Murkowski Joins Bipartisan Effort To Expand Ocean Renewable Energy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Lisa Murkowski today joined a bipartisan group of Senators in sponsoring a bill that will provide research assistance, low-cost loans and a variety of federal aid for ocean renewable energy development. The Marine and Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Promotion Act of 2007 will also help level the playing field among new renewable energy technologies by establishing new permitting procedures to help ocean energy become a major source of renewable electricity for America in the future. “With our need to produce more power from renewable, non-carbon emitting sources, it just makes sense that we provide all forms of ocean energy all the federal assistance that we have traditionally given to wind, geothermal, solar and biomass generation,” said Senator Murkowski. “This bill will provide more financial assistance to speed the pace of development and also simplify the permitting and licensing process so that ocean projects can more rapidly become a reality. Given that there are already a number of ocean energy projects on the drawing boards in Alaska from Southeast, to Prince William Sound and from Cook Inlet to the Aleutians, it is vital that this assistance win congressional approval so we have a truly balanced national energy policy for the future.” This ocean energy bill, sponsored by Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI), is a follow up to provisions advanced by Senator Murkowski in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The Electric Power Research Institute has estimated that ocean resources in the United States could generate 252 million megawatt hours of electricity – 6.5 percent of America’s entire generating portfolio – if ocean energy gained the same financial incentives now enjoyed by other forms of renewable energy. More than three dozen states have the potential to produce ocean energy. In Alaska, for instance, there are 80 communities that could benefit from ocean energy production. With electricity currently selling for up to 91 cents per kilowatt hour in rural villages in Alaska, ocean energy has the potential to lower the cost of energy, to promote greater domestic energy independence, and to promote economic progress in much of Alaska and the nation. This bill, crafted in consultation with a number of environmental groups, will fully protect fisheries and wildlife, while advancing the future of ocean energy developments. The bill specifically: · Defines ocean energy as current generated from waves, tides and currents in oceans, estuaries and tidal areas, as free-flowing water in rivers, lakes and streams, as the free-flowing water in man-made channels and as the differentials in ocean temperature. No projects that utilize dams, diversionary structures or permanent impoundments may qualify to protect the environment. · Authorizes a new research program for ocean energy to develop and demonstrate marine and hydrokinetic energy sources, including transmission grids for such power. It requires consultation by the Secretary of Energy with the Secretaries of Commerce and Interior to prevent environmental impacts and authorizes $50 million annually for research over the next 10 years. · Creates an Adaptive Management and Environmental Fund to provide loan funds for the design, construction and decommissioning costs of ocean energy projects. The loans are for 20 years at rates of 2.1 percent. · Sets up an adaptive management plan process for winning permits and approval for placement of ocean energy projects, including a requirement that the Secretaries of Commerce and Interior with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission prepare a programmatic Environmental Impact Statement within 18 months of passage assessing the benefits and impacts of ocean energy. The plan, while not taking the place of any site-specific EIS, may help to reduce the time for site-specific EIS’s in the future, streamlining the permitting and regulatory process. · Makes ocean projects eligible for the current Production Tax Credit that other renewables receive, an up to 1.9 cents per kilowatt hour federal tax break, or the Investment Tax Credit, but not both, at the discretion of the project sponsor. · Allows all ocean energy projects to depreciate equipment over five years for tax purposes, which should reduce capital costs and make more projects economic to finance and build.