wisely directing our resources toward meaningful research today we can create far-reaching economic impacts for the future.”

Knight, who serves as Vice-Chairman of the Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Energy, sees the legislation as a way to advance American innovation in energy and believes it could have long-term economic impacts. His previous work on energy policy includes a bill he authored this year that would expand opportunities for companies to contract with the federal government for energy production and improve the process for evaluating new energy projects.    

“In a move toward fiscally responsible legislation that brings a new approach to renewable energy through basic research, the Solar Fuels Innovation Act, introduced by my colleague and Energy Subcommittee Vice Chair Steve Knight, has spearheaded this commonsense initiative.  This legislation, H.R. 5638, has garnered the support of leading universities as SoFIA  takes a step forward in providing the private sector with the scientific understanding that is needed to eventually commercialize solar fuels technologies,”  said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. “With the increased coordination between basic research and early-stage translational R&D in this bill, American entrepreneurs will rely on this research and someday develop the next generation of solar technology.  I’m proud to take a step forward for innovation throughout the United States, and I look forward to seeing Rep. Knight’s bill come to the House floor in the near future.” 

H.R. 5638 is supported by a wide range of educational institutions, including Caltech and UC Irvine. The bill passed the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology with unanimous support on Thursday. 

 
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