Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced up to $52.5 million for DOE’s Industrial Assessment Centers that help American manufacturers and wastewater treatment facilities improve their efficiency, save money, and reduce their carbon footprint. These university-based training programs also create a pipeline for students looking to join the growing clean energy economy.
“These programs are proof that big climate investments can help small businesses reduce their emissions and increase their efficiency, while saving them thousands of dollars,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm. “This new funding is an investment in both the infrastructure and next-generation clean energy workforce we need to tackle the climate emergency and meet President Biden’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.”
The funding will be distributed through DOE’s Industrial Assessment Centers (IACs), which are university-based programs that train students and offer no-cost efficiency improvement recommendations to small- and medium-sized manufacturing facilities. As part of the assessment process, participating students and faculty make recommendations for energy and water savings, waste reduction, productivity improvements, cybersecurity, and smart manufacturing opportunities for qualifying facilities—all while measuring their impact on greenhouse gas emissions. To date, the IAC program has provided nearly 20,000 assessments and more than 145,000 recommendations for improvement measures. Assessments typically identify more than $130,000 in potential annual savings opportunities.
IACs selected for this funding will offer coursework and hands-on experience for undergraduate and graduate engineering students in industrial processes, energy-assessment procedures, and energy-management systems. These programs have a strong track record of attracting engineering students to the energy efficiency workforce—more than 50% of graduates’ first jobs include energy efficiency as a primary responsibility, and more than 40% of graduates spend their career in energy efficiency, compared to 28% of their peers who do not participate in the program.
Founded in 1976, the IAC program is one of the Department’s longest-running programs. The program pursues two simultaneous goals: (1) supporting U.S. manufacturing competitiveness; and, (2) addressing a growing shortage of engineering professionals with applied energy and manufacturing-related skills. The IAC program provides assessment to small- and medium-sized manufacturers/enterprises (SMEs), defined as having gross annual sales below $100 million and fewer than 500 employees. The IAC program also screens for SMEs with yearly energy bills between $100,000 and $3.5 million.
As a part of this funding opportunity, DOE will also launch a pilot project to expand IAC engagement with underserved communities. Applicants are encouraged to propose training partnerships with technical programs or community colleges that create new opportunities for a diverse mix of students, of all education levels.
DOE anticipates selecting 25 to 35 universities, with individual awards of $1.5 to $2.25 million over five years. The deadline for optional letters of intent is April 1, 2021 at 5:00 p.m. ET. Mandatory full applications are due on April 22, 2021 at 5:00 p.m. ET.
For more information, eligibility requirements, and instructions on submitting an application, view the complete funding opportunity announcement. Potential applicants may also view a recording of a recent informational webinar on IAC operations.
The Advanced Manufacturing Office, housed within DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), manages the IAC program’s 31 current centers. EERE’s Building Technologies Office will collaborate on the pilot project for commercial building efficiency workforce development.