Today, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) issued a $23 million funding opportunity announcement (FOA) that will drive innovation to decarbonize the entire life cycle of Water Resource Recovery Facilities (WRRFs). These facilities, which treat wastewater from public water systems, are among the country’s largest industrial electricity users with full lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on par with direct emissions from the food and beverage industry— one of the largest GHG-emitting industries in the United States. This FOA will accelerate research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) of technologies to lower GHG emissions from WRRFs to help decarbonize our nation’s water treatment sector and move the U.S. closer to a net-zero economy by 2050.  

Our nation’s energy and water systems are interdependent. From irrigating crops for biofuels to keeping power plants cool, water is used in all phases of energy production, while water extraction, distribution, and treatment all require energy. WRRFs are an essential part of our nation’s water infrastructure, simultaneously producing clean water, generating renewable energy, recovering nutrients from wastewater, and reducing our impact on the natural environment. However, cleaning water is an energy intensive process. WRRFs are estimated to be directly responsible for over 44 million metric tons (MMT) of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions each year or the equivalent emissions from more than 9 million gasoline-powered passenger vehicles. A large portion of these emissions are comprised of nitrous oxide and methane, both of which are more powerful GHGs than carbon dioxide.

This FOA includes the following topics to improve energy efficiency and reduce GHG emissions from WRRFs, while also lowering costs:

Decarbonization of WRRF Unit Processes: This topic will focus on projects to reduce GHG emissions from various unit processes within WRRFs while maintaining or decreasing operating costs. Proposed projects must achieve a 50% reduction in emissions from key processes without increasing total WRRF operating costs.

Reducing overall GHG emissions from WRRFs: This topic will focus on projects to reduce GHG emissions and treatment costs for WRRFs at larger scales and higher levels of technological readiness. Proposed projects must achieve a 25% reduction in emissions without increasing operating costs beyond baseline operations of an entire facility.

The awards will be issued as cooperative agreements with a period of performance of three to five years. Concept papers are due January 27, 2023, at 5 P.M. ET. Learn more about the FOA here.

This funding opportunity is led by EERE’s Industrial Efficiency and Decarbonization Office (IEDO). Learn more about IEDO and its work to advance basic RD&D across the four pillars of industrial decarbonization.