By Daniel R Simmons, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
On the first Friday of October, we at the Department of Energy (DOE) join millions of Americans throughout the nation in celebrating Manufacturing Day, an annual opportunity to commemorate the workers and enterprises that form an important part of our economy.
Domestic manufacturing is a top priority for the Trump Administration. Today, as manufacturers across the United States showcase their achievements to the public, we should take a moment to consider their vital contribution to American prosperity.
The manufacturing sector generates roughly 11 percent of gross domestic product and employs more than 12 million workers. In the first quarter of 2020, manufacturers contributed $2.36 trillion to the American economy. Manufacturing also remains one of the highest-paying sectors of the economy. As of August 2020, manufacturing workers earn an average hourly wage of $28.92.
Manufacturing and Energy
Manufacturing is also energy intensive, accounting for roughly 25 percent of energy consumption in the United States with a $150 billion annual energy bill. Given that manufacturing is one of the most energy-intensive industries in the country, DOE is committed to helping American manufacturers manage their energy bills.
DOE recognizes that low-cost energy as well energy efficiency is critical to manufacturing competitiveness. This is one reason why all of DOE’s applied energy offices—the Office of Nuclear Energy, the Office of Fossil Energy, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response, and the Office of Electricity work to keep electricity prices low. It’s also why DOE funds new industrial technologies, materials, and processes to make energy work harder for American manufacturers. Through its technical offices, funding opportunities, prize competitions, and cross-sector partnerships, DOE empowers manufacturers with the ability to research, develop, and rapidly scale the manufacturing technologies of the future.
DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) is wholly dedicated to addressing the R&D challenges of American manufacturers, and is DOE’s main tool for improving the competiveness of the manufacturing sector through greater energy productivity.
DOE’s advanced manufacturing portfolio touches nearly every aspect of America’s diverse manufacturing base. Earlier this year, AMO announced $67 million in funding to stimulate technology innovation across a range of manufacturing sectors and processes, including steel, chemicals, energy storage, and direct air capture.
Next Generation Storage Technologies
The Department is also focused on developing and manufacturing next-generation energy storage technologies. In January 2020, Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette announced the launch of the DOE Energy Storage Grand Challenge, which is a DOE-wide strategy to position the U.S. for global leadership in the energy storage technologies of the future. Manufacturing competitiveness is a key element of DOE’s energy storage strategy, which is why DOE recently issued a $12 million lab call to expand private-sector access to DOE user facilities at the national laboratories. These projects will help DOE scale up new battery manufacturing technologies.
DOE also supports domestic manufacturing by reducing American dependence on foreign-sourced critical materials for batteries and energy-storage technologies. AMO invests $25 million per year in the Critical Materials Institute, an Energy Innovation Hub that carries out early-stage applied research to diversify supply, develop substitutes, and support the re-use and recycling of critical materials. And earlier this year, AMO announced a $30 million funding opportunity to advance the field validation of critical materials separations and processing technologies in support of President Trump’s Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals.
Plastics Innovation Challenge
AMO also plays a key role advancing DOE’s Plastics Innovation Challenge. Announced in November 2019, the Plastics Innovation Challenge is a comprehensive strategy to accelerate the development of energy-efficient plastics recycling technologies and in the manufacture of new plastics that are recyclable by design. Recent efforts include a $25 million funding opportunity called BOTTLE, which is focused on novel methods of deconstructing existing waste plastic and on upcycling plastics into higher value products. Also this year, DOE’s Reducing Embodied-Energy and Decreasing Emissions Manufacturing Institute announced approximately $35 million to support research and development that will enable U.S. manufacturers to increase the recovery, recycling, reuse, and remanufacturing of plastics, metals, electronic waste, and fibers.
Industrial Assessment Center and Technical Assistance
While these are some of the key manufacturing initiatives started or expanded under the Trump Administration, DOE has a long history of supporting America’s manufacturers. Over the past 40 years, AMO’s Industrial Assessment Centers (IACs) have helped more than 19,000 small and medium-sized American manufacturers save energy, improve productivity, and reduce waste by providing no-cost technical assessments conducted by teams of engineering students and faculty. IACs typically identify more than $130,000 in annual savings opportunities for every manufacturer assessed, often reducing energy expenditures by as much as 7 percent in the first year of implementation.
The technical partnerships that DOE cultivates with states and businesses also support the development and validation of technologies that improve the energy productivity of American manufacturers. For example, DOE's Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Technical Assistance Partnerships have helped transform the market for CHP and district energy technologies throughout the country.
Technological innovation in advanced manufacturing has even helped our nation overcome the challenges of COVID-19. Researchers at two advanced manufacturing facilities at DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed new ways to rapidly produce N95 filters, masks, face shields, test kit components, and more—all in support of the medical professionals on the front lines of the pandemic response. ORNL is working with a private company that has scaled operations to produce three million surgical masks and half a million N95 masks per day.
On Manufacturing Day, DOE takes special pride in its contributions to the advancement of these vital industries. From the lab, to the market, to the factory floor—manufacturing matters.
To learn more about DOE’s efforts to strengthen American manufacturing, visit the Advanced Manufacturing Office website.
 Bureau of Economic Analysis. Industry Data. “Value Added by Industry (annual).” https://apps.bea.gov/iTable/iTable.cfm?ReqID=51&step=1
 Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment by Major Industry Sector. https://www.bls.gov/emp/tables/employment-by-major-industry-sector.htm
 Bureau of Economic Analysis. Industry Data. “Value Added by Industry (quarterly).” https://apps.bea.gov/iTable/iTable.cfm?ReqID=51&step=1
 Energy Information Administration. 2014 Manufacturing Energy Consumption Survey. Table 7.9. https://www.eia.gov/consumption/manufacturing/data/2014/pdf/table7_9.pdf.