Murkowski Offers Legislation Promoting Ocean Energy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today introduced legislation to encourage development of renewable ocean energy.
Murkowski introduced companion legislation to a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., that would authorize as much as $250 million a year to promote ocean research – one of the technologies being pushed for expansion by the Obama Administration.
“Coming from Alaska, where there are nearly 150 communities located along the state’s 34,000 miles of coastline plus dozens more on major river systems, it’s clear that perfecting marine energy could be of immense benefit to the nation,” said Murkowski, ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “It simply makes sense to harness the power of the sun, wind, waves and river and ocean currents to make electricity.”
The Marine Renewable Energy Promotion Act of 2009 and a companion tax provision would expand federal research of marine energy, take over the cost verification of new wave, current, tidal and thermal ocean energy devices, create an adaptive management fund to help pay for the demonstration and deployment of such electric projects and provide a key additional tax incentive.
The bills are a follow up to efforts by Murkowski in 2005 and 2007 to promote ocean energy. In those years she sponsored successful provisions to allow ocean hydrokinetic energy to qualify for the federal purchase requirement and the federal production incentive in 2005, and helped author more research funding and an ocean energy demonstration center provision in 2007.
The legislation would:
  • Authorize the U.S. Department of Energy to increase its research and development effort, working to develop new technologies, reduce manufacturing and operating costs of the devices, improve the reliability and survivability of marine energy facilities and make sure that such power can be integrated into the national electricity grid. The bill also encourages efforts to allow marine energy to work in conjunction with other forms of energy, such as offshore wind, and authorizes more federal aid to assess and deal with any environmental impacts. The bill also authorizes establishment of project standards and provides for incentives to help the industry comply with any standards developed.
  • Allow for the creation of a federal Marine-Based Energy Device Verification program in which the government would test and certify the performance of new marine technologies to reduce market risks for utilities purchasing power from such projects. 
  • Authorize the federal government to set up an adaptive management program, and a fund to help pay for the regulatory permitting and development of new marine technologies.
  •  And a separate bill, likely to be referred to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration, would ensure marine projects benefit from being able to accelerate the depreciation of their project costs over five years – like some other renewable energy technologies currently can do. The provision should enhance project economic returns for private developers

The bill is designed to aid development nationally, but also in Alaska where several companies already have proposed projects to test current devices in rivers and Cook Inlet. Projects are under consideration at Eagle, Galena and Tanana, in addition to near Anchorage, with others being considered near Homer and in Southeast.

Nationally, given that the sun imparts to the oceans by heat and the generation of winds each day as much energy as is contained in 250 billion barrels of oil, marine hydrokinetic energy has the potential to be a major source of the world’s clean, non-carbon emitting power. The Electric Power Research Institute estimates that ocean resources in the United States could generate 252 million megawatt hours of electricity – 6.5 percent of America’s entire electricity generation – if ocean energy gained the same financial and research incentives currently enjoyed by other forms of renewable energy.
“This bill, if approved, will bring us closer to a level playing field so that ocean energy can compete with wind, solar, geothermal and biomass technologies to generate clean energy,” Murkowski said.