Big Bucks coming from DOE – $300M for sustainable transportation includes $100M for biofuels

January 26, 2020 |

No, we aren’t going to be riding on the backs of big bucks for transportation, but transportation will be changing with the big news from Washington, D.C. at the Washington Auto Show, that the U.S. Department of Energy is investing nearly $300 million in funding for research and development of sustainable transportation resources and technologies. And of that, nearly $100 million is specifically for biofuels and bioenergy. Either way you look at it, that’s a lot of big bucks for the bioeconomy.

The news came from Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes that this investment, split up between three, separate funding opportunity announcements (FOA), “supports DOE’s goal of ensuring that as the transportation system transforms, consumers have affordable, clean, efficient, and domestic energy options that give families and businesses greater choice in how they meet their mobility needs.”

Showin’ da money fo sho

So who’s getting the $300 million? The new investment spans three funding opportunities. Funded through the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), the three FOAs will be issued on behalf of the three transportation offices: Vehicle, Fuel Cells, and Bioenergy Technology Offices.

Here’s a quick summary of each of the FOAs:

  • FY20 Vehicles Technologies Office (VTO) Multi-Topic FOA ($133M): Issued on behalf of DOE’s VTO , topic areas within this FOA address priorities in advanced batteries and electrification; advanced engine and fuel technologies, including technologies for off-road applications; lightweight materials; new mobility technologies (energy efficient mobility systems), and alternative fuels technology demonstrations.
  • [email protected] New Markets FOA ($64M): Issued on behalf of DOE’s Fuel Cells Technologies Office (FCTO), topic areas within this FOA advance DOE’s [email protected] initiative. This investment will support innovative hydrogen concepts that will encourage market expansion and increase the scale of hydrogen production, storage, transport, and use, including heavy-duty trucks, data centers and steel production. Our Hydrogen Digest readers will be happy about this one in particular!
  • FY20 Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) Multi-Topic FOA ($100M): Issued on behalf of DOE’s BETO, topic areas within this FOA support the U.S. bioeconomy by reducing the price of drop-in biofuels, lowering the cost of biopower, and enabling high-value products from biomass or waste resources. Here’s the one that Digest readers are probably interested in the most. We’ll get into that in a minute, but first, here’s a bit about the application process.

Application Process

The application process will include two phases: a concept paper submission and a full application submission.

  • For the BETO FOA, concept papers are due on March 5, 2020 and full applications are due on April 30, 2020.
  • For the FCTO FOA, concept papers are due on February 25, 2020 and full applications are due on April 20, 2020.
  • For the VTO FOA, concept papers are due on February 21, 2020 and full applications are due on April 14, 2020.

For more information, please refer to the BETO, FCTO and VTO FOAs on EERE Exchange.

Nearly $100M specifically for biofuels, bioenergy R&D

Of the $300 million, nearly $100 million in funding will be for the BETO FOA focused on bioenergy research and development to address BETO’s highest priority R&D areas. If you aren’t familiar with BETO, they develop technologies that convert domestic biomass and other waste resources into fuels, products, and power to enable affordable energy, economic growth, and innovation in renewable energy and chemicals production – the bioeconomy.

The BETO FOA specifically includes Topic Areas from 5 BETO programs: Feedstock Supply and Logistics; Advanced Algal Systems; Conversion Technologies; Advanced Development and Optimization; and Strategic Analysis and Crosscutting Sustainability. Each Topic Area supports BETO’s objectives to reduce the minimum selling price of drop-in biofuels, lower the cost of biopower, and enable high-value products from biomass or waste resources.

Topic areas, with allocated dollar amounts, include:

  • Topic 1: Scale-Up of Bench Applications/SCUBA (up to $28M): Reducing scale-up risk of biofuel and bioproduct processes.
  • Topic 2: Waste to Energy Strategies for a Bioeconomy (up to $18M): Addressing ways to use materials that are currently “waste” to make energy and new products, including strategies for municipal solid waste; wet wastes, like food and manures; and municipal waste water treatment.
  • Topic 3: Algae Bioproducts and CO2 Direct-Air-Capture and Efficiency/ABCDE (up to $14M): Lowering the cost of algal biofuels by improving carbon efficiency, and/or by employing direct air capture technologies.
  • Topic 4: Bio-Restore: Biomass to Restore Natural Resources (up to $8M): Quantifying the economic and environmental benefits associated with growing energy crops, with a focus on restoring water quality and soil health.
  • Topic 5: Efficient Wood Heaters (up to $5M): Developing and testing low-emission, high efficiency residential wood heaters.
  • Topic 6: Biopower and Products from Urban and Suburban Wastes: North American Multi-University Partnership for Research and Education (up to $15M): Developing innovative technologies to manage major forms of urban and suburban waste, with a focus on using plastic waste to make recycled products and using wastes to produce low-cost biopower.
  • Topic 7: Scalable CO2 Electrocatalysis (up to $8M): Developing low temperature and low pressure CO2 electrocatalysis technologies for generating chemical building blocks.

The application process will include two phases: a concept paper and a full application. Concept papers are due on March 5, 2020 and full applications are due on April 30, 2020.

Learn more about the full funding opportunity announcement on EERE Exchange.

Thoughts from the DOE on the $300M

“As we enter a new decade, DOE remains diligent in addressing the various challenges and opportunities associated with the dramatic changes occurring within our transportation sector,” said Under Secretary Menezes. “Under this announcement, DOE is focusing our efforts on three areas of transportation to further spur innovative breakthroughs in this sector. The Trump Administration is committed to providing new energy and efficiency opportunities for manufacturers and consumers that will continue growing this ever-changing market.”

“As technologies, business models, and consumer demands evolve, our diverse supply of fuels and technologies allows us to approach the future of sustainable transportation from all angles, consistent with our comprehensive energy strategy,” said Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Daniel R Simmons. “The products that result from this FOA will significantly impact the sustainable energy market for the better.”

Bottom Line

Any way you look at it, this is huge news with lots of money going towards the bioeconomy to shift us towards more sustainable transportation and more home-grown technologies and advances to power our lives with biofuels, bioenergy and more. If you are one of those in the bioeconomy needing funding, this information should be helpful for you to apply. If you aren’t, the future of transportation is still going to change. Either way, stay tuned to find out who will get the big bucks to further the bioeconomy once the DOE reviews the applications and makes a decision.

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