U.S. Department of Energy Announces $6 Million Investment to Train the Next Generation of Clean Energy Innovators

U.S. Department of Energy Announces Up to $400 Million for Basic Research to Advance the Frontiers of Science

The U.S. Department of Energy announced two funding opportunities, totaling $6.1 million, for student training and research on remediating legacy pollution from coal-based electricity generation and using carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) to generate low-carbon power. Of the $6.1 million, one funding opportunity will provide $3.1 million to support DOE’s University Coal Research (UCR) program, and the other opportunity will provide $2.2 million in support of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Other Minority Institutions (HBCU-OMI) program for environmental remediation and CCUS research. Moreover, up to $800,000 in additional funding related to emissions control is available across both programs. Combined, both funding opportunities will support approximately 20 student engineers and scientists working over 2-3 years on research projects related to technologies critical to advancing the Biden-Harris Administration’s goals of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“Climate change is everyone’s problem, which is why climate solutions require viewpoints from a diverse and highly skilled workforce that will keep us competitive in a new net-zero economy,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “The scientific brilliance cultivated at America’s higher education institutions, like HBCUs and other MSIs, is unrivaled. DOE is proud to support the next generation of innovators who will build upon and maximize the impact of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s historic climate investments.”

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides robust investments in advancing technology to reduce emissions from heavy industry to address the legacy pollution that harms the public health of communities and neighborhoods. This includes a $12 billion investment in CCUS technologies that capture carbon pollution from point sources such as smokestacks and then permanently store the carbon. Additionally, $21 billion is allocated to clean up Superfund and brownfield sites, reclaim abandoned mine land, and cap orphaned oil and gas wells. These investments are part of the Administration’s overall response in remediating environmental harms, addressing the legacy pollution that harms communities, creating good-paying jobs, and advancing long overdue environmental justice.

The UCR and HBCU-OMI programs provide training resources that include technical assistance and mentorship opportunities. The funding opportunities will support guided early-stage research and development of new decarbonization approaches. One example is exploring the generation of low-carbon energy by blending biomass feedstocks with waste coal coupled to carbon capture and dedicated storage, which will help provide a better understanding of how we can achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. Another approach is the utilization of algae to uptake carbon dioxide, which will then be converted into higher value products, including fuels, plastics, or fine chemicals. In addition to fundamental technology development, this opportunity provides funding that supports HBCUs and other MSIs in performing assessments of their resources to determine gaps for conducting early-stage research and development activities aligned with decarbonization goals and objectives.

The funding opportunities will also support technology development around the environmental remediation of legacy pollution left behind by producing and combusting coal—such as coal ash, coal refuse, acid mine drainage, and tens of thousands of abandoned mines across the United States. The legacy wastes from coal mining and related activities can contain a wide variety of valuable minerals and materials. Rare earth elements and critical minerals are essential materials that are used in a broad range of technologies that are significant to national security and energy, such as advanced aircraft, wind turbines, electric vehicles, semiconductors, and hydrogen fuel cells.

Research into reclamation and remediation of metals from legacy sites will inform future studies related to the creation of robust, sustainable domestic critical mineral supply chains. The funding opportunities will aid in the development of and training of future scientists on recovering critical raw materials from these sites – such as lithium, cobalt, nickel and copper.

Since 2010, together the UCR and HBCU-OMI programs have supported over 185 students, positioning them to usher in new ideas in technology development and become leaders in their communities.

Read the full UCR funding opportunity announcement here.

Read the full HBCU-OMI funding opportunity announcement here.

DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM) funds research, development, demonstration, and deployment projects to decarbonize power generation and industrial sources, to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and to mitigate the environmental impacts of fossil fuel use. To learn more, visit the FECM website,  sign up for FECM news announcements and visit the National Energy Technology Laboratory website.