Equilibrium & Sustainability

Biden administration to invest $38M in decarbonizing national laboratories

The Energy Department will be investing $38 million in decarbonizing four of the agency’s 17 national laboratories — part of the Biden administration’s goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the agency announced on Wednesday.

The pilot initiative, called Net Zero Labs, aims to establish a foundation for addressing “hard-to-decarbonize industries” and is expected to provide a replicable model for other Energy Department facilities, a statement from the agency said. Additional funding will likely be available on a competitive basis to all 17 national laboratories next year, according to the Energy Department.

“Transitioning to a net-zero future will require slashing carbon pollution across all industries — from shipping to manufacturing to construction, and even the operation of our national laboratories,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement ahead of her visit to one of the four pilot labs, in Golden, Colo.

Each of the four labs reflects different geographies and climates and will be conducting site-specific research aimed at scaling up decarbonization solutions nationwide, according to the Energy Department.

The national labs are among the federal government’s most complex energy users and have demand requirements that far exceed those of a standard facility, the agency statement stressed.

The labs, Granholm said, will be “leading by example to address some of the most energy-intensive, hardest-to-decarbonize federal facilities to reduce our nation’s carbon footprint.”

This effort can contribute to “mitigating the disastrous impacts of climate change, lowering energy costs, and supporting the growing clean energy workforce,” she added.

The $38 million will go to the four laboratories as dedicated funding for initial investments in net-zero solutions already proven on the market, such as building efficiency and electrification, vehicle electrification and more efficient heating, as well as the development of carbon removal technologies, according to the Energy Department. As part of their paths toward achieving these goals, the four sites will also be focusing on certain site-specific measures.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Colorado — where Granholm was visiting on Wednesday — will specifically be working to lower the cost and increase the scale of technologies to store, move and use hydrogen across multiple energy sectors, the agency said.

“With Colorado communities on the front lines of increasingly severe natural disasters, we understand the urgent need to reduce the harmful pollution that drives the climate crisis,” Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) said in a statement. “This funding to support NREL and labs across the country will help us meet our climate goals and build a clean energy economy.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) likewise expressed his support for the NREL’s inclusion in the program, stressing that his state “is on a path to achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2040.”

“Moving Department of Energy national laboratories towards net-zero greenhouse gas emissions is good for our economy and future generations,” Polis said in a statement.

The Idaho National Laboratory, in Idaho Falls, Idaho, will be conducting advanced nuclear research to integrate micro reactors and small modular reactions into microgrids.

The National Energy Technology Laboratory — which has hubs in Pittsburgh, Morgantown, W.Va., and Albany, Ore. — will be developing carbon removal technologies and incentivizing carbon-free electricity production in their respective regions, according to the Energy Department.

Lastly, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, in Richland, Wash., is innovating new algorithms and software platforms to optimize control and operation of energy assets.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) stressed the importance of the Pacific Northwest site’s inclusion in the pilot program, noting the key role the region can play in combatting climate change. 

“Moving as fast as possible to a clean energy future is a must-do to tackle the climate crisis that’s driving up temperatures and sparking the wildfires and drought threatening communities in Oregon and nationwide,” Wyden said.

Updated at 5:43 p.m.

Tags Biden Department of Energy Jared Polis Jennifer Granholm Michael Bennet national laboratories Ron Wyden

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