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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently released its Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) Congressional Budget request of $35.4 billion. That includes $719.5 million for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) to help maintain America’s leadership in transformative science and emerging technologies in sustainable transportation, renewable power, and energy efficiency.

The FY21 budget request focuses on developing energy technologies that increase the affordability of domestic energy resources and improve the reliability and resiliency of the electric grid. Collaboration is also emphasized—not only with EERE’s private sector partners, but also across Department of Energy offices and Federal and state agencies.

Here are five key takeaways of EERE’s FY21 request:

1. Advance Grid Modernization and Cybersecurity

EERE is asking for $114.5 million for the Grid Modernization Initiative (GMI) to develop new tools, concepts, and technologies that will enable the grid of the future. The FY21 budget request focuses on technologies that promote electricity affordability, generation and hybrid systems, resilience modeling, advanced sensing, energy storage, system flexibility, cyber-physical security, and research that goes beyond the LCOE (Levelized Cost of Energy). 

In addition, EERE’s also requested $13.6 million for early stage R&D, technical assistance, and best practice sharing to identify and mitigate cyber risks to energy systems. This work is aligned with the Department of Energy’s Multiyear Plan for Energy Sector Cybersecurity.

2. Promote Energy Storage Technologies

EERE requested $97 million in FY21 for DOE’s Energy Storage Grand Challenge (ESGC). The ESGC will deploy the Department’s extensive resources and expertise to address energy storage technology development, commercialization, manufacturing, valuation, and workforce challenges. The vision for the ESGC is to create and sustain global leadership in energy storage utilization and exports, with a secure domestic manufacturing supply chain that is independent of foreign sources of critical materials, by 2030.

The ESGC is part of DOE’s holistic approach energy storage, bringing together EERE’s efforts with the Office of Science, GMI, the Advanced Energy Storage Initiative (AESI) and others to accelerate the development, commercialization, and utilization of next-generation technologies.

3. Advance Water Security

EERE’s FY21 request included a $20 million request to advance technology and innovation to help meet the global need for safe, secure, and affordable water through the Water Security Grand Challenge.

A White House-initiated, DOE-led initiative, the Water Security Grand Challenge will focus on desalination technologies, resource recovery from municipal wastewater, and small modular energy water systems (in coordination with DOE’s Offices of Fossil Energy and Nuclear Energy).

4. Accelerate Plastics Innovation

In the FY21 budget, EERE requested $20.5 million for DOE’s Plastics Innovation Challenge, a comprehensive program to accelerate innovations in energy-efficient plastics recycling technologies. Through this initiative EERE will explore technologies and approaches to economically deconstruct existing plastics, increase opportunities for upcycling, and develop infinitely recyclable polymers.

The purpose of the Plastics Innovation Challenge is to reduce the energy costs associated with the current lifecycle of plastics; develop new polymers that are recyclable-by-design; and develop biological and chemical methods to deconstruct plastic waste, including from rivers and oceans, into useful chemical feedstock streams. This includes emphasis on designing and manufacturing new technologies for both recyclability and reliability across our technologies entering the marketplace.

5. Create a Critical Materials Laboratory Consortium

EERE requested $52.6 million in the FY21 budget for critical minerals-related activities. The request will elevate critical minerals activities across DOE to an intradepartmental initiative and create a new National Laboratory-led critical materials consortium. In addition to diversifying the supply of critical materials and developing substitutes, the consortium will focus on critical materials recycling and reuse, and ways to use them more efficiently. The consortium will also develop and implement a multi-year program plan that will coordinate initiatives across DOE’s Applied Energy Offices and the Office of Science.

EERE’s efforts will focus on addressing all levels of the supply chain, including exploration, mining, concentration, separation, alloying, recycling, and reprocessing critical minerals called for in Executive Order 13817.

Read DOE’s full FY2021 request HERE.