DOE benefit program will fund research into energy efficiency in buildings.
The Department of Energy (DOE) has announced $46 million in funding for 29 projects across 15 states under its Buildings Energy Efficiency Frontiers and Innovation Technologies (BENEFIT) program. The investments will support the development of advanced technologies and retrofit solutions to reduce energy waste in buildings nationwide.
A key focus is supporting cost-effective electrification and efficiency improvements that enable healthier, more flexible and sustainable buildings for all households and communities. The funded projects will help advance innovations across building envelopes, equipment, controls, and construction practices. The DOE BENEFIT program aims to unlock deep energy savings and emissions reductions in new and existing structures by spurring progress in next-generation building technologies.
As Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm stated, BENEFIT represents a “critical investment in the future of energy efficiency in buildings.” By spurring ambitious new R&D, the program will help the DOE meet its goal of reducing national building energy use by 40% by 2035.
This is crucial for climate progress given the building sector’s massive footprint, which currently accounts for 40% of US energy consumption and 36% of greenhouse gas emissions.
Funding Revolutionary Efficiency Concepts
The DOE BENEFIT program will provide $46 million in total funding for research teams working on revolutionary efficiency innovations across areas like:
- Next-gen building materials
- Developing novel materials like shape-shifting façades or passive cooling constructions that drastically reduce heating/cooling loads.
- Transformational HVAC and thermal systems
- Inventing super-efficient, smart heating and cooling systems that leverage heat pumps, thermal storage, and occupancy-aware controls.
- Advanced lighting concepts
- Creating highly efficient, responsive lighting technologies like tunable LED systems with integrated sensors and controls.
- Cutting-edge smart building controls
- Integrating predictive analytics, AI, and advanced sensors to dynamically optimize energy systems in response to conditions.
- Novel integration of on-site renewables
- Developing technologies that enable simple, plug-and-play integration of distributed solar PV, wind, and other renewables at the building level.
- Breakthroughs in energy storage and distribution
- Leveraging batteries, thermal storage, and microgrid architectures to provide resilient, efficient power distribution and storage.
Proposals are due by July 18, 2023, with applicants welcomed from universities, industry startups, and national labs. The DOE BENEFIT program sets the ambitious goal for funded technologies to reduce whole-building energy consumption by at least 20% compared to today’s best systems.
From Lab to Market Adoption
In addition to supporting the development of novel efficiency concepts in the lab, DOE BENEFIT program projects will undergo rigorous real-world demonstration upon completion. This will verify actual performance gains in occupied buildings to confirm the innovations merit investment and widespread adoption. Successfully proven technologies can form the foundation for transforming efficiency in new and existing constructions.
Optimizing for Occupant Benefits
An exciting aspect of the DOE BENEFIT program is its mandate for technologies to synergistically enhance occupant health, safety, and productivity alongside maximizing energy savings. This emphasis on human-centric solutions covering indoor air quality, resilience, and thermal comfort will help ensure DOE investments deliver maximal societal value.
A Paradigm Shift in Building Efficiency
BENEFIT represents the DOE’s largest funding allocation yet focused wholly on step-change advancements in building energy performance. While past programs emphasized incremental improvements, BENEFIT acknowledges that entirely new approaches are required to meet decarbonization goals. The program may support ambitious innovations like passive cooling systems, shape-shifting materials or even technologies not yet imagined!
Besides physical technologies, the DOE BENEFIT program will also explore breakthroughs in data analytics, behavior change strategies and business models to push efficiency to the next level. This complements the hunt for technical breakthroughs that could enable truly transformative change across the building sector.
Accelerating Progress on Climate Goals
With the massive carbon footprint of America’s homes and commercial buildings, programs like the DOE BENEFIT program are vital to the creativity and collaboration needed for a sustainable, net zero emissions future. The DOE has expressed confidence that this surge of strategic efficiency funding will unlock game-changing solutions long into the future.
Let’s hope the BENEFIT program lives up to its ambitious goals of catalyzing innovation across the labs, universities, and businesses working hard to envision the next generation of high-performance, ultra-efficient buildings!