The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced funding worth $590 million to renew its four existing Bioenergy Research Centers.
This funding will enable the DOE to access better knowledge about the next generation of sustainable, cost-effective bioproducts and bioenergy research. This is critical to reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions, ensuring future energy security, and creating new economic opportunities in rural areas.
Since they were introduced, the research centres have made groundbreaking scientific contributions towards advancements in biotechnology. These recent advancements are helping to expand the diversity of reliable domestic clean energy sources and ensuring the United States reaches President Biden’s ambitious goal of a net zero emissions economy by 2050.
What role does bioenergy play in the clean energy transition?
“To meet our future energy needs, we will need versatile renewables like bioenergy as a low-carbon fuel for some parts of our transportation sector,” said US Secretary of Energy Jennifer M Granholm.
“Continuing to fund the important scientific work conducted at our Bioenergy Research Centers is critical to ensuring these sustainable resources can be an efficient and affordable part of our clean energy future.”
Each of the four centres supports the science behind a bio-based economy and aims to break down the barriers to building a robust domestic bioenergy industry. They include:
- The Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison in partnership with Michigan State University;
- The Center for Bioenergy Innovation, led by DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory;
- The Joint BioEnergy Institute, led by DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; and
- The Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation, led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Continuing to invest in bioenergy research promises to yield a range of critical new products and fuels derived directly from non-food plant biomass, such as switchgrass, poplar, energy cane, and energy sorghum.
Tammy Baldwin, US Senator for Wisconsin, commented: “Wisconsin’s world-class research institutions have long supported America’s bio-based energy industry, including biofuels and biomass, that cut energy costs, create rural economic opportunity, and take on climate change.”
“This investment from the Biden administration will help us continue this proud tradition. These resources will help Wisconsin’s research institutions continue to innovate, boost farmers’ and producers’ bottom lines, develop cleaner energy, and move our Made in Wisconsin economy forward.”
Ensuring the US becomes a world-leading contributor to net zero projects
“One of the best ways for our nation to strengthen our competitiveness with the rest of the world is to enhance the brilliance that already exists in Illinois,” said Tommy Duckworth, Senator for Illinois.
“I’m pleased that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation will receive this federal funding to help support groundbreaking bioenergy research on clean energy, create jobs, address climate change, and further secure Illinois’s place as a global leader.”
Nikki Budzinski, a US Congresswoman, added: “As a graduate of the University of Illinois and its proud representative in Congress, I’m honoured to join Secretary Granholm in announcing $590m that will benefit bioenergy research at my alma mater.”
“For the last five years, the University of Illinois has done groundbreaking research at the Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation to revolutionise the role of biofuels and agriculture in our twenty-first-century energy economy. I’m so glad to see funding for this project renewed for the next five years. I look forward to seeing how these resources will benefit family farmers, our environment, and rural communities across Central and Southern Illinois.”
Bioenergy Research Centers: Developing future innovations in renewable energy research
Over the past 15 years, the Bioenergy Research Centers have led the development of fundamental science innovations across the bioenergy sector, from exploring more sustainable agriculture practices to designing microbial processes to produce a range of products, such as fuels, chemicals, and materials from dedicated bioenergy crops.
This latest renewal allows the BRCs to build on their accomplishments and represents the culmination of their vital research into the science behind and benefits of biobased products and a biofuel economy, which will inform future researchers for years to come.
The decision to renew the four Bioenergy Research Centres followed a successful review by a panel of outside peer reviewers on each centre’s past five years of performance. Initial funding for the four centres will total $110m over the course of 2023. Moreover, out-year funding will total up to $120m per year over the following four years and is contingent on the availability of funds.