On February 17, 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)
published in the Federal Register a Notice
of Open Meeting for the Biomass Research and Development Technical Advisory
Committee (the Committee). The Committee plans to meet on March 5, 2015, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30
p.m. and March
6, 2015, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Marriott Wardman
Park in Washington, D.C. The agenda includes updates on the Biomass Research
and Development Initiative, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and DOE
Biomass R&D Activities, the DOE Bioenergy Technologies Office Funding
Opportunity Announcements, and the Committee's plan for 2015. To attend the
meeting, contact Elliott
Levine and Roy Tiley
by February 26, 2015.
Minutes of the meeting will be available within 60 days of the meeting at the Biomass Research
& Development Meetings Page.
February 2, 2015, the
White House released the 2016 fiscal year budget request for the U.S.
Department of Energy (DOE). Under this proposed plan, DOE
would receive $29.9 billion, an increase of $2.6 billion from the
2015 fiscal year. The increase in funding for DOE would focus on renewable
energy, energy efficiency, and clean power technology with some of the
additional money coming from DOE's fossil fuel programs. A total of $7.4
billion of the funding would go specifically towards clean energy technology,
including renewable and biobased developments. The budget request would also
make the renewable energy production and investment tax credits permanent. In
addition to making the existing tax credits permanent, new credits were
proposed that will focus on carbon capture, utilization, and storage
technologies. In contrast to the proposed additional tax credits for
renewables, existing tax incentives for the oil, gas, and coal industries would
be repealed. The current budget request is unlikely to pass in the House of
Representatives, but shows the focus on renewable energy that the current
On October 31, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released two plans related to climate change. The Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan and the Climate Change Adaptation Plan are intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for flooding, rising sea levels, and extreme temperatures/weather patterns. These plans come five years after the 2009 Executive Order on Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance that set energy, climate, and environmental goals for government agencies. The release of the plans gave Energy Secretary Dr. Ernest Moniz an opportunity to outline how the use of clean energy resources, as part of the Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan, has been implemented within the Department. DOE has increased the number of buildings that achieved federal guiding principles for high performance and sustainable buildings. It has completed a biomass cogeneration facility in South Carolina and an 11.5 megawatt wind farm, both of which serve to reduce the use of non-renewable energy. DOE was also recognized as a 2014 GreenGov Presidential Award Winner for its work with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to produce a five percent reduction in DOT's total fuel consumption, and a 20 percent increase in DOT's use of alternative fuels.
DOE has developed a small business "All-in-one Application Tool" for small businesses looking for funds to advance clean energy technologies. The online tool provides a guide for potential applicants for the topics under the DOE Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. Among the nine topics identified by SBIR is bioenergy, with particular focus on biomass conversion systems, coatings for metal combustors, and solid-liquid separations for algal systems.
On October 27, 2014, President Obama announced new plans to strengthen the manufacturing sector. One of the listed plans involved the Departments of Defense, Energy, and Agriculture, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) coming together to invest in advanced materials, advanced sensors, and digital manufacturing. These three areas were determined to be critical to U.S. competitiveness and include biobased materials in the advanced materials category. Over $300 million is going to be invested across the three categories and the research investments by the federal government are expected to be matched by efforts in the private sector. More information about the announcement can be found in the statement released by the Office of the Press Secretary.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) issued an announcement for its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, including the technology transfer opportunity, which focuses on small businesses' commercialization of intellectual property from DOE-funded laboratories and universities. Small businesses selected for the programs are allowed to maintain the rights to new technologies they develop, and are encouraged to transfer these technologies to the marketplace.
On October 17, 2014, Abengoa opened -- and DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz dedicated -- the world's largest cellulosic biorefinery in Hugoton, Kansas. This second generation cellulosic ethanol plant will process 1,000 tons of biomass per day and utilize mainly corn stover, as well as wheat straw, milo stubble, and switch grass. This biorefinery will produce up to 25 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol every year. It benefited from a $132.4 million loan guarantee and a $97 million grant, both from DOE. More information about the plant and comments from the opening ceremony are available in a DOE press release, "Secretary Moniz Dedicates Innovative Commercial-Scale Cellulosic Biofuel Plant" and on the Biofuels Digest website.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced up to $25 million in funding to reduce the cost of algal biofuels to less than $5 per gasoline gallon equivalent (gge) by 2019. On behalf of the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy posted a notice of a funding opportunity, entitled "Targeted Algal Biofuels and Bioproducts" (TABB). The TABB Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) looks for pathways to overcome the key barriers to commercializing algal biofuels: the high cost of producing algal biomass and the low yield of target biofuel and bioproduct feedstocks produced from algae. Specifically, the TABB FOA will support: (1) the development of algae cultures that produce valuable bioproducts alongside fuels to increase the overall value of the biomass; and (2) the development of crop protection and carbon dioxide utilization technologies to boost culture productivity and yield to reduce the cost of the biomass. There will be an information webinar on October 8, 2014. Information on the webinar is available online.
More information on the TABB FOA and applications is available online.
BRAG member Micromidas, along with the Michigan Molecular Institute and Michigan Sugar Company, is working on a $150,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from DOE with the goal of developing a process to convert sugar beet waste into useful chemicals. After sugar has been extracted from sugar beets, the remaining residue still contains a significant amount of sugars that can be converted into biobased PET. The development of biobased packaging materials, such as those championed by Coca-Cola, Heinz, and Proctor & Gamble, has resulted in an increased demand for biobased PET that can match the cost of petroleum-based PET. While research is still in the early phases, it is possible that additional work could continue "through an SBIR Phase II grant, which is $1,000,000." More information is available online.
On September 19, 2014, Secretary Vilsack was joined by Deputy Secretary of Energy, Dan Poneman, and Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, to announce contract awards to three separate companies to produce over one million gallons per year of advanced drop-in jet biofuels to be used by the U.S. Department of Defense and the private transportation sector. The three companies receiving the $210 million in contract awards are Emerald Biofuels, Fulcrum Bioenergy, and Red Rock Biofuels. The announcement was shown via live webcast via the White House website. More information is available here and here.
This announcement comes as part of an ongoing joint, combined $510 million effort among the Departments of Energy, Agriculture, and the Navy to help facilitate the production and use of U.S. advanced drop-in biofuels for military and commercial use.