A bipartisan bill introduced in the US House of Representatives aims to make “transformational” new investments in American research, innovation and manufacturing, with a new $3bn fund being created to underpin development of a domestic solar manufacturing supply chain.
The American Competes– Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing Pre-Eminence in Technology and Economic Strength – Act has multiple objectives, including accelerating in-country production of critical semiconductor chips; advancing R&D that will lead to market-changing scientific and technology discoveries, and lessening reliance on China for industrial components and goods.
Among the act’s other aims are securing the country’s global competitiveness and leadership through economic development, diplomacy, human rights, and alliances, and strengthening US trade laws.
“If we’re going to continue to lead, the time is now to chart our own course,” said Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Texas Democrat who chains the House science, space and technology committee.
Reimagining and reinvesting in the country’s approach to science and innovation leadership globally has become a national imperative for economic, geopolitical and security reasons, say the bill’s authors.
The bill earmarks $52bn to incentivise private sector investment for semiconductor fabrication that will help address ongoing global supply chain disruptions that have impacted wide swaths of American manufacturing including clean energy.
For solar, the multi-billion-dollar funding would be available as grants and direct loans through 2026 to both construct new production facilities across the component value chain and expand or re-tool existing ones.
The also authorises $375m to be spent reducing electric grid vulnerability by establishing a strategic transformer reserve and for the development, testing, and monitoring of critical grid equipment.
The America Competes Act also includes $45bn in grants, loans, and loan guarantees to support supply chain resilience and manufacturing of critical goods, industrial equipment, and manufacturing technology.
How much bipartisan support the bill could garner in the House is unclear. Majority Democrats hold 220 seats, Republicans 212 and three are vacant, meaning the bill could pass on a party-line vote although the sponsors said this is not their intention.
If approved by the House, the bill would need support from 10 Republicans in the evenly divided 100 seat Senate for a 60-vote threshold that large pieces of legislation require for passage there.
Last August, 19 Republicans there voted for the $1trn Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that included funding for a range of clean energy-related activities such as funding for electric vehicle charging, grid, ports, and improved project permitting,
President Joe Biden is also likely to support the bill, depending on the final language, as creating a US clean energy manufacturing supply chain free of Chinese influence and staffed by union workers is among his biggest domestic policy priorities.