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Originally published on the NRDC Expert Blog.

The Biden administration’s 2022 budget released on Friday includes major funding increases for important Department of Energy (DOE) programs to drive clean energy innovation, address the climate crisis, and build a strong and equitable economy. These funding increases complement the investments proposed in the President’s American Jobs Plan (AJP). Now it’s up to Congress to pass AJP and write a government funding bill that reflects the President’s proposals.

Below are five components of the budget that would accelerate clean energy innovation and redirect DOE programs toward our greatest challenges and opportunities.

1. Historic Funding Increases for Clean Energy

The budget includes $4.7 billion in regular-year funding for DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), a $2 billion (or 65%) increase from 2021. EERE houses the agency’s efforts focused on heavy industry, building decarbonization, clean transportation technologies, and renewable power. These programs are underfunded relative to the need for investment and the opportunity to build out domestic clean energy industries. The administration’s budget would give these programs a much-needed funding boost.

The budget also ramps up funding for other clean energy programs at DOE and establishes a new Advanced Research Projects Agency — Climate with initial funding of $500 million, of which $200 million is at DOE.

2. Demonstrations & Deployment to Round Out the Innovation Portfolio

The budget emphasizes funding for demonstration projects and deployment of climate solutions, a welcome pivot from the Trump DOE’s narrow focus on early-stage research and development. The new Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations, funded at $400 million, fills a critical gap in DOE’s efforts to commercialize newer, better clean energy technologies, reduce costs, and address barriers to widespread deployment. The $300 million for Build Back Better Challenge grants will help bring the benefits of clean energy to more communities. And the focus throughout the budget on research, development, demonstrations, and deployment will better equip DOE to accelerate clean energy innovation at the scale necessary.

3. Bringing Clean Energy to More Communities

DOE should play a critical role ensuring that more communities see the benefits of technologies like renewable energy, energy efficiency, and electric vehicles. Strong community engagement practices and funding for clean energy projects to benefit low-income, pollution-burdened, and energy transition communities and communities of color can help DOE meet these goals.

The budget includes several new programs to bring clean energy to more communities. For example, it proposes to prioritize the new Build Back Better Challenge grants for marginalized, overburdened, and energy transition communities. It also appears to expand the Weatherization Assistance Program — one of the only existing efforts focused on low-income communities — to enable more households to access funding for cost- and energy-saving retrofits, though the details on the expanded program are not yet clear.

The budget also indicates that EERE’s goal is to accelerate a just, equitable clean energy transition. This explicit focus, while just a start, is an important shift. Historically, EERE and most other offices at DOE have not been designed to support equity and environmental and energy justice.

4. Procurement and Funding to Decarbonize Heavy Industry

Technologies to clean up industrial facilities like steel mills and cement plants are critical to addressing the climate crisis. But these sectors have long been a major gap in DOE innovation efforts. The budget acknowledges that decarbonizing heavy industry should be a focus for both EERE and the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management. This focus is a great first step toward building out a strong federal industrial sector program. As Congress turns the President’s proposals into a detailed appropriations bill, we hope to see large funding increases for the Advanced Manufacturing Office, funding for large-scale demonstrations at industrial facilities, and support for DOE to expand its heavy industry efforts to include electrification, hydrogen, circular economy measures, novel processes, and carbon capture and storage.

The budget also includes more details on the industrial-sector decarbonization efforts proposed in the American Jobs Plan, including, notably, funding to procure low-carbon materials. The federal government is a top purchaser of industrial products like steel and cement for the construction of roads, bridges, buildings and other projects. Government procurement is thus a critical lever in creating early markets and sustained demand for cleaner materials, alongside direct investments to help ensure U.S. industry is making the cleanest products on the market.

To better leverage procurement to drive innovation, the federal government should support efforts to create a reporting system that helps manufacturers account for all the carbon associated with producing a range of industrial products, and require that all construction projects receiving federal funds take climate pollution and labor protection into account when awarding contracts. We urge Congress to include funding in the FY22 budget for the federal government to support these priorities. Doing so will ensure we capture the significant emissions reduction opportunities associated with switching to lower-carbon materials in projects funded by the American Jobs Plan.

5. Support for State, Local, and Tribal Governments

Action from states and municipal governments is critical to meeting our climate goals; increasing clean energy; and driving adoption of innovative technologies, policies, and business models. Federal funding is necessary to support states and cities in these endeavors, but current programs lack the budget to meaningfully support them.

The budget proposes several new programs to support states and cities, including Build Back Better Challenge grants for states and a new Local Government Energy Program. The success of these programs will depend on the details, but it is promising to see new efforts to support states and cities in the budget. Moreover, these programs build on the block grant funding proposed in the American Jobs Plan to provide an influx of support for states to advance clean energy, building electrification, and efficiency.

The budget also includes funding increases to support tribal nations to advance clean energy. Households on tribal lands lack access to electricity at extremely high rates and often face high costs to connect to the electricity grid. The budget proposes a six-fold increase in funding for the Office of Indian Energy (a $100 million increase) to support American Indian and Alaskan Native nations, including to help address energy access and energy poverty.

Federal clean energy programs have already helped foster a revolution in technologies like solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicle batteries. Now, we have an opportunity to accelerate clean energy innovation to improve, demonstrate, and deploy the technologies and strategies we need to combat the climate crisis. With the right funding and policies, we can do so in a way that creates strong economic growth rooted in the industries of the future, addresses inequalities in our energy and economic systems, and cuts pollution in places that have borne the brunt of it in the past. President Biden’s energy budget is a major step toward realizing these goals, and Congress should pass a government funding bill that incorporates these proposals and brings the benefits of clean energy to communities across the country.

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The US just made a big decision about Chinese solar – here’s what it means




The US just made a big decision about Chinese solar – here's what it means

The US Department of Commerce (DOC) has determined that four out of eight Chinese solar companies that it’s been investigating are “attempting to bypass US duties by doing minor processing in one of the Southeast Asian countries before shipping to the United States.” Here’s what it means for the US solar industry.

The DOC found that the four Chinese companies that attempted to circumvent US duties by processing in Southeast Asia are:

  • BYD Hong Kong, in Cambodia
  • Canadian Solar, in Thailand
  • Trina, in Thailand
  • Vina Solar, in Vietnam

The DOC findings are preliminary, and the agency will conduct in-person audits in the coming months. The DOC also noted that a ban is not going to be implemented on products from Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam:

Companies in these countries will be permitted to certify that they are not circumventing the [antidumping duty (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) orders], in which case the circumvention findings will not apply. 

The DOC also notes:

Further, some companies in Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam did not respond to Commerce’s request for information in this investigation, and consistent with longstanding practice, will be found to be circumventing.

As Electrek reported in mid-May, the DOC launched an investigation of whether Southeast Asian solar cell manufacturers are using parts made in China that would normally be subject to a tariff.

That investigation destabilized the US solar industry, which relies on solar module imports to meet growing demand. The majority of the US solar industry then asserted that the DOC investigation would harm the US solar industry and wanted the investigation dismissed.

On June 6, President Joe Biden waived tariffs for 24 months on solar panels made in Southeast Asia in response to the investigation. He also invoked the Defense Production Act to spur on US solar panel and other clean energy manufacturing. That way, domestic production could be sped up without interfering in the DOC investigation.

The DOC today asserted that Biden’s presidential proclamation provides US solar importers with “sufficient time to adjust supply chains and ensure that sourcing isn’t occurring from companies found to be violating US law.”

But Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), didn’t see it that way. She said in a statement:

The only good news here is that Commerce didn’t target all imports from the subject countries. Nonetheless, this decision will strand billions of dollars’ worth of American clean energy investments and result in the significant loss of good-paying, American, clean energy jobs. While President Biden was wise to provide a two-year window before the tariff implementation, that window is quickly closing, and two years is simply not enough time to establish manufacturing supply chains that will meet US solar demand.

This is a mistake we will have to deal with for the next several years.

George Hershman, CEO of SOLV Energy, the US’s largest utility-scale solar installer, also wasn’t pleased about the DOC’s announcement. He said in an emailed statement:

After years of supply chain challenges and trade disruptions, I remain concerned that the Commerce Department chose a path that could jeopardize the solar industry’s ability to hire more workers and construct the clean energy projects needed to meet our country’s climate goals.

The upside is that Commerce took a nuanced approach to exempt a number of manufacturers rather than issuing a blanket ban of all products from the targeted countries. While it’s positive that companies will be able to access some of the crucial materials we need to deploy clean energy, it’s still true that this ruling will further constrict a challenged supply chain and undercut our ability to fulfill the promise of the Inflation Reduction Act.

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Hyundai showcases ‘sustainable high performance’ EV tech in IONIQ5 N teaser video




Hyundai showcases 'sustainable high performance' EV tech in IONIQ5 N teaser video

Hyundai checked all the boxes with its award-winning IONIQ5, its first dedicated electric vehicle. The bold, futuristic-looking EV has earned high praise thus far with long-range capabilities, advanced features, and a smooth ride.

However, after teasing the IONIQ5 N in a new video, Hyundai has confirmed its race-inspired N-line will enter the new era of electric vehicles. Giving a new meaning to sustainable high performance.

What is sustainable high performance? In the simplest form, it’s high-performance electric vehicles that produce zero emissions.

However, Hyundai is spinning that by developing zero-emission EVs that can achieve high performance for prolonged periods (sustainable).

Hyundai’s N-line was born in 2012 by a hand-picked team of “elite research” staff members. The company’s high-performance line began attracting several higher-ups from BMW and Mercedes-Benz AMG.

The Hyundai N-line represents “three N DNA pillars,” including:

  1. Corner Rascal: driving enthusiasts must be able to handle corners, hence the “N.”
  2. Race Track Capability: Hyundai’s N-line vehicles must be “performance ready” at all times.
  3. Everyday Sports Car: N models are built not only to crush the racetrack but also for everyday driving situations.

The South Korean automaker will build upon these principles as it transitions to an electric future, giving us a glimpse into what that could look like with the Hyundai IONIQ5 N.

Hyundai IONIQ5 N is the future of sustainable high performance

The new video reveals how Hyundai is using its rolling lab, or what the company calls its “playground,” to bridge its motorsports DNA directly into its N-line models.

Hyundai RN22e Source: Hyundai

Hyundai began the RN22e project with a mission of setting a new stand in electrified high performance. The RN22e (which looks like an aggressive IONIQ6) is based on Hyundai’s E-GMP, which the IONIQ5 and IONIQ6 ride on, but includes several new features allowing it to live up to the “N” name.

One of Hyundai’s newest technologies is called the “E-TVTC,” which is:

A faster reacting torque vectoring technology that matches the instant torque of an EV, fending off the understeer.

Hyundai’s RN22e is the first four-wheel drive rolling lab. Dual motors sit at the front and rear axles, allowing precise power distribution.

To control battery heat (which can reduce performance), Hyundai is focusing on finding the perfect balance between aerodynamic efficiency and cooling. And for high-performance fans that like the “thrust” and sounds an EV does not typically feature, Hyundai is adding N Sound and N e-shift.

The automaker says it’s ready for the era of electrification with the IONIQ5 N, which will likely share the technology. Hyundai gives us a sneak peek into what the IONIQ5 N will look like, wrapped in camouflage at the very end alongside the RN22e and N Vision 74 (a hydrogen hybrid vehicle).

Although Hyundai doesn’t release specific powertrain specs, it’s likely to match the new Kia EV GT, with 577 hp and 0 to 62 in 3.5 seconds. You can watch the full video here.

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This county is the first on the US East Coast to ban natural gas




This county is the first on the US East Coast to ban natural gas

Montgomery County, Maryland, will be the US East Coast’s first county to ban natural gas in new buildings.

Montgomery County will require all new construction to only use electric energy equipment. Montgomery County, which is just north of Washington, DC, has a population of just over 1 million, so this is an impactful decision for the region.

That means specifically that all new buildings in the county will need to go electric for heating, hot water heating, and cooking from the end of 2026. However, income-restricted housing and schools will have until the end of 2027.

The Montgomery County Council backed the gas limits with a 9-0 vote, and the county executive is expected to sign off on Bill 13-22, “Comprehensive Building Decarbonization.”

About half of the county’s emissions come from buildings, so environmental groups welcomed the decision. Mike Tidwell, director of climate change public policy advocate group CCAN Action Fund, said about Bill 13-22 on November 17:

Our safety and health will benefit from a move to all-electric buildings, and we will be doing our part to address climate change.

Unsurprisingly, the natural gas industry isn’t as enthusiastic. E&E News reports:

Representatives from Washington Gas Light Co., which distributes gas to over a million customers in Montgomery County and the Washington area, said the ban focused on electrification “while dismissing other proven opportunities for decarbonization,” like mixing hydrogen into the natural gas system.

“We urge the Council to consider a more holistic approach to decarbonization, one that puts affordability, reliability, resiliency, and security at the forefront,” wrote the company in a July 26 filing to the County Council.

Electrification brings higher upfront costs to developers but lower operating costs in the long run.

Only two West Coast states, California and Washington, have banned the sale of all new natural gas-fired heaters and water heaters by 2030.

To date, no East Coast state has passed a natural gas ban. Massachusetts has a program that allows up to 10 cities to enact a natural gas ban, and New York State is considering one.

Read more: The largest electric school bus fleet in the US just launched in Maryland

Photo: Pixabay on

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