Waste-to-Energy Technical Assistance for Local Governments (Text Version)
This is the text version for the Waste-to-Energy Technical Assistance for Local Governments webinar.
Emily Mousel, National Renewable Energy Laboratory: Welcome, everyone. We will get started in just a minute here. Thank you for joining us today. Good morning, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us all today.
My name is Emily Mousel, and we are pleased to have you with us. I am mindful of the time, and so we are going to get started. In front of you, you will see several tips about how to operate Webex. If you have questions at any time, we will have a Q&A session at the end of today’s event.
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So, without further ado, I am going to introduce today’s panelists. First, we have Beau Hoffman. Beau is the technology manager at BETO. Beau works with the conversion technology’s R&D program, and his realm of expertise is in resource and energy recovery from waste streams. In this capacity, he manages a variety of projects involved in conversion of these waste streams to high-value products, liquid transportation fuels, and renewable natural gas.
Beau also represents the United States as a task lead in IEA Bioenergy Task 36-Material and Energy Valorization of Waste in a Circular Economy. Additionally, we have with us today Anelia Milbrandt, a senior research analyst at NREL. Anelia is a member of the Resources and Sustainability Group in the Strategic Energy Analysis Center. She leads NREL’s efforts related to WTE resources, including analyses on their availability, competing uses, economic potential, and market opportunities. Anelia also leads NREL’s activities related to analyzing biogas and renewable natural gas production potential from resource, energy, and market perspectives.
First up today, we will start with Beau. So, Beau, I’ll invite you to turn on your camera and unmute yourself and can get started.
Beau Hoffman, Bioenergy Technologies Office: All right. Good morning, everybody—or good afternoon, depending on where you are in the country. I’m very pleased to be with you today and I want to first thank everybody who has taken the time to sit in on this webinar. We hope it will be useful in terms of orienting you to our program, and you know, potential opportunities for collaboration. I’m going to start with a few slides on the Bioenergy Technologies Office and why we are interested in organic waste and resource and energy recovery therein.
Anelia Milbrandt, my colleague, will then talk a little bit about the expertise that has been developed and the type of expertise that you can tap into as communities and local governments, and then, finally, at the end of the presentation, we’ll talk about the actual technical assistance mechanism. So, that’s kind of the outline for today. So, the Bioenergy Technologies Office is one of a handful of technology development offices within the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Bioenergy Technologies Office—or BETO—has a mission of developing transformative and revolutionary sustainable bioenergy and coproduct technologies. In this endeavor, we have five program areas that span the entire value chain. So, on the front end, we have processes and technologies for converting feedstocks such as corn stover, energy crops, as well as algae. So, we invest about $80 million annually into those programs and then, sitting in the middle of the program is the Conversion Technologies Office, where a lot of the organic waste, resource, and energy recovery work has taken place to date.
Since fiscal year 2019, we’ve invested about $30 million in various approaches to convert various organic waste streams, and this also includes a considerable amount of analysis. And I hope that in Anelia’s slides, you’ll get a flavor for what resources and data are available to you. We also have programs in the office related to scale-up and integration. The systems development and integration program works on scale-up of technologies to pilot- and demonstration-scale size, and then we have a program focused on data modeling and analysis, and that supports our strategic analysis efforts, our sustainability indicator identification quantification baselining, and other relevant analyses. Next slide, please.
So, the term “waste energy” is one that, depending where you sit in the community, means different things. A lot of folks refer to waste energy as incineration or anaerobic digestion, and within the Bioenergy Technologies Office, we take a little bit of a different view. We are interested in all sorts of resource and energy recovery strategies. And in the context of this, we’re focused on four waste streams. Anelia will talk about these more shortly, but as a country, we produce about 77 million dry tons per year of organic waste.
Of this 77 million tons, about 27 million is beneficially used in applications such as anaerobic digestion, composting, or other energy recovery strategies. We also have a considerable amount of congressional interest in the area. Over the last 6 years or so, we’ve gotten specific appropriation callouts to focus on these waste streams. So, I have a choice snapshot from one of the senate bills from FY19. If you’re interested in learning more, there are two publications that we put out in recent years, and they can go into some of these topics in a lot more detail. Next slide, please.
So, as an office, BETO is interested in organic waste for a variety of reasons. First, it is an economic and environmental liability to communities. Anelia, if you want to just kind of click through. We know, for instance, for wastewater sludge, that wastewater sludge represents a considerable economic expense for municipalities, municipal-owned treatment works. In addition, we know, as a country, that about $3.3 billion is spent on biosolids management.
If you want to keep clicking, Anelia, that would be great. And that is things like de-watering and drying of the sludge, sterilization so that you’re eliminating pathogens, transportation to its end use, and ultimately, the tipping fees that you may pay at landfills and compost facilities. So, this $3.3 billion is spread across the economy, and each and every rate payer is essentially paying it. In California, for instance, biosolids produced are transported a median distance of 130 miles before their end use. On the environmental side, these are also considerable sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
What’s shown here on the bottom right is methane emissions from some of these urban and suburban waste streams. So, between landfills, manure management, and wastewater treatment, we generate greater than 200 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent per year. We also have the generation of other greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide, which are also very potent. So, not only is there economic proposition here, but there’s certainly an environmental one. Next slide, please.
And last but not least, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the third pillar of sustainability, and that is social sustainability. We know that, historically, the solid waste handling facilities have typically been cited in communities of color and other disadvantaged population areas across the country. What’s shown in the top left is a redlining map from around the time of the New Deal. And when they’re classifying a neighborhood as hazardous, it’s not talking about the pollution per se here, but rather some of the socioeconomic and demographic factors. I’d invite anybody on this call to look at the University of Richmond’s work in this area, where they’ve gone back and scanned these redlining maps and the actual surveying information for these communities.
In California, the state has put together a fantastic tool known as CalEnviroScreen, which allows the overlaying—geospatially—of a variety of economic, environment, and social indicators. So, related to organic waste, I’ve shown where these solid waste handling facilities are located in the Bay Area, the percentile of waste that a community is having to bear, and other factors such as cardiovascular disease, all to say environmental impacts are numerous from wastewater processing facilities and that’s not just limited to odor, noise, infectious disease factors. There are countless indicators that we need to be considering here. And likewise, as we think about the next generation of resource and energy recovery facilities, it’s important to consider social license to operate. In that regard, we as an office are very interested and excited to partner with a variety of disciplines, including social scientists, anthropologists, historians, to truly understand what problems we’re trying to solve in the respective communities.
And ultimately, that’s a key impetus for this program, which we’ll touch on later. With that, I’m going to transition over to my colleague, Anelia, who’s going to talk a little bit about the existing research that, again, we hope to bring to bear to this program.
Anelia Milbrandt, National Renewable Energy Laboratory: Thank you, Beau. Can everybody hear me okay?
Emily: We hear you, Anelia.
Anelia: Thanks, Emily. Appreciated. Thanks, everyone, for joining us today. It’s a pleasure to be here. I will give you a brief overview of our work that we’ve been doing over the years on the organic waste materials, and I would like to note that the data, knowledge, and information that we’ve gathered serve as the foundation for the implementation of the Waste Energy Technical Assistance, and it actually led to its development.
I would like to also say that to make this data, knowledge, and information, accessible and used by local governments, it’s a very fulfilling experience for us researchers. So, thank you for being with us today. I hope the slides will be advancing as they should. Sorry. Bear with me. Wonderful.
I would like to start by expanding the definition for organic waste that Beau mentioned earlier. To some, these materials are waste and liability, as he noted, but to others, these materials are also a valuable resource. Again, these resources are food waste, sewage sludge, animal manure, and fats, oils, and greases. Food waste we consider materials discarded from residential, commercial entities—think of restaurants and grocery stores; institutional, such as educational facilities, hospitals, prisons, and things of that nature; as well as industrial sources—namely food processing establishments. Sewage sludge is the solid materials remaining after wastewater processing, and here we’d like to note that another term used interchangeably often is biosolids, which are treated as sludge to remove pathogens and meet the standards for beneficial use in disposal.
Animal manure is the organic material containing nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and other nutrients that is generated from concentrated animal feeding operations. And fats, oils, and greases is a descriptive term that covers animal byproducts and grease from food handling operations. These include animal fats such as tallow, white grease, and poultry fat that are obtained from a slaughterhouse and livestock farm waste. It also includes used cooking oil, and this is generated with commercial and industrial cooking operations, as well as trapped or intercepted grease recovered from traps installed in sewage lines of restaurants, food processing plants, and wastewater treatment plants. I would like to note here that the other terms for used cooking oil and brown grease—and namely, you will hear me referring to—or probably, you all know—that yellow grease is another term for used cooking oil, which is rendered and filtered material and it’s actually a commodity released by rendering plants. And another one is brown grease for trapped or intercepted grease, which again, is a commodity filter process type of material from rendering plants. Moving on.
Our research assessment of organic waste indicates that these materials have the equivalent energy conduit of about one quad or 7 billion diesel gallon equivalents per year. This equates to about 18% of 2017 U.S. on-highway diesel consumption. I would like to underline what I’m saying—on highway. As you know, diesel is used in other sort of sectors as well like railroad, farm equipment, and so forth. So, we’d like to say that in this case, we estimate 18% of on-highway diesel—think of freight transportation, buses, and so forth.
About half of this potential is generated by animal manure, as illustrated on the pie chart here. FOG and sludge contribute equally about 20% each, and food waste constitute about 8% of the potential.
This slide illustrates our effort to map the geographic distribution for these waste materials. This is just an example. We’ve generated similar maps for every single feed stock that I mentioned earlier—in this case, showing sludge, food waste, yellow grease—or used cooking oil—and dairy manure. For the most part, as you can see for sludge; most fats, oils, and greases; and food waste, the geographic distribution follows population patterns. In other words, areas with large population also centers for large organic waste generation. In the case of manure and some fats, oils, and greases—namely animal fats—the distribution follows that of animal production.
Moving on to organic waste prices, we conducted a study that estimates the prices of organic waste materials and generated maps by county for each individual type, except for fats, oils, and greases. This is because FOG doesn’t show a large variation between regions. If a resource has been commoditized—which is the case for some fats, oils, and greases; like yellow grease I mentioned earlier, brown grease, and animal fats—its price is determined by market demand. And if a resource is regarded as waste—which is for the case for the rest of the materials—its price is driven by the cost of its disposal. The top map to the right illustrates the sludge prices by county.
Perhaps it’s a little hard to digest in the legend here, but I will walk you through in a moment. The communities in red, purple, and dark blue indicate what we call negative prices, which means that the resource is free, or users could be paid to receive the material because it represents a disposal liability to the producer. Similarly, the map on the bottom shows estimated prices for nonresidential food waste and the dark colors, again, represent negative prices. Our models indicate that those negative prices are most likely to occur in areas where we have organic waste disposal bans. As you know, states such as California, New York, New Jersey, and so forth—some individual municipalities such as Austin, Texas; Boulder in Colorado; Hennepin County in Minnesota; and so forth have passed organic waste bans or mandatory organic recycling laws.
And when laws stipulate where and how organic waste is disposed, it can generate opportunities for using the materials in energy and resource recovery technologies. Our models also indicate that the negative feedstock prices are most likely to occur in areas where disposal costs are also high. Disposal costs—in urban areas, specifically—are driven from transportation of waste long distances, but also higher landfill tipping fees. Not surprising, I guess, but this is what, again, the plan behind the development of these maps. And especially on the nonresidential food waste, you can see clearly the negative prices colored again in dark colors, and those correspond, again, to the organic waste bans that are in place.
And again, we see materials that are at a negative sort of indicator. We also would like to acknowledge the formal and informal local markets, and those indicate existing applications such as anaerobic digestion, composting, incineration, and so forth—that they drive prices in a given area. If there’s a demand for those materials naturally, the costs will go up. Great.
Here, we’d like to briefly discuss the disposal and utilization options for organic waste, as they exist currently. A large amount of these materials is landfilled in the U.S. For example, food waste. We believe about 57% or so is landfilled in the country. A landfill represents a loss of market and energy value of these materials to the economy, but also, a significant number of landfills are scheduled to close by 2050, as illustrated in this map in red.
So, it’s not an insignificant number. These closures create a need for investment in additional waste management options, therefore, opportunities for, again, existing or advanced waste energy technologies. As a reference, the yellow/orange bubbles show facilities closed since 2018, and the blue circles—again, scaled by capacity—show the closures after 2050. Composting is another large, utilized option for organic materials. The graph to the right shows the number of composting facilities by state, with the states of Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Florida, Wisconsin, and a few others leading in terms of numbers—total numbers of composting.
Food banks and animal feed are relevant to food and food waste and also practiced in many locations across the country. Rendering is applicable to FOG. Rendering plants can burn the raw materials—such as animal byproducts and, as I mentioned earlier, used cooking oil and trapped grease—into valuable products, and these materials are used by various industries such as animal feed, pharmaceutical products, cosmetics, lubricants, biofuels, of course, plastics and so forth. And another option for utilization of organic waste is the energy recovery, which I will cover in the next slide.
In general, the energy recovery options we can divide for the purpose today in commercial applications and advanced applications. Anaerobic digestion is a very widely established process worldwide, which produces power, produces heat, pipeline-quality gas, renewable compressed natural gas, and liquified natural gas, as illustrated in the graph to the right. It also produces valuable byproduct, as I said, which can be used as organic fertilizer, animal bedding, and the other products, and biogas itself also could be used as a bioproduct feedstock. Incineration—we have again, it’s also, as you know, practiced in the U.S. We have about, I believe, 70 or so incinerators in the country and that’s been sort of steady over the last 25 years or so.
There were, I believe, in Florida, was the last incinerator that was built, again, during that time frame—in 2015 or so. So, we haven’t seen really much movement in that field, but it produces power. It produces combined heating power as well. Another option for energy recovery is the production of biodiesel from fats, oils, and greases. We have about 100 or so biodiesel plants in the country, and they’re producing—in addition to soybean oil—again, they’re using fats, oils, and greases—primarily yellow grease or used cooking oil filtered and rendered, and, to some extent, animal fats. Another option is the traditional hydrotreating that is used in petroleum refineries, and through that process, we can produce what we call a drop-in renewable diesel jet fuel and heating oil, which means that it’s fully compatible with the conventional fuels and can be used in any planes 100% as opposed to biodiesel, which, again, if you’re using it in fuels, in blending above 20% with conventional fuel, it requires modification to the engine.
So, again, for hydroprocessed fuel—you might have heard a term HEFA fuel—those are, again, ready to use in any sort of ratio. Another option that we’ve also seen used in recent years is pyrolysis, or a heating of organic material in the absence of oxygen, which produces biochar, and biochar is a very valuable part of this [inaudible]. Moving on to advanced applications. Hydrothermal liquefaction, or HTL for short, is a process that I recall that the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory had been working extensively and have achieved. They have a pilot-scale unit outside, and this process produces bio-oil or biocrude that can also produce renewable or drop-in diesel, gasoline, and jet fuel.
The bio-oil could be upgraded to hydrocarbon fuels. In short, while AD, in the most basic form, is very well established in deployed technology, the possibility for advancing state of the art to several processes that I listed here and in strategies. NREL and other DOE laboratories are working towards improving the yield, performance for anaerobic digestion while valorizing byproducts, but also creating products that are from this process. All right.
Here, I would like to mention that at NREL, we have been also performing our techno-economic analysis and including anaerobic digestion. TEAs identify key cost drivers. They identify technical challenges that industry encounters, and the most critical performance targets for a given pathway or a process that we evaluate its economic viability. The graph to the right shows an example of how we look at the system—in this case wastewater treatment plants AD design—and examining all individual components in terms of the yield and costs to support decision-making. The graph to the left illustrates and compares biogas—a biogas yield for various feedstock as reported in literature versus theoretical yield.
As you can see, swine manure has the lowest biogas yield as compared to other waste. This is due to the high quality of nonfermentable components, such as ash, in the feed. Fats, oils, and greases and food waste—the high strain substrates—that’s the reason why they’re very much desired for coprocessing with manure and sludge—to boost biogas yield. I would like to note that manufacturers need to be taken into account to ensure successful AD application, and some affect the cost while other influence the biogas productivity. Therefore, as we look at the system and we build this techno-economic analysis, a balance between different decision factors need to be achieved in order to, again, make sure that a unit is operating as it should.
We have also completed, recently, a cost-benefit analysis of food waste disposal and utilization pathways. We have generated results at state level, but we can—I’d like to note that our models are very flexible. We can generate at any geographic level, county, and on site, and we’ve also generated these types of results at various capacities. Our focus was on those five main pathways and various sub-pathways as illustrated here—namely landfilling, which includes flare; business as usual, in our case electricity; combined heat and power; compressed natural gas; and pipeline injection.
Composting includes windrow, in-vessel, and aerated static pile. Anaerobic digestion we divided in two separate types: dry—which is high solids—AD, which process feedstock with greater than 15%–20%; and wet AD, which process organic feedstock with less than 15% or 20% solids. And similarly, to landfill, we have the same, what we call “set pathways”—flare, electricity, combined heat and power, compressed natural gas, and pipeline injection. We also looked at incineration—namely electricity pathway and combined heat and power, and for HTL—or hydrothermal liquefaction—we’re looking at, again, biocrude production and opportunity to upgrade it to various hydrocarbons.
The graph to the right illustrates partial undefined results of this analysis because the work is unpublished, but the actual results—real results—I just can’t specify them because, again, they’re not publicly available yet. But I would like to walk you through with these, again, two graphs that they’ve been combined for easy sort of comparison means. The brown and green colors on the negative side illustrate that pathway costs and any capital in the operation and maintenance costs. The values on the positive side indicate pathways benefits or profits such as tipping fees, which are marked in pink, and product revenues and credits, which are marked in orange, red, and blue. The black dot represents net present value, which determines the value of all cash flow generated by a pathway and is used to establish the profitability of a pathway.
A positive NPV indicates an attractive pathway, which is the case for all large-scale pathways that is shown in the graph, and conversely, a negative NPV shows less profitable pathways, as shown for all small-scale pathways. I would like to note that this is just a small set of examples. In our results, actually, we have positive NPV for some small-scale pathways, and negative NPV for some large-scale facilities. The main takeaway from this graph in our analysis results is that for a pathway to break even, it requires a tipping fee—not surprising, again. A facility of particular scale, as illustrated here on the graph—larger facilities are able to offset the cost easier. And another sort of component or factor is revenue streams and credits associated with those product sales.
Naturally, results vary by capacity. This is just an example of two capacity sizes, and we have generated many more in geographic locations. Geographic variances stems from different system tipping fees, fuel energy prices. Again, they have very specific regional pattern, and, of course, local wages.
We have also been busy on the market and policy side. We performed a hot-spot analysis, which integrates information on organic waste research potential prices, fuel consumption, local market fuel prices, and available policies. And we used this information to identify areas with the best potential for developing advanced waste energy technologies. We also monitor and evaluate exist biogas, biodiesel, and renewable diesel plants. At the map to the right here shows the existing biogas plants, and it includes food waste locations, all dedicated food waste type of facilities, also landfill gas projects, also manure digesters in the locations over at—digesters at the wastewater treatment plants, and we use this information to stay abreast of market developments.
I didn’t mention incineration again because we have—again, it has been somewhat steady during the past 25 years, but we still evaluate its performance in terms of material consumption and power generation. We also pay close attention to renewable energy certificates. We evaluated the REC’s market rules and policy changes. As you know, these are pretty fluid, so we need to keep an eye on those. We also provide guidance on claims that organizations can make from other purchase and sale of RECs.
We also help organizations understand pathways for purchasing REC products. Similarly, we also analyze renewable identification numbers—RINs for short—for renewable fuels as they’re generated under the renewable fuel standard program, and also, the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard, by looking at, again, paying attention to historic/current generation prices, sales, and so forth. We’ve also summarized existing practices and regulatory standards for handling disposal of organic waste in the U.S., and a key finding from this work is that except for several types of fats, oils, and greases, all the materials considered in this work—sludge, manure, and food waste—are conventionally viewed and handled as waste. Management standards are defined at the federal level and allows states or local entities the ability to adopt a federal standards or develop stricter rules. An example here is the map to the right for sludge disposal regulations.
The light blue color shows the same as the federal standard set by the EPA; the darker blue illustrates locations where states have implemented a pollutant or pathogen limits as stricter than the federal standard, and the darker blue indicates states where the management practices are stricter than those outlined in the federal standards.
Regarding socioeconomic analysis, NREL developed the Jobs and Economic Development Impact—JEDI, very cool name, for short. These models estimate the economic impact of constructing and operating renewable energy plants at the local and state level based on user-entered, project-specific data, or we can use also—input default inputs that they define by industry norms. JEDI estimates the number of jobs and economic impacts to a local area that can reasonably be supported by a new facility. For example, here, the JEDI model estimates the number of jobs from a new hydrothermal liquefaction facility using sewage sludge with biocrude upgrading to renewable diesel. And again, I’d like to mention that these are standalone, very user-friendly applications that can be downloaded and used by anyone interested in estimating these socioeconomic parameters.
NREL also performs a life cycle assessment or analysis of greenhouse gas emissions and energy use. LCA is a systematic analytical method that’s used to account for inputs such as raw material and energy, and outputs products, waste materials, and so forth to various systems. It’s also used to qualify the environmental benefits and job acts of a process. It’s used to perform, cradle to grave, all process resource extraction type of sort of analysis. It’s ideal for comparing new technologies to the status quo.
It also helps to pinpoint areas that deserve special attention, and it also reveals some unexpected environmental impacts that, again, were not previously identified. Variables that we include in our LCAs include greenhouse gas emissions, air pollutants, water contaminants and water use, net energy value, fossil fuel requirements, and land use. The graph to the right illustrates an example of a very recent study—literally, it was just published a few days ago—that compares conventional jet fuel with the waste-based jet fuel produced from food waste and fats, oils, and greases. While just a—I don’t have time, unfortunately, to spend more time on this particular project, but I would like to just say that while the well-to-pump emissions—which is marked in blue from food waste jet fuel pathway—are very high, it is because the process uses large amounts of natural gas, electricity, and hydrogen. Those emissions are actually, at the end, offset by the avoided emissions, which are colored in gray, associated with diverting food waste from landfills.
The hydroprocessing, with respects to FOG, as you can see, it’s a very small emission associated with the well-to-pump sort of portion of the total LCA. It is because the hydroprocessing technology I mentioned earlier—using FOG to jet fuel—is very efficient, and also collecting and preprocessing the FOG uses very small amount of energy, and therefore, the pathway has a small well-to-pump impact.
I would like to close this sort of talk with a few additional decision-making supports that we’ve been providing over the years. These include providing assistance with Request for Proposal development or reviews—particularly in the case of renewable natural gas. We also review AD projects in terms of—we’re looking at business organizations and improvements that could be made, project technology costs and tax basis, annual operations, and so forth. We’ve also evaluated acquisition feasibility of these type of projects—environmental and other types of permitting, coproduct markets, and so forth. We also have been very involved in the strategic energy and resilience planning for state, local, and tribal communities, and again, we have been, again, working with these communities heavily to support decision-making and help them in their path to deploying analysis related to waste energy and how to achieve their energy goals.
With that, I will pass the mic to Beau to walk you through our waste energy technical assistance with a little bit more background on this sort of endeavor, and also walk you through the mechanics of it. Take it away, Beau.
Anelia: Thank you.
Beau: So, Anelia went through a lot of data and information, and I just want to—go to the next slide, please.
Ultimately, the goal of this program is to get that data—those analyses, these models, these tools—out into the hands of you, as local decision makers. You know, as I alluded to earlier, waste is a very local problem, and the resource and energy recovery strategies are to be equally local. So, it’s well and good to do nationwide analysis, but we’re at the stage now where it’s really important to get that information into local communities. So, the purpose of this program is really to facilitate that. We’ve heard feedback over the last couple of years, and asking the rhetorical question of, “How do I work with the labs?”
And this is aimed to do just that. In addition, we do want to foster local public/private partnerships. You know, these types of community partnerships between the federal government, between a funding agency, and between a municipality—it also informs our strategy and helps us answer the questions, “Are we investing in the right technologies?” and “Are we solving the right problems?” So, we’re really excited about what we’re going to learn on the NREL and DOE sides. As far as who is eligible to this program—all U.S. municipalities in the lower 48, Alaska, Hawaii, or U.S. territories such as Guam, Puerto Rico, and tribal governments as well.
I’d also extend that. We’re also including this opportunity out to utilities owned by those municipalities. So, for instance, a sanitation district. What does this cost to you? Nothing.
That is a key part of this. We do want to lower the barrier to access of this information and these analyses, and in that regard, there’s no cost share that a municipality has to bring to this. If you’re successful in being selected, you will receive 40 hours of time from the subject matter experts at NREL—whom I will talk about later—and we do expect your community’s involvement in those discussions and in that kind of scope of work, but again, we don’t—we’re not requiring any sort of cash cost share or any sort of—any kind of cost share. Next slide, please.
So, in Anelia's slides, she went over some of the types of analyses that have been conducted, and the goal is to offer a menu of options to communities to select from. So, when the program launches on Monday—and perhaps some of you have visited the website—these are the types of options that you can choose from. So, I think this may be best illustrated with some examples, so next slide, please.
So, I put together some hypothetical situations. For example, a city might be in the process of preparing a climate action plan and is looking to quantify the greenhouse gas and other sustainability footprints associated with their existing waste management practices. That’s certainly within scope. We definitely would welcome that type of proposal. Another community might be comparing several options for managing their food waste.
They might be looking at incineration, anaerobic digestion, composting, and potentially other solutions as well. In this capacity, you know, they’re looking for techno-economic analysis support, cost-benefit analysis, and jobs impacts. So, again, we would—“we” being NREL—would employ a different maybe set of subject matter experts to help answer those questions—techno-economic analysts, analysts familiar with those communities, and certainly, technologists who are familiar with those technologies. And then, finally, a community might know that they want to do anaerobic digestion to produce renewable natural gas, but it’s curious about exploring renewable energy certificates, EPA RINs, and LCSS impacts. For instance, if you start to accept food waste, that can impact the RIN value from changing that from a D3 RIN to a D5 RIN.
So, again, we’re trying to make a variety of menu options available, and I would also note that if you have a request that’s related to organic waste but isn’t included in this, we do encourage that as well. There is a box for “Other.” Next slide, please.
So, I’m going to go through the timeline and the process for this solicitation, if you will. Here we are, on March 18, with the informational webinar. The application portal is going to open on Monday, March 22, and will be open for several weeks until April 9. I’ll show a preview of what that application window looks like here shortly, but again, that’s designed to be pretty—we want to lower the barrier entry to the national lab, so that’s not for those who have applied for a funding opportunity announcement or a small business innovative research grant. This is much shorter and less intensive than that.
Once we receive the applications in mid-April, we will be working with third-party reviewers to assess the merit and impact of the technical assistance proposals, and by late April, we intend to announce our phase one selections. And shortly after that, those projects will begin. That will start with a call with the NREL team and the community to kind of establish the guardrails, the scope of work for the effort, with the ultimate objective of having these phase one projects complete by the end of this fiscal year. I’ll also note that we’re hoping to do a phase two application window sometime in the summer. That’s going to be subject to funding availability, of course, and I’ll talk about that here shortly. Next slide.
So, this is what you can expect to see on Monday when this program launches. Of course, you have the information on the left about who is applying. You see, up on the top right, the check boxes that you can choose from that are relevant to your proposal, and then we have three short fields that we’re asking you to fill out and, you know provide information about what sort of requests you’re looking for. And in the bottom field, how does this relate to your energy goals? How does it relate to prior work that, say, your department of environmental quality has done and so on and so forth?
Again, we don’t expect these to be long responses. We’re modeling this, in large part, after the Office of Indian Energy and other technical assistance programs, where the goal is that this does not require many hours of work from the municipality. At some point, that becomes counterintuitive and counterproductive. So, that’s what you can expect to see on Monday. Next slide.
Once we receive those proposals, as I mentioned, we’ll be soliciting reviewers to consider the merit and impact of those. They will abide, of course, by a conflict of interest and non-disclosure agreements, so any information you share you can rest assured that that will be kept confidential. And I’ve just listed here what the criteria are. So, with regards to merit—which will be half of the score—we’re looking to the extent to which you have explained and justified your request, how it’s relevant to resource and energy recovery from waste and making sure that your team will be engaged in the process. Again, a key aspect of this program is that we stand to learn a lot ourselves, as the federal government, from the community, so we want to make sure that this is a partnership and a two-way street of collaboration.
With regards to impact—which is the other half of the score—we want to see how this analysis or this support would advance your local government needs and initiatives. Perhaps you have the need to put together a climate action plan and this would support that. We want to see how this complements, supplements, or backfills expertise that maybe your community doesn’t have. And I won’t read the rest, but again, you’ll have access to this—this slide deck—after the presentation, so you can certainly review this as you think about your proposal. Next slide.
So, in addition to the above criteria, one thing, as DOE, that we employed is the use of what we call “program policy factors,” and this is something the selection official will apply for meritorious proposals. So, for proposals that are deemed to be sufficiently fleshed out, have the requisite impact, again, a key point of this program is making sure that we are transecting the entire country in as many ways as we can to mobilize these analyses. So, we’re looking at geographic diversity, community-sized diversity, the demographic and economic statuses of that community, policy diversity in terms of existence or not of landfill bans, and things of that nature. So, these are things that we employ, ultimately, to make sure that we’re not just selecting one type of project. Next slide.
So, what happens after selection? So, as I mentioned, we’re hoping to announce these in April—the selectees—and that’ll kick off with an initial call between the subject matter experts at NREL and your community. So, certainly, we’ll flesh out more of the technical assistance requests in more detail. We’ll basically contract the correct expertise and relevant information and just kind of lay that all out at the start, and then basically establish a timeline for the activities of that request to be executed. Next slide.
And you know, likewise, for proposals that aren’t necessarily selected—for whatever reasons that may be—it’s still our goal and NREL’s goal to provide existing analyses, data, and information that’s relevant to your community efforts. So, we’ll fund as many of these partnerships as we can. For those that we can’t fund, we’re committed to making sure that you have the analysis, you have the models that already exist that are relevant to your work. We also will roll over those proposals into the phase two program automatically. You can, of course, modify it as appropriate, but we’ll certainly consider it then as well. Next slide.
And last but not least, just a few frequently asked questions that we’ve learned from our colleagues in the Office of Indian Energy, in the Federal Energy Management Program and Solar Office, when they’ve run these sorts of technical assistance programs, so I want to just highlight two here. The second question there: Is there a formal agreement for this technical assistance? No. There’s not. We don’t need to negotiate some sort of true statement of work.
And again, the hope there is to save time from negotiations and—I don’t mean this pejoratively, but—try to avoid bringing in lawyers and cutting into that 40 hours of time. Next slide, please.
And then, I want to highlight at the end what is the difference between information on funding and financing. So, this is assistance provided to these municipalities; however, the funding and these dollars will not actually flow to your community. As the Department of Energy, we are funding the national lab to provide the analysis support and, in turn, they will support you. If you were selected, you’re not, for instance, going to receive a grant through this program. We do have other funding opportunities on the street currently, and I would be happy to talk about those more in the question and answer. Next slide—and we can skip to the next one.
Last, but not least—and I think these are the people who are gonna make this program a success—are the tremendous subject matter experts from across NREL who are bringing to bear in this effort. We have engineers. We have techno-economic analysts. We have experts in local and tribal governments, experts in anaerobic digestion, experts in life cycle analysis, financing, renewable natural gas. And I’m very excited at the diversity of technical perspectives that we can bring to bear in this effort.
And if your proposal is outside of the bounds of what we imagined it to be, there’s 2,000 other employees at NREL that we can find that can suit your project. So, I’m very excited about this team and very grateful for their involvement here. With that, I think we will wrap up and pop over to the question-and-answer period.
Emily: Thank you so much, Beau. And Anelia—I would welcome you, Anelia, to unmute yourself and to come back on camera. Now would be a great time to practice that layout function if you would like to view our presenters, and I am going to—so, we actually—we’re running low on time, so I just want to remind everyone that the presentation and the recording will be made available. I entered the link in the chat box, so that will be available to you in the next couple of days.
And additionally, there were so many great questions that came in. Unfortunately, we don’t have time to answer all of them, so we will do our best to get back to you offline to respond to as many questions as we can and again, we just thank you so much for sending these phenomenal questions in. But, to get started with our Q&A, we had several questions come in, Anelia and Beau, that had to do with just people who are eligible for this group. And so, I have a number of eligibility questions we would like to get started with. So, the first one is—are startups or industry providing WTE products and services eligible?
Anelia: That’s a good question. Emily, is my audio/video coming in through well?
Emily: Yes. You sound great.
Anelia: Okay. Good question. So—and Beau, jump in at any time if you want to chime in with any sort of additional answers. This is, again, tailored specifically for local governments/municipalities as Beau outlined—tribal governments and so forth—so we don’t specifically have—in other words, we also specify that any facility that is owned by municipality is also eligible, but again, a startup company, perhaps, can partner with the municipality and maybe come up with an idea to proceed together jointly, but the request has to come primarily from a municipality. I hope that answers your question.
And, again, I’m happy to elaborate offline. Sorry we’re running out of time. It’s a lot to cover. But again, if this doesn’t answer your question, again, we happy to provide additional information.
Emily: Thank you, Anelia. So, additionally, are state governments eligible applicants or just local governments? And then, along with that, would councils of governments be able to apply, or would the request have to come from cities and counties that the council of government serves?
Anelia: These are all great questions. Beau, do you want to take on that for the state?
Beau: Yeah. Sure. With regards to the state entities—again, this is tailored towards individual municipalities. So, you know, to be just kind of blunt, you know, a—let’s say we’re talking about Wisconsin. The city of Madison could apply, but the State of Wisconsin Department of Environmental Quality would not be an eligible applicant.
With regards to council of governments, or like, council of cities, we know that that’s a common thing. Yes, I think that can be—that’s certainly within the scope of this, because again, we’re trying to target into local communities. So, if you had, you know, let’s say we’re talking about North Carolina—if we’re talking about the Research Triangle area in Durham, Raleigh—communities that are right together—yes, I think that a joint proposal could be appropriate.
Emily: Wonderful. Thank you. And then, one last eligibility question. We had a question come in: Can people from other countries participate in this project?
Beau: Yep. That’s a good question. This is limited to the United States and its territories and the tribal governments therein. So, short answer is “No.”
Emily: Okay. Thank you so much. I know that we are out of time, and so we are unfortunately going to have to defer to answering the rest of these questions offline, but I will pass it over to Anelia and Beau to wrap us up. And, just a reminder, we will do our best to get back to you and the recording will be made available shortly. I will place the link in the chat box once more. But Anelia and Beau, feel free to wrap up the event.
Anelia: Thanks, everyone. I would like to say, Emily, if possible, and Kathy, thanks again to people who have been very involved in setting this up today. Perhaps we can also add the questions that came up during the webinar today—add them to our frequently asked questions online so everyone can see them in the—sort of see the answer. But we’re happy to follow up with the individuals who have asked them as well. Thanks, everyone. This is really exciting. I appreciate everybody taking the time.
Beau: Yeah. Again, thank you for taking the hour this morning—or this afternoon. We’re very excited about this program. We’re excited to learn, to build these partnerships with the communities, and get this data and information out to you so you can make the impact. So, we look forward to seeing what you propose over the coming weeks, and yes, as Anelia mentioned, questions that we can—we will put into that frequently asked questions document on the technical assistance webpage, and so, certainly check that out if you have questions.
But again, please keep them coming. Lots of good—I see lots of good ones in there. So, thank you, everybody.
Emily: Thank you.