The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) invests in high-value, high-impact research and development (R&D) for innovative energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. Within EERE, there are numerous subprograms with their own technological priorities developing and issuing opportunities for grant funding and collaboration. This post is the first of a two-part update on funding priorities for fiscal year (FY) 2016 within these subprograms and will specifically cover vehicle technologies, bioenergy technologies, solar energy, and wind energy.

Vehicle Technologies: The president’s budget requests $444 million in FY 2016 to support the research and development (R&D) of efficient and alternative fuel vehicle technologies. However, the Senate Appropriations committee report recommended only $292 million, only a slight increase over FY 2015 levels. Highlights include:

  • The EV Everywhere Grand Challenge ($253 million) seeks to enable the U.S. to produce a wide array of plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) models. This funding includes $105 million for battery technology R&D to develop the technologies necessary to reduce modeled high-volume battery costs by 60% by 2022.
  • New awards for a SuperTruck II Initiative ($40 million) to research, develop, and demonstrate a suite of technologies with the goal to improve the freight hauling efficiency of heavy-duty Class 8 vehicles by 100 percent by 2020, including projects in efficiency and emission control, advanced transmissions and hybridization, and waste energy recovery. The Senate recommends $20 million.
  • Deploy lightweight materials and manufacturing processes for automotive use with a $30 million funding opportunity announcement (FOA) in support of the Administration’s Materials Genome Initiative. The focus will be on advanced materials manufacturing R&D and the development of high-strength, high-formability, corrosion-resistant, and low-cost magnesium sheet alloys for vehicle light weighting. The Senate recommends at least $20 million.
  • In coordination with the Bioenergy Office, the Vehicles Technology Office will use $17 million to establish a link across fuels and engines early in the R&D cycle that will enable a new, synergistic, and complete systems-based approach to creating optimized powertrains.
  • Invest $10 million on natural gas R&D in the transportation sector with additional emphasis on advanced, low-cost, high-energy density, on-board storage.
  • The Senate recommends $20 million for fuel and lubricant technologies.

Bioenergy Technologies: The president’s budget requests $246 million in FY 2016 with an emphasis on the development of innovative processes to convert cellulosic and algal-based feedstocks to bio-based gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel at a target cost of $3.00 per gallon of gasoline equivalent. The Senate Appropriations committee report recommended only $225 million. Emphasis will be on research, development, and deployment of “drop-in” hydrocarbon biofuels that can be used interchangeably with petroleum-based fuels. Specific initiatives include:

  • Spend $38.8 million to continue algae efforts initiated in FY 2013 and fund the demonstration of improvements in biomass yield, productivity, and integration of downstream logistics, using preexisting facilities and infrastructure.
  • Spend $45 million on Demonstration and Market Transformation (DMT) in order to enable the objective of producing advanced biofuels that meet military fuel specifications at a price that is competitive with petroleum. Funds will be administered through the Defense Production Act (DPA) authority to fund additional innovative technologies that are ready for validation, at least at the demonstration scale, and are able to produce blended renewable military- and civilian-specification fuels.
  • For FY 2015, DMT initiated a competitive FOA for six to eight new biorefinery projects that will focus on the manufacturing of advanced biofuels at an increasing scale. In FY 2016, the DMT subprogram will fully fund up to three pilot projects or one demonstration project for advanced biofuels technologies through cost-shared partnerships ($32 million).

Solar Energy: The president’s budget requests $337 million in FY 2016 to support the DOE SunShot Initiative’s goal of making solar power cost-competitive without subsidies by 2020, equivalent to a cost of solar power of $.06/kWh. FY 2016 funding will support an effort to reduce “soft costs” of solar installation, including new efforts focused on commercial-scale solar to reduce barriers for businesses to choose solar energy. SunShot will also support DOE’s Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative by developing and demonstrating innovative manufacturing technologies to increase U.S. competitiveness.

  • Spend $32.8 million for two Systems Integration FOAs that will fund research, development, and demonstration to bridge the gaps between the outcomes of the completed projects and the SunShot Systems Integration targets.
  • Spend $15.6 for Innovations in Manufacturing Competitiveness including a $10 million increase for a new Materials Genome FOA.
  • Supports a higher number of awards for the SUNPATH and SolarMAT FOAs due to the increased activity up and down solar value chain, as well as the growing market and growing number of U.S. manufacturers.
  • The commercial-scale solar FOA ($16.1 million) will support training and technical assistance for utility personnel, facilities managers, finance officers, and commercial stakeholders.

Wind Energy: The Wind Energy Program’s central focus is to perform research, development, demonstration, and market acceleration activities that will enable wind power to achieve the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) parity with energy generation from traditional sources across the nation. Today, wind supplies approximately 4.5 percent of the U.S.’s energy mix. Highlights from the president’s budget request include: 

  • The Atmosphere to Electrons (A2e) Initiative will issue new solicitations totaling $12 million to develop higher tip speed, low noise signature rotor designs and new drivetrain concepts.
  • A new $4.5 million research initiative focused on Eagle Impact Mitigation Technologies.
  • The Senate recommends $40 million for off shore wind demonstration projects.