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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On September 30, 2021, DOE announced the launch of a new prize that will award up to $2.5 million in cash prizes to ten groups and organizations that support entrepreneurship and innovation in historically underserved communities. The Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize acknowledges that underserved populations have been and continue to be more susceptible to the negative impact of climate change, global warming, and pollution. DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and the office of Economic Impact and Diversity (ED), hope to improve disadvantaged communities’ access to clean energy innovation ecosystems and to opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The prize supports the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 Initiative to prioritize environmental and economic justice in the United States’ transition into a net-zero economy by 2050. The goals of the Prize are to:

  • Enable clean energy and climate innovation at colleges and universities serving large populations of students that are underrepresented in STEM, Minority Serving Institutions (MSI), community colleges, and undergraduate institutions.
     
  • Create and increase participation in clean energy and climate-smart job training and placement, including programs that target participation from:
     
    • Underserved populations;
       
    • Formerly incarcerated individuals; and
       
    • Youth transitioning from foster care.
       
  • Foster just and equitable clean energy deployment through grassroots innovation activities focused on community-centric networks and bottom-up solutions for sustainable development based on the needs of the communities involved.
     
  • Identify and fund activities that will help bring awareness to DOE, federal, state, local government, or private funding in support of the Justice40 goals.
     
  • Enable the development of replicable clean energy transitions that deliver just and equitable benefits to disadvantaged communities.

DOE and ED will distribute Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize funds in two phases. In Phase One, winners will receive an initial cash prize of $200,000 each, with an opportunity to receive additional awards, mentorship, and other services. Phase One winners will also be eligible for participation in Phase Two prizes. In Phase Two, up to three teams will receive cash prizes from a pool of $500,000.

Phase One applications may be submitted until 5:00 p.m. (EST) on February 25, 2022, with winner announcements in March 2022. Phase Two applications may be submitted beginning in March 2023. Information on how to apply is available here.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
 
On August 26, 2021, DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity (ED) announced the launch of the Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize. The new prize will provide cash prizes of up to $250,000 each -- totaling $2.5 million -- to groups and organizations in support of entrepreneurship and innovation in communities historically underrepresented and underserved in the energy sector. Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Kelly Speakes-Backman said that this new prize is part of EERE’s effort to address the urgent need for diversity in the funding applications EERE receives. Ms. Speakes-Backman added, “We know climate change disproportionally affects underserved communities, so it is also critical that we change that -- by partnering with these communities when developing climate solutions together.” This new prize aligns with President Biden Administration’s Justice40 Initiative that aims to deliver 40 percent of the overall benefits of relevant federal investments in climate and clean energy to underserved communities.
 
In hopes of attracting and supporting innovators and entrepreneurs from all backgrounds, the Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize aims to:

  • “Support organizations to create or identify activities that provide incubation, acceleration, and community-based entrepreneurship and innovation services in climate and clean energy technologies.
  • Identify and fund activities that will help traditionally underrepresented groups apply for and receive DOE funding in support of DOE’s Justice40 goals.
  • Build trust and strengthen relationships and partnerships with underrepresented, underserved, and frontline communities or community-serving organizations to understand and lower barriers to entry to DOE funding opportunities.
  • Foster grassroots innovation in policy and process related to just and equitable clean energy deployment.
  • Support colleges, universities, and other educational institutions that serve large populations of students traditionally underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), including Minority Serving Institutions, tribal colleges, community colleges, and predominantly undergraduate institutions.”

The Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize will open to submissions later in September 2021, welcoming applications from community-centric organizations and educational institutions with experience engaging with and promoting underrepresented communities. These organizations will support environmental, climate, and energy justice by using their experience and institutional knowledge to serve as a bridge between DOE and innovators.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
 
On July 14, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a new goal under the Energy Earthshot Initiative’s (Energy Earthshots): “Long Duration Storage Shot.” The Energy Earthshots program focuses on scientific breakthroughs that can lead to more abundant, affordable, and reliable clean energy solutions within this decade as the United States aims to achieve net-zero carbon goals by 2050. The second target within Energy Earthshots aims to accelerate innovation in long-term storage of clean electricity. Long duration energy storage, defined by DOE as systems that can store more than ten hours of energy at once, would facilitate the capture and storage of energy for later use when energy generation is unavailable or lower than demand. Scenarios provided by DOE include solar-generated power that could be used at night or nuclear energy generated during times of low demand to be used when demand increases. The Long Duration Storage Shot will consider all types of technology, including electrochemical, mechanical, thermal, chemical carriers, or combinations of these technologies.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson
 
On June 15, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) announced that it will host a webinar with EERE’s Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) for Renewable Power, Alejandro Moreno, on June 17, 2021, at 4:00 p.m. (EDT). The one-hour webinar will cover activities, programs, and initiatives proposed in EERE’s budget request. EERE requested $4.7 billion in an effort to lead the transition of the national economy into a 100 percent clean energy economy. The webinar is titled “EERE FY 22 Budget Request: Renewable Power.” DAS Moreno will be joined by several directors from EERE’s Renewable Power Technology pillar:

  • Becca Jones-Albertus, Director, Solar Energy Technologies Office;
  • Jennifer Garson, Acting Director, Water Power Technologies Office;
  • Susan Hamm, Director, Geothermal Technologies Office; and
  • Robert Marlay, Director, Wind Energy Technologies Office.

The final 15 minutes will be reserved for questions. Registration is require via this link. EERE will host two additional webinars on the FY22 budget request for the Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Transportation pillars.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On June 9, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that 235 U.S. small businesses will receive $54 million in critical seed funding for 266 projects focused on developing and deploying novel technology solutions that contribute to the goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. Administered by DOE’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, selected projects include:

  • Grid-smart building controls;
  • Solving laser distortions; and
  • Workforce development and experiential bioenergy.

The class of awardees is designing new solutions to U.S. energy needs through carbon capture and storage, electric vehicle batteries, and solar and hydrogen power, among other types of energy. Additional information about the selected projects is available here.
 
As part of its announcement, DOE released an Inclusive Innovation Request for Information (RFI) to ensure that funding opportunities and innovation activities are more inclusive. More information on the RFI is available here. The deadline for full application submission is August 6, 2021.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On April 29, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), in partnership with nine National Laboratories, issued a report titled “Hybrid Energy Systems: Opportunities for Coordinated Research.” The report outlines opportunities for innovation through joint research and development (R&D) on hybrid energy systems.  According to DOE, these opportunities can drive the production of valuable chemicals, fuels, and products that are cost-efficient, increase grid flexibility, and decarbonize the U.S. economy.  The report comes at a crucial point in time as DOE focuses on meeting the Biden Administration’s goal of achieving 100 percent clean energy by 2050.  DOE Hybrids Task Force members and representatives from various DOE offices will use the report as an optimization tool to design more cost-efficient and grid-friendly hybridization technologies.


 

By  Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On April 27, 2021, DOE’s Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) issued a Federal Agency Call (FAC) titled “Assisting Federal Facilities with Energy Conservation Technologies (AFFECT 2021),” soliciting $13 million for new energy projects that will help federal facilities to improve the efficiency of their operations and reduce their carbon footprints.  These efforts come with the hope that DOE will contribute to the Biden Administration’s goal of a 100 percent clean-energy economy and net-zero emissions by 2050.  DOE’s FEMP actions will, according to DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE) Acting Assistant Secretary, Kelly Speakes-Backman, “… both decarbonize and strengthen the critical energy and water infrastructure at … federal facilities, ensuring continuous operations in times of crisis.”
 
AFFECT 2021 will fund efficient, clean-energy projects that address directly climate change mitigation and adaptation through privately financed performance contracts, including:

  • Energy savings performance contracts (ESPC);
  • ESPC ENABLE – An initiative designed to permit a standardized and streamlined procurement process for small federal energy conservation measures (ECM) projects in six months or less; and
  • Utility energy services contracts (UESC).

The goal is for these performance contracts to leverage the $13 million in AFFECT grants into approximately $260 million or more in project investments.
 
Applications are being accepted for the AFFECT 2021 FAC until July 16, 2021, at 5:00 p.m. (EDT).  Registration is required prior to submission through EERE Exchange. Additional information is available here.


 

By  Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) researchers are leading analyses of recycling, repairing, and reusing solar photovoltaic (PV) installations in support of NREL’s mission to incentivize a circular economy for energy materials.  According to NREL, the increase in the installation of PV systems is leading to environmental and supply chain concerns because the technology relies on imports and mining of raw materials to meet domestic demands.  NREL predicts that, by 2030, decommissioned PV modules could total a million tons of waste in the United States or one percent of the world’s e-waste.  Concerned by these facts, NREL researchers have been leading ongoing analyses of the end-of-life management of PV modules in the current market.  Taylor Curtis, an NREL sustainability analyst, highlights that “[r]epair, reuse, or recovery of this equipment would reduce negative environmental impacts, reduce resource constraints, and stimulate U.S. economic growth.”
 
According to NREL research, if best practices are applied and regulatory barriers removed in the future, the U.S. industry for recovered PV materials could total $60 million by 2030 or $2 billion by 2050, from modules alone.  A summary of NREL’s recommended best practices for retiring PV systems is detailed in this report, and a detailed analysis of current federal and state regulatory barriers to PV module recycling and recovery is available in NREL’s March 2021 report titled “Solar Photovoltaic Module Recycling: A Survey of U.S. Policies and Initiatives.”


 

By  Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On March 31, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) announced a new request for proposals (RFP) and $4 million in selections for projects aimed at accelerating the adoption of Smart Manufacturing practices. In support of the Biden Administration’s efforts to encourage innovation and reduce the carbon footprint of the manufacturing sector, the new $2 million RFP will expand DOE’s Clean Energy Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute’s (CESMII) Smart Manufacturing Innovation Centers (SMIC). SMICs consist of a network of individuals and organizations from industry, government, and academia who allow manufacturers of all sizes to benefit from the network’s assets and competencies and to create test beds. CESMII has also selected 14 new research and development (R&D) projects that will apply Smart Manufacturing solutions to real-world manufacturing process and operation challenges to improve performance, quality, and efficiency of energy productivity.


 

By  Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On March 10, 2021, DOE EERE issued notices of intent (NOIs) for three sustainable transportation technologies funding opportunity announcements (FOAs). Expected in Spring 2021, these FOAs will focus on innovative research, development, demonstration, and deployment (RDD&D) of technologies that will reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across the transportation sector. Of particular interest is DOE EERE’s NOI for an FOA in Bioenergy Technologies Office Scale-Up and Conversion, which would be led by DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO). BETO focuses on the development of technologies that convert domestic biomass and other waste resources into low-carbon biofuels and bioproducts that can enable a transition into a clean energy economy. These bioenergy technologies can also create high-quality jobs, support rural communities, and spur renewable energy and chemical production innovation. According to DOE, this particular NOI on the bioeconomy anticipates supporting high-technology RDD&D to improve scientific and engineering knowledge required to produce low-carbon biofuels at lower costs. DOE states that it will allow for partnerships with industry to demonstrate these technologies are relevant at industrial scales.


 
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