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By Lynn L. Bergeson 

On January 11, 2022, Michigan State Senator Kevin Daley (R, 31st Senate District) introduced a bill focused on growing alternative fuel production in Michigan and providing cleaner and cheaper options for Michigan drivers using biofuels produced with renewable energy from Michigan farms. Senator Daley highlighted that “Biofuels are a major economic engine for rural communities across Michigan, and they help position our state to rely less on foreign oil.” Creating a five-cents-per-gallon tax credit for the sale of ethanol 15 (E-15) fuel and a 0.085-cent-per-gallon for the sale of ethanol 85 (E-85) fuel, this legislation aims to contribute to the reduction of emissions and stabilize markets for Michigan farmers that supply the corn for Michigan’s five ethanol plants. Industry stakeholders such as the Michigan Corn Growers Association demonstrated support for the introduced bill, stating that COVID-19 had a large impact on family farmers and small business owners.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson 

On January 13, 2022, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), in collaboration with the Algae Foundation and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, opened the AlgaePrize competition for high school through graduate students in the United States. This new prize focuses on the development, design, and invention of algal technologies to help reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions through algae commercialization. During the competition, teams will participate in an 18-month process of pursuing the technologies for algae production, downstream processing, and/or identification of novel products or tools. The AlgaePrize grand champion winner will receive a total of $20,000 cash prize.
 
The competition is open to teams of two or more students who are currently enrolled in an education program based in the United States. Students interested in participating in the competition must register by March 2, 2022. Additional information is available here.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson 

On December 29, 2021, the Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture, Dr. Ryan Quarles, announced that eligible Kentucky companies can now apply to the state’s Renewable Chemical Production Program. This program provides tax credits for capital investment, job creation, and the production of more than 30 chemicals derived from biomass feedstocks. These chemicals are limited to building block chemicals with a biobased content percentage of at least 50 percent, except for chemicals sold or used for the production of food, feed, or fuel. A complete list of chemicals and company eligibility requirements can be found at https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/law/kar/302/004/010.pdf. To learn more about Kentucky’s Renewable Chemical Production Program or to request an application, contact Tim Hughes at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Completed applications, along with a $500 compliance fee, are due by January 15, 2022.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson
 
On June 15, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) announced that it will host a webinar with EERE’s Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) for Renewable Power, Alejandro Moreno, on June 17, 2021, at 4:00 p.m. (EDT). The one-hour webinar will cover activities, programs, and initiatives proposed in EERE’s budget request. EERE requested $4.7 billion in an effort to lead the transition of the national economy into a 100 percent clean energy economy. The webinar is titled “EERE FY 22 Budget Request: Renewable Power.” DAS Moreno will be joined by several directors from EERE’s Renewable Power Technology pillar:

  • Becca Jones-Albertus, Director, Solar Energy Technologies Office;
  • Jennifer Garson, Acting Director, Water Power Technologies Office;
  • Susan Hamm, Director, Geothermal Technologies Office; and
  • Robert Marlay, Director, Wind Energy Technologies Office.

The final 15 minutes will be reserved for questions. Registration is require via this link. EERE will host two additional webinars on the FY22 budget request for the Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Transportation pillars.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On May 18, 2021, the European Parliament (EP) issued a press release announcing the Just Transition Fund (JTF) to assist European Union (EU) countries to address climate neutrality goals. The Just Transition Fund is composed of €7.5 billion from the European Commission’s (EC) long-term EU budget under the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and €10 billion from the EU recovery plan, NextGenerationEU. According to the press release, eligible projects must focus on economic diversification, reconversion, or job creation, or they must contribute to the transition into a sustainable and circular European economy. JTF will finance:

  • Job seeking assistance, upskilling, and reskilling to help workers as Europe shifts to a climate-neutral economy;
  • Micro-enterprises;
  • Business incubators;
  • Universities;
  • Public research institutions; and
  • Investments in new energy technologies, energy efficiency, and sustainable local mobility.

A “Green Rewarding Mechanism” could be introduced to the JTF for distribution of additional funding to member states if the EP decides to increase the fund’s resources after December 31, 2024. The goal is for the €7.5 billion JTF funds to generate between €30 and €50 billion from investments. Member states that succeed in reducing industrial greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will receive additional funding.
 
Access to JTF for member states is conditional upon adoption of national-level commitments to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. Before adoption of such commitments, member states will be entitled to only 50 percent of their national allocations. The portion of the investments provided by EC is set at a maximum of 85 percent for less developed regions, 70 percent for transitional regions, and 50 percent for more developed regions.
 
JTF is part of the European Green Deal Just Transition Mechanism (JTM) initiative, which provides targeted support to regions and sectors in the EU that are most affected by the transition into a green economy. JTM aims to help EU member countries by also:

  • Supporting the transition to low-carbon and climate-resilient activities;
  • Creating new jobs in the green economy;
  • Investing in public and sustainable transport;
  • Providing technical assistance;
  • Investing in renewable energy sources;
  • Improving digital connectivity;
  • Providing affordable loans to local public authorities; and
  • Improving energy infrastructure, district heating, and transportation networks.

In support of JTM, Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice President of EC stated that “[w]e must show solidarity with the most affected regions in Europe, such as the coal mining regions and others, to make sure the [European] Green Deal gets everyone’s full support and has a chance to become a reality.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson
 
On April 28, 2021, University of York researchers announced the discovery of a new enzyme derived from a fungus called Parascedosporium putredinis NO1, that can act as a catalyst for a biochemical reaction that breaks down forestry and agricultural waste.  The research was done in collaboration with DOE’s Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center and the University of Wisconsin.  This development, according to the University of York, could play a key part in upscaling renewable fuels and chemicals.  Professor Neil Bruce explained that this discovery is a breakthrough because, currently, there are no industrial biocatalytic processes for breaking down lignin, which is present in lignocellulose.  This enzyme, however, can break through the lignin to begin the degradation process needed to produce biofuels.  Professor Bruce elaborated that the “treatments with this enzyme can increase the digestibility of lignocellulosic biomass, offering the possibility of producing a valuable product from lignin while decreasing processing costs.”


 

By  Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On April 27, 2021, DOE’s Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) issued a Federal Agency Call (FAC) titled “Assisting Federal Facilities with Energy Conservation Technologies (AFFECT 2021),” soliciting $13 million for new energy projects that will help federal facilities to improve the efficiency of their operations and reduce their carbon footprints.  These efforts come with the hope that DOE will contribute to the Biden Administration’s goal of a 100 percent clean-energy economy and net-zero emissions by 2050.  DOE’s FEMP actions will, according to DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE) Acting Assistant Secretary, Kelly Speakes-Backman, “… both decarbonize and strengthen the critical energy and water infrastructure at … federal facilities, ensuring continuous operations in times of crisis.”
 
AFFECT 2021 will fund efficient, clean-energy projects that address directly climate change mitigation and adaptation through privately financed performance contracts, including:

  • Energy savings performance contracts (ESPC);
  • ESPC ENABLE – An initiative designed to permit a standardized and streamlined procurement process for small federal energy conservation measures (ECM) projects in six months or less; and
  • Utility energy services contracts (UESC).

The goal is for these performance contracts to leverage the $13 million in AFFECT grants into approximately $260 million or more in project investments.
 
Applications are being accepted for the AFFECT 2021 FAC until July 16, 2021, at 5:00 p.m. (EDT).  Registration is required prior to submission through EERE Exchange. Additional information is available here.


 

By  Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) researchers are leading analyses of recycling, repairing, and reusing solar photovoltaic (PV) installations in support of NREL’s mission to incentivize a circular economy for energy materials.  According to NREL, the increase in the installation of PV systems is leading to environmental and supply chain concerns because the technology relies on imports and mining of raw materials to meet domestic demands.  NREL predicts that, by 2030, decommissioned PV modules could total a million tons of waste in the United States or one percent of the world’s e-waste.  Concerned by these facts, NREL researchers have been leading ongoing analyses of the end-of-life management of PV modules in the current market.  Taylor Curtis, an NREL sustainability analyst, highlights that “[r]epair, reuse, or recovery of this equipment would reduce negative environmental impacts, reduce resource constraints, and stimulate U.S. economic growth.”
 
According to NREL research, if best practices are applied and regulatory barriers removed in the future, the U.S. industry for recovered PV materials could total $60 million by 2030 or $2 billion by 2050, from modules alone.  A summary of NREL’s recommended best practices for retiring PV systems is detailed in this report, and a detailed analysis of current federal and state regulatory barriers to PV module recycling and recovery is available in NREL’s March 2021 report titled “Solar Photovoltaic Module Recycling: A Survey of U.S. Policies and Initiatives.”


 

By  Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On April 5, 2021, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Joni Ernst (R-IA), introduced a $500 million bill on biofuels infrastructure.  The bill, titled the Renewable Fuel Infrastructure Investment and Market Expansion Act, would create a grant program to aid fuel retailers in streamlining sales of fuels with higher ethanol blends.  These infrastructure grants would be available for five years.  Senator Klobuchar highlighted that "[d]iversifying our fuel supply and introducing higher blends of biofuels in the market are great steps forward as we work to promote clean energy technologies and invest in transportation infrastructure.”  She also stated that this legislation would highly benefit the economy and the environment by making cleaner fuels more accessible.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On April 8, 2021, from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. (EDT), the Environmental Law Institute (ELI), in partnership with BioCycle and the American Biogas Council, will host a webinar titled “Food Scrap Recycling: Opportunities and Realities of Anaerobic Digestion.” The webinar will focus on anaerobic digestion and its ability to create biogas and digestate that can be used as renewable energy products. Registration is required via this link.


 
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