How the White House's $450 million investment is helping the US transition towards clean energy

The transition to clean energy is happening right now in the US, thanks to the $450 million investment from the Biden administration.
Tejasri Gururaj
The White House
The White House

lucky-photographer/iStock 

The United States has been grappling with a crucial question for several years now: how to transition from the country's dependence on fossil fuels to clean and renewable energy sources? The Biden administration has made it clear that it aims to move the country away from coal and other fossil fuels towards a clean energy future. 

In line with this, the Department of Energy has now announced it is making available, through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, $450 million to advance clean energy demonstration projects on the site of current or former mining sites. This signifies the administration's commitment to creating new economic opportunities in areas affected by the coal industry's decline. 

The move aims to provide a new source of revenue for historic coal and mining communities while helping the country move towards a more sustainable future. The proposed bonuses for developers of clean energy projects are a significant incentive that can further encourage investment in renewable energy.

The transition to a cleaner energy economy will require significant investments and policy changes, and the Biden administration is taking concrete steps to create an environment conducive to this transition. The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act offers investment and production tax credits to clean energy projects, another measure aimed at spurring the growth of renewable energy.

The United States is not alone in its efforts to transition to renewable energy. Governments worldwide are grappling with the same challenge, and international cooperation and exchange of knowledge will be crucial in achieving the goal of a cleaner, greener future. The White House's recent announcement is a significant step in the right direction, and it will be interesting to see how this initiative is received and implemented in the coming months and years.

To gain insight into the vision behind this move and how it will affect clean energy projects in the US, IE reached out to Adam Goff, Senior Vice President of Strategy at 8 Rivers, a full-service Net Zero solutions provider.

The following interview has been edited for clarity and flow.

How the White House's $450 million investment is helping the US transition towards clean energy
Adam Goff, Senior VP, 8 Rivers

IE: What is the vision behind 8 Rivers?

AG: 8 Rivers advances clean technologies from invention to commercialization to licensing and then deploys commercial projects. We see ourselves as bringing important technology expertise and project execution to key areas of the energy transition, particularly within carbon capture.

We have a robust technology portfolio that is competitive for a diverse set of low-carbon energy challenges as we are world leaders in carbon capture and oxy-combustion. The energy transition is an enormous problem that requires an array of solutions. We use our deep expertise in the energy transition industry to partner with a provider to offer a complete solution. Our technologies, projects, and deployment engines enable companies and governments to take actionable steps to reduce their emissions now as they move towards achieving net zero.

IE: How will the White House announcement impact developers of clean energy projects such as 8 Rivers?

AG: The Department of Energy (DOE) and the White House have a lot of funding to disperse to help support clean energy projects due to the implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) bill. This particular announcement was focused on citing clean energy projects at current or former coal mines, which will help drive deployment in those particular areas. Developers of wind turbines or carbon capture projects have the incentive to partner with sites that used to or currently have coal mines and find clean energy projects there. 

Essential energy workers who have fueled the country for hundreds of years have taken on health risks that they shouldn’t have had to face. It is imperative that the energy transition allows those who previously mined coal and others within their communities to prosper and thrive after they’ve had the short end of the stick for too long.

How the White House's $450 million investment is helping the US transition towards clean energy
New incentives for developers of wind turbines or carbon capture projects

Incentivization of clean energy deployments in those locations, helps concentrate some of the job benefits and economic and tax revenue benefits in regions that really need them. These locations happen to have an extremely skilled workforce with a long history of working in the energy industry, which will help accelerate clean energy projects in those areas.

Projects typically use federal funding when they absolutely need it to accelerate. If you’re able to build a solar plant on your own, you probably wouldn’t use federal funding as it slows down the process comparatively. However, for a project that would take much longer anyway, it can help accelerate that, and allow new projects to be economically viable.

IE: What types of projects do 8 Rivers envision developing with the new bonuses being offered, in addition to investment and production tax credits available through the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act?

AG: A lot is going on right now for 8 Rivers, and we have a new regime full of clean energy. The funding supports our entire portfolio, like our Hydrogen (8RH2), Calcite, or Allam-Fetvedt Cycle technologies. This makes us focus even more on the US than we already were. As of now, not only is the carbon storage mature, but the entire carbon incentive ecosystem is mature – this includes clean power projects, clean hydrogen projects, and carbon removal projects.

We’re looking at biomass projects where we use biomass for carbon capture in order to have carbon-negative power and hydrogen — fueled by wood chips, which are a waste product from making lumber for construction. We're also looking at a clean hydrogen project, particularly to make ammonia, where we are turning natural gas into clean hydrogen for ammonia, which can then be used, not just for agriculture but also as a fuel to reduce coal use internationally as fuel for co-firing in coal plants in Japan and Korea.

How the White House's $450 million investment is helping the US transition towards clean energy
Calcite technology at 8 Rivers

There's also a specific tax credit for direct air capture. All of these projects got a huge boost from the Inflation Reduction Act. We're also applying for some of the grants as well for projects that need them, but not all the projects need the grants. A clean ammonia project doesn't need grant funding and may or may not apply for it through these federal programs.

But, for direct air capture projects, where it's a first-of-a-kind project, we will be applying for grant support from the DOE, but it's across our portfolio. This is not only true for us but for the whole industry – they didn't pick favorites here. Everybody got a credit and everybody can apply for these grants. So, solar projects, wind projects, as well as geothermal, and nuclear are all applicable.

IE: What are some of the key benefits of transitioning the US economy to renewable energy, particularly in terms of reducing reliance on coal and other fossil fuels?

AG: What we see happening right now is a transition to clean energy, which does include expanding renewables, which reduces our reliance on coal and gas. But we see this transition as specifically reducing reliance on unabated fossil fuels. 

We’re focused on making sure the fossil fuels we do end up using are decarbonized. Domestically and globally we are seeing the impacts of global warming, such as floods or heat waves, which is why in order to rid these disasters, we must transition to clean energy. It is important to help incentivize other countries to decarbonize, especially in places where there's a whole global structure. This can help to make sure the US emission introductions lead to global emissions reductions.

How the White House's $450 million investment is helping the US transition towards clean energy
Natural disasters can be reduced by transitioning to clean energy

Many other benefits are not just about climate change. Reducing air pollution is a huge one. Our oxy-combustion technologies don’t have any air emissions. So we’re talking about not just CO2, SOx particulates, reducing water use. These are key environmental issues that you have with energy production that are key to reducing. A lot of the local benefits and regional benefits come from reducing those air pollutants. This is true whether you're talking about a solar plant or a wind turbine, or the Allam-Fetvedt Cycle project. All these different sources of clean energy can reduce air pollutants as well.

This new clean infrastructure and new clean technology benefit the economy. These projects create jobs, and they create recurring tax revenue in their communities. And this technology that we are scaling is the technology that the US can export to the world. 

One thing that’s been talked about for a long time is energy security. The Russia-Ukraine war and Europe's poor preparation for it have really highlighted how important that is. The US has made big strides in reducing our reliance on imported fossil fuels. We're now an exporter. The clean energy transition can help here, decreasing the need for using imported fossil fuels, while also decarbonizing the use of domestically produced fuels with carbon capture.

IE: How does this announcement incentivize more clean energy investment in energy communities, particularly coal communities?

AG: Federal grant funding for building clean energy projects in coal communities will lead to more projects in coal communities, full stop. These programs help provide more hubs for clean electricity, and clean fuel schools located in coal communities.

How the White House's $450 million investment is helping the US transition towards clean energy
Renewable electricity generation in the US

It's not a panacea – there have to be other things to look at for projects to work, starting with community buy-in, along with existing infrastructure, e.g. transmission lines, railroads, or carbon storage. There are definitely hills to scale to make sure the clean energy transition benefits coal communities economically, those places that have long supported the US energy economy with coal production, and this is a good step.

IE: Do you think this move can help the U.S. economy convert to renewable energy in the long run?

AG: We see clean energy as being the major power in the US over the next couple of decades, both renewable energy and carbon capture and also nuclear, the full spectrum of clean energy. I think the whole strategy can help the U.S. economy convert to renewable energy. If you look at any component, it's a small piece of the bigger picture. However, if you look at the full picture of the CHIPS Act, the Inflation Reduction Act, the IIJA, and the existing infrastructure we have in the US, I think it is significantly accelerating the transition to clean energy.

We have research and development incentives to bring new technologies to market, grants to help initial projects get built, and tax credits that help you deploy those technologies of scale to get them down the cost curve to the point where they really stand alone. So, I think the US has most of the legs of its policy tool in place right now. It's pretty exciting to see.

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