Money is already flowing from the government into universities that can help local businesses reduce their energy footprint in a bid to prime the pump for increased private infrastructure spending.
Image Credit: Flickr/Steve Jurvetson
The Department of Energy announced that it would be doling out $60 million in funding to 32 universities across 28 states to create what are called “Industrial Assessment Centers.”
These centers will work with small- and medium-sized manufacturers to identify ways they can reduce their carbon emissions and lower their energy costs.
.“America’s best and brightest university students are successfully helping local manufacturers reduce pollution, save energy, and cut their electricity bills,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm, in a statement. “DOE’s university-based Industrial Assessment Centers are assisting small- and medium-sized businesses — particularly those in disadvantaged and underrepresented communities — in the transition to a clean energy economy, building the next-generation energy workforce, and propelling America toward a carbon-free future by 2050.”
Critically, as part of the pilot, selected industrial assessment centers will partner with community colleges and technical programs to train diverse students and professionals to conduct energy-efficiency assessments of small to medium-sized buildings, including those located in disadvantaged communities.
Upgrading the energy efficiency of buildings in these communities is one of the critical pieces of the infrastructure package and an easy way to make a huge dent in the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.
A 2019 report, by the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, showed that energy efficiency upgrades could reduce nearly 2,500 million metric tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide — equivalent to all emissions from cars, trucks, homes, and commercial buildings in 2050.
“Energy efficiency is an urgently needed climate solution,” said ACEEE executive director Steven Nadel, a report co-author, in a statement at the time. “It can deliver swift, robust emissions cuts. We cannot wait to take action. We already see the effects of intensifying climate change and the resulting increase in extreme weather events — from respiratory and other health problems to flooding, drought, heat waves, and wildfires.”
The thesis is similar to the one that led FootPrint Coalition to invest in Sealed, a portfolio company that handles the upfront costs of energy efficiency retrofits for homeowners.
Here, the DOE is training students to conduct these energy efficiency assessments, which companies can then use to create plans for efficiency upgrades.
The IAC program is one of the longest-running initiatives from the Department of Energy and is managed by its Advanced Manufacturing Office. To date it has provided 20,000 no-cost assessments for small- and medium-sized businesses with more than 147,000 recommendations for improvement measures.