Business as usual: Energy Department awards $32 million in small-business grants

Is it possible that helping small businesses innovate and drive an important segment of the U.S. economy can be subversive under a Republican administration? If the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) has its way, the country may just get to find out.

Yesterday, the EERE granted nearly $32 million in funding to help small businesses innovate clean-energy that have strong potential for commercialization and job creation. The 32 awards are designed to move promising forward, including projects that improve manufacturing processes, boost the energy efficiency of buildings, increase transportation sustainability and generate electricity from renewable sources.

Specifically, the money came from two DOE programs: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR). Most excitingly, the majority of the projects are in Phase II of their development, having been selected for Phase I funding last year.

Selected on scientific and technical merit and commercialization potential, the competing companies were asked to propose aggressive cost and performance targets. Geographical diversity is an important part of the clean-energy economy so the benefits are not limited to a few states. To that end, the supported projects are located in 18 states: California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

Below is a list of the projects awarded:

The EERE has been under siege since President Donald J. Trump came into office showing ignorance about the renewable energy segment of the U.S. economy. Solar alone produced 1 in every 50 jobs in the U.S. economy last year. For a president who campaigned on a “bringing jobs to America” platform, it seems odd that he would continually go after clean energy, especially the solar industry. Yet that is what he continues to do.

Despite objections from a bipartisan coalition of governors and heavyweight leaders from some of the country’s largest employers, Trump’s proposed budget slashes funding aimed at renewable energy (targeting in particular the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (better known as NREL) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory), and he named a fossil-fuel acolyte to head the EERE.