In addition to its loan guarantee programs, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) supports innovative energy technologies through numerous grant and collaboration opportunities across several prominent offices. These include the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (OE), the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), and the Office of Fossil Energy (FE). For Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, the President’s budget request provides over $3 billion in support of DOE funding priorities including advancements in renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy storage, smart grids, and fossil energy. While the budget request remains far from final, it does signal the President’s and the DOE’s priorities around developing, validating, and deploying advanced energy technologies with the capacity to have a disruptive impact on energy markets. Further, given the initial Congressional action, the odds of significantly reducing funding levels from prior years remains relatively low with funding having been sustained at roughly consistent levels in recent years through omnibus spending bills and continuing resolution.

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Taken together, the DOE remains a key partner for companies on the cutting-edge of the energy sector looking to develop the next iteration of a high-risk, high-value energy technology. Each office routinely issues Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) with hundreds of thousands to millions of grant dollars available for competitive applicants. What follows is an overview of funding priorities for FY 2016 within these core DOE energy offices.

Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)

The President’s budget proposes $2.72 billion for EERE to reduce U.S. dependence on fossil fuels, promote energy efficiency, and double U.S. renewable electricity generation through investments in a diverse suite of sustainable transportation technologies, renewable generation technologies, development of manufacturing technologies, and enhanced energy efficiency in U.S. homes, buildings, and industries. While actual program numbers will certainly change once a final budget is passed by the Republican-controlled Congress in FY 2016, EERE will invest approximately $2 billion to continue growing the domestic clean energy industry. In addition to program activities, EERE will focus on cross cutting initiatives in Cybersecurity, Supercritical CO2, the Energy-Water Nexus, Subsurface Engineering, and Grid Modernization.

In addition to subprogram-specific initiatives, multiple subprogram offices including Vehicle Technologies, Wind, Bioenergy, Geothermal and Water Power will set aside funding for ‘Incubator’ programs, which will invest 5 percent of each office’s funding for new off-roadmap innovative technologies and solutions that could help meet existing goals but are not represented in a significant way in the current portfolio or technology roadmaps. Successful Incubator projects will reduce the risk associated with potentially breakthrough approaches and technologies so they may be ‘on-ramped’ to future program roadmaps and the program portfolio.

Office of Electricity (OE)

OE leads the DOE’s efforts to strengthen, transform, and improve U.S. energy infrastructure. While not typically a grant making agency, OE funds research & development (R&D) to pursue technologies that improve grid reliability, efficiency, flexibility, functionality, and security. Investments and demonstrations are aimed at bringing new and innovative technologies to maturity and helping them transition to market. In FY 2016, EERE will award new projects in networked microgrid R&D through a FOA to achieve full integration of a network of multiple microgrids with distribution systems. The Senate Appropriations committee recommends $15.3 million for Smart Grid R&D.

OE also supports energy storage. R&D activities focus on lowering cost while improving the value, performance, safety, and reliability of stationary energy storage technologies for utility-scale applications. Additionally, the program develops and demonstrates energy storage technologies, devices, and systems that can reduce power disturbances, improve system flexibility to better incorporate variable and intermittent renewable resources, reduce peak demand, and provide resiliency for the grid. DOE’s goal is for cost-competitive energy storage and to develop material and system enhancements for novel flow, lithium, sodium, magnesium, nitrogen-oxygen, and thermoelectrochemical batteries and associated electrodes, dielectrics, membranes, electrolytes, interconnects, and supporting power electronics.

OE will also provide new State Energy Reliability and Assurance Grants. The new grant program will provide formula grants for states, local and tribal governments to update their energy assurance plans; require testing, training, and exercises; and ensure that plans and assessments are shared. DOE requested $35.5 million for efforts including conducting energy emergency exercises and incorporating cyber security measures for critical sectors.

Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E)

ARPA-E funds high-potential, high-impact energy projects that are too early for private sector or other DOE program office investment and could lead to entirely new ways to generate, store, and use energy. In FY 2016, ARPA-E expects to release FOAs for 7 – 10 focused programs each funded at approximately $10 - $40 million. ARPA-E will not release a large, open funding opportunity announcements but will instead issue open funding solicitations every two-to-three years.

ARPA-E anticipates new focused programs in Transportation Systems, Stationary Power Systems, Dispatchable Energy, and Sensors, Information, and Integration. In addition, ARPA-E will continue its Innovative Development in Energy-Related Applied Science (IDEAS) FOA, a small, rolling, open solicitation to rapidly support innovative applied energy research that has the potential to lead to new focused programs or that may complement portfolios in ongoing focused programs, as well as its SBIR program with $8.8 million in funding requested.

Fossil Energy

The President’s budget proposes $560 million for Fossil Energy R&D to continue work on carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, improve advanced energy systems integrated with CCS, and conduct R&D related to reducing the environmental impacts and greenhouse gas emission of natural gas technologies. On the other hand, the Senate Appropriations committee recommended an increase of $50 million above the requested amount. Efforts include:

  • Funding for the 10 MW Supercritical Transformational Electric Power (STEP) pilot scale facility in FY 2016.
  • Funding for Advanced Storage R&D to improve assessment and mitigation of potential storage risk, maintain the integrity of storage operations, allow active management of storage operations, and optimize storage capacity.
  • Pre-Combustion Capture Systems solicitation will support a small-scale pilot project for advanced pre-combustion capture technologies.
  • Advanced Ultra-supercritical Materials R&D of $15.5 million for R&D focused on technology development of advanced materials and component testing of high temperature materials for directly-heated supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) environments.

Senate Appropriations Committee recommends $88 million for Carbon Capture to support the R&D and scale-up of 2nd generation and transformational technologies for capturing CO2.