The Building Technologies Office (BTO) leads DOE efforts to improve energy efficiency in residential and commercial buildings including solid-state lighting, sensors and controls, HVAC, building envelope, and energy modeling technologies. BTO also contributes cross-cutting initiatives at DOE to integrate residential solar programs into the public utility grid. The subprogram is unique within EERE in that it actively makes and enforces energy efficiency standards for commercial and industrial appliances such as motors, heaters, and electronics.
BTO typically releases most of its funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) early in the first quarter (October through December) of the Fiscal Year (FY) through the EERE Funding Exchange. BTO has indicated its intent to issue both a number of yearly recurring FOAs in addition to three completely new FOAs in FY 2016.
BTO has already issued a notice of intent to release the Buildings Energy Efficiency Frontiers & Innovation Technologies (BENEFIT) FOA, which aims at reducing energy use of commercial and residential buildings, in early October. Last year’s BENEFIT FOA included almost $8 million in funding, as an indicator where this year’s funding levels may be. The office will also continue its BUILD (Buildings University Innovators and Leaders Development) and SSL (Solid State Lighting) FOAs. The $2 million BUILD FOA is for faculty-led, multidisciplinary university teams to develop building energy efficiency technologies. BTO is currently formulating topics for the FY 2016 release of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant solicitation.
BTO is also actively moving forward with three funding opportunities that are different than the usual R&D grant-based FOAs. The first is the $1 million BTO Catalyst Business Innovation Program, which piggybacks on the successful Sunshot Catalyst crowdsourcing competition, to identify and solve problems related to software development, data, and/or automation in buildings. The second is another crowdsourcing effort called JUMP (join the discussion, unveil innovation, motivate transformation, and promote technology to the market), which aims to facilitate public-private partnerships that will co-design campaigns to address the most pressing challenges currently facing the buildings industry. Finally, the $20 million Small Business Voucher Pilot Program will make it easier for small businesses to engage with the DOE National Labs and access top-notch scientists, engineers, and world-class facilities by providing vouchers (ranging from $50,000 to $300,000) to over 100 small businesses that can be used initiate research projects and garner technical assistance.
BTO provides several avenues for industry to inform their investment priorities namely through requests for information, workshops, and annual peer reviews. Request for information are released through the EERE Funding Exchange and are the official method for federal agencies to conduct market research on a potential FOA or new initiative; responses are typically no more than ten pages in length and are a great way to help shape agency funding opportunities. BTO workshops are essentially focused, mini-conferences that deal with a single technological issue or topic and provide a way for industry to interact with government officials in real time. Lastly, the BTO annual peer reviews are conference-like, multiday events where the subprogram showcases all of its active research, development, demonstration, and deployment projects and independent experts assess the progress and contributions of each project towards BTO’s mission and goals. Each annual peer review is followed by an official report that summarizes the meeting’s findings and suggests improvements BTO can implement to these programs in the subsequent year.