Interior unveils guidance for getting coal mine cleanup money

Read the full story at E&E News.

The Biden administration has unveiled guidance for states and some Indigenous communities seeking to tap $725 million in grant funding to clean up abandoned coal mine sites.

The Interior Department released a draft outline today guiding states and communities that are part of the Navajo Nation on how they can apply for some of the first $725 million of $11.3 billion in funding made available over 15 years from the bipartisan infrastructure law passed last year. The funding can be used for cleaning up old coal mining sites left behind by operators without being reclaimed.

Biden administration launches $3.5 billion program to capture carbon pollution from the air

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has released a Notice of Intent (NOI) to fund the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s $3.5 billion program to capture and store carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution directly from the air. The Regional Direct Air Capture Hubs program will support four large-scale, regional direct air capture hubs that each comprise a network of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) projects to help address the impacts of climate change, creating good-paying jobs and prioritizing community engagement and environmental justice. In addition to efforts to deeply decarbonize the economy through methods like clean power, efficiency, and industrial innovation, the widespread deployment of direct air capture technologies and CO2 transport and storage infrastructure plays a significant role in delivering on President Biden’s goal of achieving an equitable transition to a net-zero economy by 2050. 

Direct air capture is a process that separates CO2 from ambient air. The separated CO2 is then permanently stored deep underground or converted for use in long-life products like concrete that prevent its release back into the atmosphere. This differs from carbon capture systems at industrial facilities and power plants that prevent additional emissions from being released into the air in the first place. 

By midcentury, CDR will need to be deployed at the gigaton scale. To put this in perspective, one gigaton of subsurface sequestered CO2 is equivalent to the annual emissions from the U.S. light-duty vehicle fleet—the equivalent of approximately 250 million vehicles driven in one year. 

Each of the projects selected for the Regional Direct Air Capture Hubs program will demonstrate the delivery and storage or end use of removed atmospheric carbon. The hubs will have the capacity to capture and then permanently store at least one million metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere annually, either from a single unit or from multiple interconnected units. 

In the development and deployment of the four regional direct air capture hubs, DOE will also emphasize environmental justice, community engagement, consent-based siting, equity and workforce development, and domestic supply chains and manufacturing.  

For more information, read the NOI on FedConnect

To learn more about DAC and other CDR approaches, please also join DOE for the virtual Carbon Negative Shot Summit on July 20 and 21, 2022. The Summit will convene a diverse set of perspectives to discuss the development and deployment of CDR technologies and infrastructure in the United States, as well as explore justice and equity principles and workforce development opportunities. 

DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM) funds research, development, demonstration, and deployment projects to decarbonize power generation and industrial production to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and to mitigate the environmental impacts of fossil fuel production and use. Priority areas of technology work include point-source carbon capture, carbon dioxide conversion, carbon dioxide removal, reliable carbon storage and transport, hydrogen production with carbon management, methane emissions reduction, and critical minerals production. To learn more, visit the FECM websitesign up for FECM news announcements and visit the National Energy Technology Laboratory website

New funding effort will deploy a corps of scientist ‘scouts’ to spot innovative ideas

Read the full story in Science.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemical engineer Kristala Prather is relishing the chance to present her work in person at scientific meetings now that the pandemic has eased. But starting this month, she will head to the airport with an added goal in mind: to serve as a “scout” for an unusual new funding program.

Prather’s mission is to spot colleagues with an intriguing research idea so embryonic it has no chance of surviving traditional peer review—and, on her own, decide to provide some funding. “I’m looking forward to giving it a try,” she says. “I’m a people person, and I like learning new things.”

Prather’s new task comes thanks to the Hypothesis Fund, a nonprofit launched today that has an intriguing approach to funding climate change and health studies. Instead of inviting scientists to submit proposals, the fund will find recipients through 17 scouts—scientists, including Prather, chosen for their curiosity, creativity, diversity, and interest in the work of others. Each will get 12 months to award a total of $300,000 to fellow researchers with promising early-stage ideas.

Biden Administration issues RFI for initiative to boost deployment and cut costs of long duration energy storage

The Biden Administration through the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking public input on the structure of a $505 million long duration energy storage initiative to increase the availability of and deliver affordable, reliable clean electricity. The new Long Duration Energy Storage for Everyone, Everywhere Initiative, created by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will advance energy storage systems toward widespread commercial deployment by lowering the costs and increasing the duration of energy storage resources. Cheaper, longer energy storage can increase local control of the power system, build resilience for communities, minimize power grid disruptions, and help reach President Biden’s goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035.

Shorter duration storage is currently being installed to support today’s increasing amount of renewable energy generation and electrification. With help from the historic investments from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, more renewables will be deployed on the grid and building and vehicle electrification will continue to rise. Longer duration storage technologies are needed as the nation must increases access and availability of renewable energy sources. Long duration energy storage – defined as systems that can store energy for more than 10 hours at a time – would support a low-cost, reliable, carbon-free electric grid. Cheaper and more efficient storage will make it easier to capture and store clean energy for use when energy generation is unavailable or lower than demand.

The initiative, administered through DOE’s new Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations, will work to overcome these challenges and achieve the cost goal by investing approximately $505 million over four years to validate grid-scale long duration energy storage technologies and enhance the capabilities of customers and communities to integrate grid storage more effectively. DOE will implement three energy storage demonstration programs:

  • Demonstration: The Demo program will prepare a cohort of promising technologies for utility-scale demonstration, which might not otherwise proceed given potential technology investment risks, through lab, behind-the-meter, or campus demonstrations. Specifically, these field demonstrations are intended at the scale of 100 kilowatt (kW) or less and have already been proven at lab-scale.
     
  • Validation: The Demo Projects will enable first-of-a-kind technologies at utility scale by mitigating risk during the final technical validation point before wider deployment, the steepest portion of the commercialization curve. Large long duration storage demonstrations in this program will need to be able to provide at least 10 hours of rated power and undergo enough third-party testing/ validation to substantiate a pathway to meeting the target of a levelized cost of storage of $0.05/kWh.
     
  • Piloting: The Pilot Grants program will address institutional barriers to technology adoption in the marketplace. Such barriers can be easier to resolve when a technology has been installed, operated, de-risked, and shown to provide benefit to users, communities, or the power system. Few entities have the financial capability to invest in such a pilot. Pilot grants will mitigate this barrier by enabling greater storage investment by eligible entities which include state energy offices, Tribal Nations, higher education, utilities, and energy storage companies.

Under the overall Long Duration Energy Storage Initiative, DOE is also collaborating with the U.S. Department of Defense for long duration storage demonstrations on government facilities.

DOE’s Ongoing Commitment to Long Duration Energy Storage

DOE’s Long Duration Storage Shot, launched in July 2021, sets a target of achieving a levelized cost of energy storage of $0.05/kWh, a 90% reduction from a 2020 baseline costs by 2030. This cost reduction will make dispatchable clean energy available through long duration energy storage the most cost-effective choice for electricity customers. To meet this target, a wide range of energy storage technologies, including electrochemical, mechanical, thermal, flexible generation, flexible buildings, and power electronics, will need to be considered, well beyond the traditional lithium-ion batteries.

In March, DOE’s Energy Storage for Social Equity Initiative selected 14 communities to receive technical assistance to leverage energy storage as a means of increasing resilience and long-term affordability.

These programs will prioritize projects that leverage a secure domestic supply chain and support the creation of good-paying union jobs. Consistent with the Biden Administration’s Justice40 Initiative, this initiative supports the goal that 40% of the benefits from climate investments flow to disadvantaged communities. 

The goal of the RFI released today is to solicit feedback from a wide range of stakeholders on DOE’s implementation strategy and eligibility requirements. Comments must be received by 5:00 p.m. EDT on June 16, 2022, and can be submitted by emailing EnergyStorage41001RFI@ee.doe.gov.

public webinar will be held to provide additional information.

Fewer Americans are hunting, and that raises hard questions about funding conservation through gun sales

Smith & Wesson handguns on display at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas, Jan. 19, 2016. AP Photo/John Locher

by John Casellas Connors, Texas A&M University and Christopher Rea, The Ohio State University

Gun and ammunition sales in the U.S. have skyrocketed in recent years. And although it may come as a surprise, this trend has supported conservation activities.

That’s because every firearm and bullet produced or imported into the U.S. is subject to an excise tax dedicated to wildlife conservation and restoration. In 1998, these taxes generated about US$247 million in inflation-adjusted apportionments to state fish and wildlife agencies from the federal U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which collects and manages these funds. By 2018, these revenues had more than tripled to $829 million.

These taxes on guns and ammunition sales provide a growing share of budgets for state fish and game agencies. But as scholars of environmental politics, conservation and wildlife management, we have found that the growth in conservation funding driven by exploding guns sales presents at least three critical moral and ethical issues.

First, the original argument for using gun taxes to fund conservation was that most gun users were hunters who used lands and wildlife, and should help to support those resources. But our research shows that gun use is increasingly unrelated to hunting.

Second, the recent spike in gun sales is linked to violence and social unrest. Even if most gun owners never commit a crime, this means that overall, conservation is benefiting from gun-related social strife and harm.

Finally, recent changes to the law allow the use of gun-related excise taxes to support activities with little or no connection to hunting, wildlife or outdoor recreation.

Hunting and fishing fees are an important funding source for conservation in the U.S. But as hunting declines, gun-related conservation funding increasingly comes from firearms and ammunition sold for other purposes.

A marriage of guns and conservation

At the end of the 19th century, many wild species across the U.S. were threatened by over-hunting and unregulated markets for wild game products. Companies used bison bones to make “bone china” and bird plumage to decorate hats. Many species were hunted to the brink of extinction. Some, like the passenger pigeon, were fully exterminated.

In an effort to restore game populations for sport hunters, federal and state governments established fish and wildlife agencies. But these offices were often underfunded.

The Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937, commonly known as the Pittman-Robertson Act, increased conservation funding by redirecting an existing excise tax on firearms to a dedicated wildlife management fund. Over time, the law expanded to include excise taxes that manufacturers today pay on long guns, handguns, ammunition and archery equipment. To access these funds, states must use fees from hunting licenses exclusively to support fish and wildlife agencies.

Pittman-Robertson funds make up a large fraction of state fish and wildlife agency budgets. In 2018, for example, we estimate that about 25% of the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s $62 million appropriations came from excise taxes generated by Pittman-Robertson. In Massachusetts, the number was 43%.

Fewer hunters, more gun sales

The idea behind Pittman-Robertson was simple enough: Taxes on hunting supplies should support the agencies that manage wildlife. This idea persists today. Gun manufacturers and fish and game agencies regularly celebrate hunters’ financial contributions to conservation.

Since the early 2000s, however, gun and ammunition sales have begun to disconnect from hunting. Nationally, the number of hunters declined from a peak of 17 million in 1982 to 11.5 million in 2016. By comparison, in the same year, Gallup estimated that about 93 million Americans owned guns.

These numbers suggest that only about 1 in 8 gun owners hunted in 2016. This pattern echoes a 2015 analysis by Southwick Associates, a consulting firm that works closely with the firearms industry, that found that 80% of firearms sales in 2015 were for nonhunting activities like sport shooting, gun collecting and self-defense.

Other outdoor recreational activities, meanwhile, are growing. Birding, hiking and backpacking are consistently among the fastest growing outdoor recreation activities. Birding increased by 232% from 1983 to 2001. Unlike hunting and fishing, there is no federal requirement for people who engage in these activities to contribute to conservation.

Profiting from social violence

Large migrating birds gather in a marsh.
Sandhill cranes at the Whitewater Drew State Wildlife Refuge, near McNeal, Arizona. Leah Moffatt/Flickr, CC BY-SA

Although most guns sold in the U.S. will not be involved in violent crimes, Pittman-Robertson does not differentiate between firearms and ammunition used for hunting and sport shooting versus those that are used to harm people. The guns and bullets involved in over 45,000 gun-related deaths in 2020 generated excise taxes used to fund wildlife conservation. This means that protecting public lands and wildlife is irrevocably linked to social violence. It is also why some commentators worry that gun regulations could hurt conservation efforts.

Data also shows that firearms sales are motivated by fears of violence and social unrest. Gun sales have increased following mass shootings and racial justice protests and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Anecdotal evidence suggests that over the past two years, some African Americans and Asian Americans purchased their first guns out of fears of rising anti-Black and anti-Asian violence.

Wildlife conservation is benefiting from the fear, racism and sustained social conflict that drive gun sales. This raises a moral question: Is this the right way to fund conservation?

Promoting nonhunting gun use

As gun sales grow, the firearms industry has pushed to use Pittman-Robertson funds to support nonhunting gun uses. Gun manufacturers and sportsmen groups endorsed a set of reforms to Pittman-Robertson that became law in 2020. These changes allow state and federal agencies to use Pittman-Robertson funds to promote recreational shooting and purchase land for shooting ranges.

Some organizations are concerned that these changes will redirect funding from wildlife restoration to target practice and marksmanship. But hunting and shooting organizations argue that the new rules will generate more money for conservation activities. As a former president of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies stated in a recent interview: “The goal is to improve and build more shooting ranges, this is where the money comes from.”

New sources for conservation funding

Other groups have proposed ways to make wildlife conservation less dependent on guns.

One idea from some backcountry hunters and Forest Service employees is to create a “backpack tax” on equipment used for outdoor activities like hiking and birding. The outdoor industry has opposed these proposals, arguing that it is impossible to discern the actual use of outdoor products, and that such taxes may create more barriers for low-income individuals to participate in outdoor activities.

Another proposal – this one embraced by the outdoor industry – asserts that Congress should leverage existing funds from other sources to support conservation. Moving away from funds generated by hunters could also give state agencies greater freedom to undertake projects for species other than popular game like deer and elk, which often are the focus of state conservation policies.

This idea has bipartisan support and is moving through Congress as part of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. That bill would direct $1.3 billion from the Treasury to the Pittman-Robertson Account, with a dedicated portion for endangered species recovery.

So long as hunting is part of the U.S. model of wildlife management, firearms will be intertwined with conservation. As we see it, though, proposals to change funding sources could help to address the moral concerns that grow out of this relationship and could create opportunities for more effective conservation.

John Casellas Connors, Assistant Professor of Geography, Texas A&M University and Christopher Rea, Assistant Professor of Public Affairs, The Ohio State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

DOE invests $14 million to scale up direct air capture and storage technology, coupled to low-carbon energy resources

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced $14 million in funding for five front-end engineering design (FEED) studies that will leverage existing zero- or low-carbon energy to supply direct air capture (DAC) projects, combined with dedicated and reliable carbon storage. DAC is a process that separates carbon dioxide (CO2) from ambient air. When the separated CO2 is safely and permanently stored deep underground or converted to be used in value-added products like concrete, DAC is part of a carbon dioxide removal approach. The selected studies will advance the evaluation of DAC technology coupled to durable storage—both of which could play a critical role in conjunction with aggressive decarbonization in combatting the climate crisis and achieving the Biden-Harris Administration’s goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“These studies lay a critical foundation for technology demonstrations that will lead to responsible, effective, and affordable deployment of direct air capture as we seek to address hard to decarbonize sectors in addition to legacy impacts of fossil fuel production and use,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of FECM Dr. Jennifer Wilcox. “Looking forward, resources authorized by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will make it possible for us to prove these technologies out at scale and accelerate their deployment while providing good-paying jobs as our nation continues its transition to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.”

The following studies will provide a better understanding of system costs and performance, as well as business case options for existing DAC technologies coupled to durable storage that are capable of removing a minimum of 5,000 tonnes per year net CO2 from the air and are co-located with domestic zero- or low-carbon thermal energy sourced from geothermal or nuclear power plants and low-grade heat from industrial facilities:

  • Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois (Champaign, Illinois) will leverage thermal energy from the Brawley Geothermal Plant in Brawley, California, for a DAC system developed by Climeworks that will separate CO2 from ambient air, and is strategically located near a proposed geologic storage site. Award amount: $2,495,197
  • Constellation (Baltimore, Maryland) will use a DAC system developed by Carbon Engineering, integrated with an existing light water nuclear reactor at Constellation’s Byron Generating Station in Byron, Illinois, to separate CO2 from ambient air and transport the CO2 for permanent geologic storage. Award amount: $2,500,000 
  • Battelle Memorial Institute (Columbus, Ohio) will leverage available thermal energy from Southern Company’s Joseph M. Farley nuclear power plant in Columbia, Alabama, for a DAC system developed by AirCapture LLC that will separate CO2 from ambient air for off-site geologic storage. Award amount: $2,499,178
  • Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois (Champaign, Illinois) will use the DAC and CO2 conversion technologies developed by CarbonCapture Inc. and CarbonCure, respectively, in an advanced DAC and utilization system coupled to CO2 conversion at U.S. Steel’s Gary Works in Gary, Indiana, to separate CO2 from ambient air and convert the CO2 into concrete products. Award amount: $3,459,554
  • AirCapture LLC (Pine Plains, New York) will execute its advanced DAC system at Nutrien’s Kennewick Fertilizer Operations facility in Kennewick, Washington, to separate CO2 from ambient air and convert the CO2 into value-added chemicals. Award amount: $2,934,380

This funding opportunity was a collaborative effort among DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM), Office of Nuclear Energy, and Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Geothermal Technologies Office. The selected projects will be managed by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and will support FECM’s Carbon Dioxide Removal and Conversion programs.   

A detailed list of the selected projects can be found here.  

Also, save July 20 and 21, 2022 on your calendar for the virtual Carbon Negative Shot Summit, when you’ll be able to learn more about DAC with durable storage and other carbon dioxide removal approaches. The Summit is a two-day event centered on Carbon Negative Shot, DOE’s all-hands-on-deck call for innovation in technologies and approaches that will remove CO2 from the atmosphere by capturing and durably storing it at gigatonne scales for less than $100/net metric ton of CO2-equivalent.

FECM funds research, development, demonstration, and deployment projects to decarbonize power generation and industrial sources, to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, and to mitigate the environmental impacts of fossil fuel production and use. Priority areas of technology work include point-source carbon capture, carbon dioxide conversion, carbon dioxide removal, dedicated and reliable carbon storage and transport, hydrogen with carbon management, methane emissions reduction, and critical mineral production. To learn more, visit the FECM websitesign up for FECM news announcements, and visit the NETL website.

Source: U.S. Department of Energy

Apply for Argonne’s high performance computing resources and expertise to improve energy efficiency

High performance computing (HPC) can help manufacturers reduce their energy costs, cut their carbon footprint and accelerate the development of new energy-efficient materials and manufacturing processes. However, many companies do not have access to the supercomputers or expertise needed to run powerful simulations, artificial intelligence (AI) programs or machine learning (ML) algorithms on their own.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is stepping up to meet this need. Companies can apply to the HPC4EI program through regular calls for funding to engage the world-class computing resources and HPC experts at the DOE national laboratories. The program’s goal is to help companies use HPC to address critical manufacturing or materials challenges, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Ultimately, HPC4EI can help U.S. manufacturing become greener and more efficient. 

The HPC4EI program is now accepting applications for materials or manufacturing projects. U.S. companies can apply for up to $300,000 to fund work with DOE national laboratory scientists and access some of the world’s fastest supercomputers. The program is designed for companies with energy-focused projects that could uniquely benefit from HPC. Companies interested in pursuing projects that have the potential to yield significant improvements in energy efficiency or that support the development of new energy conversion and storage technologies are encouraged to apply.

DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory has helped many companies through the HPC4EI program. Argonne has aligned its computing expertise with researchers who develop advanced technologies for U.S. manufacturers. Some of the most successful HPC4EI projects pair industry partners with Argonne’s diverse experts in computing, manufacturing science, engineering, data analysis and advanced modeling to meet the companies’ materials or manufacturing goals. Examples of successful HPC4EI projects at Argonne include:

  • Working with Argonne’s engineers and supercomputers, 3M is using machine learning to optimize energy efficiency in the manufacturing of nonwoven materials. This can reduce both carbon emissions and production costs while maintaining product quality. 
  • Argonne has helped ArcelorMittal use HPC and ML to develop a new energy-efficient method for producing steel slabs. The new manufacturing process produced higher quality steel with less greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Raytheon Technologies Research Center is currently working with Argonne to develop a new ultrahigh temperature metal for use in the aerospace industry. They are using HPC to design and fabricate a strong, durable metal matrix composite strong enough to operate at the very high temperatures needed for the next generation of energy-efficient jet engines.
  • In one of the latest HPC4EI projects, Electric Power Research Institute, Inc., and the Shaw Group are using Argonne’s state-of-the-art simulation tools to model the optimal way to bend pipes using induction technology. This process aims to avoid cracking, enhance pipe quality and reduce the amount of energy used to manufacture pipes needed for energy production.

This year, the HPC4EI program is hoping to reach a wide range of companies interested in helping the U.S. move toward an equitable clean energy future. This could include companies who want to use HPC to craft new materials for carbon capture technology, develop more efficient energy storage methods, improve renewable energy technology or reduce emissions related to the production of energy-intensive materials, such as cement.

Companies that partner with Argonne through the HPC4EI program work with scientists in the Laboratory’s research divisions and with computer scientists at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF), a DOE Office of Science user facility. At ALCF, companies can access unique and powerful computing resources, including Argonne’s newest supercomputer, Polaris, and the ALCF AI Testbed.

The DOE published a Notice of Intent to open a funding opportunity for the HPC4EI program that will cover both materials and manufacturing projects. To learn more about the program and apply, register for an April 8 webinar or visit the HPC4EI website.

The HPC4EI program is sponsored by the Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) within the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Office and the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM).

This story was first published by Argonne National Laboratory. Read the original story.

Burroughs Wellcome Fund invites applications for Climate Change and Human Health Seed Grants

The Burroughs Wellcome Fund serves and strengthens society by nurturing a diverse group of leaders in biomedical sciences to improve human health through education and powering discovery in frontiers of greatest need.

To that end, the fund is inviting applications for its Climate Change and Human Health Seed Grants program, which aims to stimulate the growth of new connections between scholars working in largely disconnected fields who could together change the course of climate change’s impact on human health. Over the next two years, BWF will dedicate $1 million to supporting small, early-stage grants of between $2,500 and $50,000 toward achieving this goal. The application deadline is April 11, 2022 at 4:00 p.m. ET

BWF is particularly but not exclusively interested in activities that build connections between basic/early biomedical scientific approaches and ecological, environmental, geological, geographic, and planetary-scale thinking, as well as population-focused fields including epidemiology, public health, and demography, economics, and urban planning. Also of interest is work piloting new approaches or new interactions toward reducing the impact of health-centered activities, for example, developing more sustainable systems for health care, care delivery, and biomedical research systems. Another area of interest is preparation for the impacts of extreme weather and other crises that can drive large-scale disruptions that immediately impact human health and healthcare delivery. Public outreach, climate communication, and education efforts focused on the intersection of climate and health are also appropriate for this call.

To be eligible, applicants must be nonprofit organizations or degree-granting institutions in the United States or Canada.

For complete program guidelines and application instructions, see the Burroughs Wellcome Fund website.

Funding opp: Drivers and Environmental Impacts of Energy Transitions in Underserved Communities

Applications due: Apr 28, 2022
For more information and to apply.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as part of its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, is seeking applications proposing community-engaged research that will address the drivers and environmental impacts of energy transitions in underserved communities. For purposes of this competition and the evaluation of applications, “underserved communities” refers to populations sharing a particular characteristic, as well as geographic communities, that have been systematically denied a full opportunity to participate in aspects of economic, social, and civic life, including people of color, low income, rural, tribal, indigenous, and other populations that may be disproportionately impacted by environmental harms and risks.

Applicants for regular awards should address at least two of the five research areas described below; and early career applicants should address at least one of the five research areas. Applications not addressing the minimum number of research areas may not be rated as highly as those that do. Applications should clearly indicate which research area(s) the application is addressing. Applications addressing more research areas will not necessarily be rated more highly than those that address fewer research areas.

Applicants for regular awards are strongly encouraged to approach the research areas from a multi-disciplinary perspective (e.g., including both social and natural science disciplines).
While the proposed research may focus on a specific geographic (e.g., rural and urban areas), socioeconomic, demographic, governmental (e.g., tribal), or other contexts, and recognizing that each community may have its unique set of contexts, research addressing how the results could be applied or generalized to other locations, demographic groups, etc., or linked to broader theoretical frameworks is encouraged.

In addressing each of the research areas below, applicants are strongly encouraged to consider the resiliency of future energy systems, impacted communities and/or tribes, and policy frameworks. Resiliency is the capacity to adapt to and to recover from unexpected and changing conditions or a range of shocks and stresses. Applicants are encouraged to consider how energy system transformations affect the resiliency of systems that produce and consume energy and the resiliency of populations and ecosystems with respect to public health and environmental risks, including risks that are anticipated to increase due to climate change.

Research areas

  1. How might air quality, the environment, and public health in underserved communities be improved through the large-scale transformation of the energy sector (e.g., wide-spread adoption of renewable energy sources and energy efficient technologies, electrification of transportation services, and household energy use) while minimizing potential negative impacts (e.g., from disuse or abandonment of obsolete fossil energy infrastructure)? How can existing or new data sources and methods be used to measure impacts and track progress?
  2. What approaches or strategies can be employed during and after energy transitions to meet the goals of improving air quality and reducing other environmental health burdens while meeting the energy and mobility needs of underserved communities? How do these approaches impact air quality and health burdens over time as the energy system evolves? How can existing or new data sources and methods be used to measure progress towards these goals?
  3. How do socioeconomic, cultural, behavioral, institutional, and systems factors drive individual and household decisions regarding the adoption of renewable energy sources, energy-efficient technologies and building modifications, and new transportation modes in underserved communities? What are the barriers and enablers of adoption? How do behavioral responses influence the effectiveness of strategies and policies aimed at achieving energy savings and greenhouse gas emission reduction goals?
  4. How do socioeconomic, organizational, and institutional factors affect decisions at the organizational, governmental and community levels regarding the adoption and diffusion of renewable energy sources, energy-efficient technologies, building modifications, and new transportation modes in underserved communities?
  5. What multi-pollutant and/or multi-sectoral approaches could be effective at the community, state, or national level in achieving climate, air quality, and other environmental goals in ways that maximize potential positive impacts and minimize potential negative impacts to underserved communities arising from such large-scale transformation? How can existing or new data sources and methods be used to measure these goals?

Granholm announces $3M for net-zero carbon research at HBCUs

Read the full story from the Associated Press.

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on Thursday announced that $3 million in federal funding would be directed toward historically Black colleges and universities, and other minority serving institutions, for research she said will further the Biden administration’s goals of carbon neutrality and help strengthen a pipeline from those schools into energy-related jobs.