Energy

Funding opportunity: U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center: Energy and Water

The Department of Energy is soliciting applications for the formation of a Consortium to pursue five identified R&D topics at the nexus of energy and water. These topics are:

  1. water use reduction at thermoelectric plants;
  2. treatment and management of non-traditional waters;
  3. improving sustainable hydropower design and operation;
  4. climate impact modeling, methods, and scenarios to support improved energy and water systems understanding; and
  5. data and analysis to inform planning, policy, and other decisions.

Each responsive proposal will address all five topics; DOE is offering a mechanism to facilitate partnering during the Application process. The Consortium that is funded through this solicitation will form a new technical track under the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center, which is a bilateral initiative to encourage R&D collaboration and accelerate technology development and deployment in both countries (see: http://www.us-china-ce rc.org). This DOE funding opportunity will support the U.S. Consortium. In parallel, and with equivalent resources, Chinese funding will support a counterpart Chinese Consortium.

Big box stores could ditch the grid, use natural gas fuel cells instead

Read the full story from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.pnnl fuel cells

Large facilities like big box stores or hospitals could keep the lights on by using a fuel cell that runs off the natural gas that already flows in pipelines below most city streets.
Instead of drawing electricity from the power grid, facilities could use natural gas-powered solid oxide fuel cells to lower their electric costs, increase power reliability, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and maybe even offset costs by selling excess fuel cell-generated power back to the power grid. Such an energy future could be possible — assuming fuel cell lifespans are improved and enough systems are produced to reach economies of scale — according to a cost-benefit analysis published in the journal Fuel Cells.

Challenges and Opportunities in the Land of Lincoln

Read the full post from ACEEE.

Illinois—the land of Lincoln according to its license plate—has made great strides in energy efficiency in recent years. In 2014 it ranked 11th overall in ACEEE’s annual State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, up 15 slots from its score 5 years earlier. The main reason for its rise in rank was the state’s performance on utility-sector energy efficiency programs and policies. Energy efficiency measures installed under utility-sector programs reduced statewide electricity use by about 1% of the state’s total electricity consumption in 2013, the most recent year for which data are available. This placed Illinois 13th among US states in electricity savings, up from a tie for dead last in the 2009 Scorecard.

Under Illinois law, utilities collect the money for efficiency programs through rates, keeping 75% of the funds to operate their energy efficiency programs. They remit the remaining 25% to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), which uses these funds to operate energy efficiency programs for low-income households and for state and local government facilities. Both the utilities and DCEO have done well. A 2014 ACEEE analysis found that Illinois electric utilities have exceeded their energy saving goals every year, while the gas utilities have just about met theirs. A 2014 independent evaluation of DCEO’s programs estimated that they have an overall benefit-cost ratio of 2.26.

Unfortunately, in late February, Illinois’ new governor, Bruce Rauner, proposed a budget that would divert $265 million of ratepayer funds intended to be used for energy efficiency and low-income energy assistance to the state general fund, to apply to a state budget shortfall (further information here ). This includes DCEO’s energy efficiency programs that are discussed above as well as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps pay the energy bills of low-income families. Even though the proposed budget isn’t effective yet, it’s reported that senior staff at DCEO’s energy efficiency programs have already been laid off, and remaining staff told not to sign any new contracts or to approve any new rebate applications. Most legal observers believe the legislature must approve the diversion—its approval is far from certain—but the governor appears not to be waiting.

University of Houston Researchers Discover New Material to Produce Clean Energy

Read the full story from the University of Houston.

Researchers at the University of Houston have created a new thermoelectric material, intended to generate electric power from waste heat – from a vehicle tailpipe, for example, or an industrial smokestack – with greater efficiency and higher output power than currently available materials.

The material, germanium-doped magnesium stannide, is described in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Zhifeng Ren, lead author of the article and M.D. Anderson Chair professor of physics at UH, said the new material has a peak power factor of 55, with a figure of merit – a key factor to determine efficiency – of 1.4.

Growing Green Energy: A Review of Extension’s Role in the Development of Advanced Biofuels

Read the full article.

The development of advanced biofuels is expanding the possibilities for purpose-grown energy crops. Growers, producers, and other stakeholders will need a reliable source of information to assist with decision-making regarding renewable fuel supply chains. This review examines Extension’s role in the innovation of advanced biofuels by documenting and summarizing Extension work in existing biomass-derived energy programs. This review highlights strategies used by Extension programs that help make renewable energy innovations successful.

California building codes: to analyze the forest you need to understand the trees

Read the full post from ACEEE.

ACEEE is a strong supporter of analyzing energy efficiency programs in order to see what they have accomplished and to learn lessons so we can do even better. It was thus with interest that we reviewed “How Much Energy Do Building Energy Codes Really Save? Evidence from California” by Arik Levinson. In this paper Levinson conducts several analyses and concludes that “there is no evidence that homes constructed since California instituted its building energy codes use less electricity today than homes built before the codes came into effect.” On the surface his conclusions about the efficacy of building codes are very different from other recent analyses such as papers by Aroonruengsawat et al., Deason and Hobbs, and Jacobsen and Kotchen, so we took a deeper look.

DOE Announces Webinars on the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s FY2016 Budget Request, and More

EERE offers webinars to the public on a range of subjects, from adopting the latest energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, to training for the clean energy workforce. Webinars are free; however, advanced registration is typically required. You can also watch archived webinars and browse previously aired videos, slides, and transcripts.

Upcoming Webinars

February 25: Live Webinar on Models for Tribal Energy Development Organizations

Webinar Sponsors: Office of Indian Energy, Western Area Power Administration

The Energy Department’s Office of Indian Energy and the Western Area Power Administration will present a live webinar titled “Models for Tribal Energy Development Organizations” on Wednesday, February 25, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.  The webinar is part of the Energy Department’s Tribal Renewable Energy Webinar Series. Presenters will discuss the benefits of developing new organizations to support energy project development, including organizations with the ability to effectively manage and implement projects that significantly contribute to community economic development and support tribal goals of energy self-sufficiency and self-determination. In addition to learning about available business models, attendees will learn how to establish strategic partnerships with private industry to advance tribal energy projects and initiatives.

Register for the webinar.

February 26: Live Webinar on Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy

Webinar Sponsor: Weatherization and Intergovernmental Programs Office

The Energy Department will present a live webinar titled “Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy” on Thursday, February 26, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.  This Technical Assistance Program webinar will feature a comparative analysis of program design elements of existing property assessed clean energy (PACE) programs across the country. PACE is an innovative financing technique that allows energy efficiency and renewable energy investments to be made on existing structures, and is continuing to expand in communities across the country. This webinar will feature research recently conducted by Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory (LBNL) and provide insight into how different commercial PACE programs have structured their programs in areas such as capital sources, underwriting criteria, and eligible energy upgrades. Attendees will leave with a deeper understanding of how PACE works, program design element choices, and lessons learned from early adopters.

Speakers include the Energy Department’s Eleni Pelican; LBNL’s Emily Fadrhonc, Program Manager of Electricity Markets and Policy; and Chris Kramer with Energy Futures Group, Inc.

Register now.

March 3: Dealerships to Donuts: Best Practices for Energy Efficiency in the Franchise Model

Webinar Sponsor: Better Buildings

The Energy Department will present a live webinar titled “Dealerships to Donuts: Best Practices for Energy Efficiency in the Franchise Model” on Tuesday, March 3, from 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Finding energy savings opportunities for a business franchise can be easy, but getting them implemented can be hard. While franchisors typically supply business knowledge, architectural designs, and equipment, franchise agreements and business models are not often designed to make it simple for franchisees to capitalize on energy efficiency opportunities.

Learn about the programs and tools being employed by Better Buildings partners Dunkin’ Brands and InterContinental Hotels Group to bridge this gap and motivate franchisees to save energy and reduce their environmental impact.

Register for the webinar.

March 3-5: Live Webinars on the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s FY2016 Budget Request

Webinar Sponsor: Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

The Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy will present a series of webinars on our Fiscal Year 2016 budget request from Tuesday, March 3 through Thursday, March 5. The webinars will feature our deputy assistant secretaries and technology office directors providing in-depth presentations of the budget proposal by sector, including specific technology office requests, and an opportunity for participants to ask questions.  Topics and registration details are below:

  • Tuesday, March 3, from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time: Sustainable Transportation, led by Deputy Assistant Secretary Reuben Sarkar. Register for the webinar.
  • Wednesday, March 4, from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time:  Energy Efficiency, led by Deputy Assistant Secretary Kathleen Hogan. Register for the webinar.
  • Thursday, March 5, from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time: Renewable Power, led by Deputy Assistant Secretary Doug Hollett. Register for the webinar.