EERE: Launching Energy Savings for All, a Biofuels Boost, and a Solar Boom
July 27, 2016
News and Events
Obama Administration Announces Clean Energy Savings for All Americans Initiative
The Obama administration on July 19 announced a new cross-government partnership among the Department of Energy (DOE) and other agencies to increase access to solar energy and promote energy efficiency across the United States, particularly in low- and moderate-income communities.
Under this initiative, DOE will work with the Departments of Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services (HHS), Veteran Affairs, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that every household has options to choose to go solar and put in place additional measures to promote energy efficiency. To continue along this track, the administration, in collaboration with state agencies, is announcing a new goal to bring 1 gigawatt of solar to low- and moderate-income families by 2020.
The Clean Energy Savings for All Initiative will help achieve this goal by promoting innovative financing mechanisms, bolstering technical assistance for states and communities, driving innovation, and scaling up workforce training to make sure low- and moderate-income Americans can take advantage of the jobs that come with a transition to clean energy. This effort will also aim to convene stakeholders and work with the private and philanthropic sectors.
Some key points of the initiative include:
A Community Solar Challenge that DOE is developing, which will award teams in dozens of communities up to $100,000 in cash prizes and technical assistance, working to increase solar deployment and cut consumers’ energy bills, in particular in low-income communities.
HHS and DOE are making it easier to use hundreds of millions of dollars for energy efficiency improvements by providing technical assistance to Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) grantees. The agencies will help them direct 15%–25% of their annual LIHEAP funding for low-cost energy efficiency improvements, including renewable energy.
DOE is making sure low- and moderate-income Americans can take advantage of the jobs that come with a transition to clean energy by launching the Solar Training Network, which will help create a more inclusive workforce by connecting solar workforce trainers, solar employers, and individuals interested in working in the solar industry.
These announcements will result in lower energy bills, more empowered consumers, and cleaner communities. See the Energy Department news release.
Energy Department Releases Draft Updated Guidelines for Residential Financing Programs
As part of the Obama Administration's Clean Energy Savings for All Initiative, the Energy Department on July 19 released best practice guidelines for residential Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs. PACE is an innovative mechanism for financing energy efficiency, solar energy, and related improvements. The Energy Department's updated best practices guidelines will enable more states and communities to adopt and implement residential PACE programs, unlocking access to affordable financing to reduce homeowners' energy bills, achieve more resilient homes and communities, and create jobs. The Department will also provide technical assistance to make it easier for states and communities to stand up effective PACE programs.
PACE programs allow state and local governments, where permitted by state law, to offer innovative financing options for homeowners to fund energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water conservation improvements to their homes. Homeowners will benefit from these improvements immediately and pay back the cost over time through their property taxes. When the property is sold, any remaining PACE loan stays with the property, and the next owner is responsible for repaying the loan. As of May 2016, nearly 100,000 homeowners had used PACE to make energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements to their homes, representing more than $2 billion in investment. See the Energy Department news release.
Energy Department Announces $15 Million to Advance Algae-Based Biofuels, Bioproducts
The Energy Department on July 14 announced up to $15 million for three projects aimed at reducing the production costs of algae-based biofuels and bioproducts through improvements in algal biomass yields. These projects will develop highly productive algal cultivation systems and couple those systems with effective, energy-efficient, and low-cost harvesting and processing technologies. This funding will advance the research and development of advanced biofuel technologies to speed the commercialization of renewable, domestically produced, and affordable fossil-fuel replacements.
The select projects, located in California and Florida, will include multi-disciplinary partners to coordinate improvements—from algal strain advancements through pre-processing technologies, to biofuel intermediates—that could reduce the production costs of algal biofuels and bioproducts. The three projects are:
Global Algae Innovations of San Diego, California, in collaboration with the Energy Department's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), among others, will accelerate the commercialization of algal biofuels through development of an integrated, photosynthetic, open-raceway pond system to produce algal oil.
Algenol Biotech of Ft. Myers, Florida, along with NREL and other partners, have formed a team to advance the state-of-the-art in algal production and biofuel processing.
MicroBio Engineering of San Luis Obispo, California, along with PNNL, Sandia National Laboratories, and other partners, will deliver integrated technologies that achieve high yields of biofuels, combined with treatment of wastewater, higher-value co-products, and carbon dioxide mitigation.
See the Energy Department news release.
Energy Department Catalyzes New Mexico Solar Boom
New Mexico continues to cultivate a vibrant, dynamic solar energy economy. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research, New Mexico’s current installed solar capacity of 400 megawatts (MW) ranks 13th in the country. Also, according to the Solar Foundation, New Mexico’s solar industry employed about 2,000 workers as of November 2015. Employers in the solar business are expected to expand their payrolls by 12.3% this year in the state known as the Land of Enchantment.
The Energy Department’s State Energy Program (SEP) has been critical to this growth. Between 2008 and 2014, SEP invested more than $2 million in New Mexico’s State Energy Office—the Energy Conservation and Management Division.
Since its inception in 2008, the solar market development tax credit has been one of the most formidable tools for catalyzing photovoltaic growth across New Mexico. The tax credit has resulted in the statewide installation of more than 40 MW of solar systems in the residential, commercial, and agricultural sectors and catalyzed an investment of more than $223 million in solar photovoltaics. For the complete story, see the EERE Blog.
This newsletter is funded by DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and is also available on the EERE website. If you have questions or comments about this newsletter, please contact the editor, Ernie Tucker.
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