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Daily on Energy: Angus King floats CHIPS Act 2.0 for small modular reactors

Jun 13, 2023

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SMRS AS THE RESPONSE TO CLIMATE CHANGE AND BLACKOUTS? Sen. Angus King floated a "CHIPS and Science Act 2" for small modular reactors to accelerate their development in order to slow climate change and reverse the considerable electric reliability problems plaguing regional grids from coast to coast.

King, during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources hearing this morning on grid reliability, said SMRs can check numerous boxes by serving the bulk power system's need for 24/7 power generation, as coal-fired plants can provide (but which renewables cannot), without emitting greenhouse gasses, a feature renewable sources provide (but which coal cannot).

"There's a danger of us losing whatever advantage we might have" on SMR design and demonstration, he said.

C&S 2.0: The Chips and Science Act authorized some $280 billion to fund research and subsidize domestic chip manufacturing.

Congress has also authorized funding, on a much smaller scale, for advanced reactor design and demonstration, including SMRs, to help novel technologies reach commercialization, but the leading designs are facing significant issues around fuel supply that are delaying demonstration.

They also run the risk of additional design-related delays as the point of demonstration draws nearer.

Larger themes at this morning's hearing: NERC chief Jim Robb drew the committee's attention to the strengths and weaknesses of all generating sources and said regulators and other decisionmakers must strike a balance between affordability, reliability, and sustainability when taking actions that affect the grid's resource mix.

Robb's bottom line: Robb called the ongoing retirement of coal-fired plants "disorderly" and reiterated the findings across recent NERC reports, including its most recent summer reliability assessment, that coal retirements are making reliability worse because their 24/7 attributes are not being replaced.

Welcome to Daily on Energy, written by Washington Examiner Energy and Environment Writers Jeremy Beaman (@jeremywbeaman) and Breanne Deppisch (@breanne_dep). Email [email protected] or [email protected] for tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. If a friend sent this to you and you’d like to sign up, click here. If signing up doesn't work, shoot us an email, and we’ll add you to our list.

OPEC+ UNLIKELY TO ORDER MORE OIL CUTS AT JUNE 4 MEETING: OPEC+ producers are unlikely to deepen oil production cuts at their upcoming meeting in Vienna this week, four sources with the alliance said, even as global crude prices continued to fall towards $70 per barrel.

"At this precise time, no change for the meeting but as usual, depending on the mood of some, everything can change," one OPEC+ source told Reuters. That view was echoed by three other sources, while two others said it was too soon to be sure of the meeting's outcome.

The group has twice slashed production at recent meetings, first in October, when it ordered a reduction of 2 million bpd, and then again in April, when it ordered additional voluntary cuts around 1.16 million bpd.

HSBC said this week that while it does not expect a policy change at the meeting, further cuts could be expected in the second half of the year if prices remain below $80 per barrel.

"We think the current set of cuts, in addition to the stronger oil demand we expect from China and the West from the summer onwards, will bring about a deficit in the market in 2H23," the bank said in a note.

SENATE AYES AND NAYS EMERGE AHEAD OF DEBT CEILING VOTE: A number of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans in the Senate announced their opposition to the White House-McCarthy debt deal, mirroring the fault lines of yesterday's 314-117 House vote.

Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Jeff Merkley of Oregon both announced yesterday they will vote against, saying their consciences wouldn't allow it.

On the other side, freshman Sen. Eric Schmitt of Missouri announced this morning that he will vote against the legislation, as has Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

MVP the key for Dems: Merkley called the Mountain Valley Pipeline an "an assault against a sustainable planet" and complained of the language cutting the Fourth Circuit, which has delivered a number of court rulings against the pipeline, out of the picture by moving any litigation to the D.C. Circuit.

"For Congress to—by law—move a court case from one jurisdiction to another, to provide a special favor to a powerful corporation, is fundamentally corrupt. This is a line we should never cross," he said.

Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia will be a "yes," his office said yesterday, despite his opposition to the MVP language being in the deal.

Schumer against amendments: Majority Leader Chuck Schumer dismissed the notion of amending the debt deal at all yesterday so as to avoid having to send it back to the House, giving less hope to supporters of Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine's attempt to strip the MVP out of the bill.

NEW BILL WOULD EXTEND IRA EV CREDITS TO MOTORCYCLES: Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation yesterday to allow electric motorcycles to be eligible for clean vehicle tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act.

The Electric Motorcycle Parity Act from Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin would extend the full $7,500 tax credit to qualifying bikes so long as it meets all the same assembly and sourcing requirements of the 30D credit for clean vehicles.

Baldwin said the IRA "left motorcycle riders and our motorcycle manufacturers out of the equation" and the new bill would remedy that.

Of note: Harley-Davidson, the nation's top motorcycle manufacturer, is headquartered in Wisconsin.

DOE ANNOUNCES AWARDS TO COMMERCIALIZE FUSION: The Department of Energy announced $46 million in funding to help eight companies commercialize fusion power plants.

The funding terms provide that awardees will use the money to resolve scientific and technological challenges to design and bring fusion power plants to a point of commercial viability within 5-10 years, according to DOE.

Awardees include Commonwealth Fusion Systems, Focused Energy Inc, and Tokamak Energy and represent ventures using both inertial confinement, the fusion process replicated in the LLNL breakthrough last year using lasers, and magnetic confinement, a process using high-powered magnets.

Bloomberg Why are electric car names so bad?