U.S. Department of Energy Invests $32 Million to Boost Clean Energy Manufacturing

Representational image. Credit: Canva

In a significant move to advance domestic manufacturing, promote clean energy, and create well-paying jobs, the Biden-Harris Administration has announced a $32 million investment by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to strengthen the nation’s critical minerals supply chain. This funding, derived from President Biden’s Investing in America Agenda, aims to support the production of rare earth elements and other critical minerals and materials from domestic coal-based resources.


The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has provided the necessary financial backing to enhance domestic supply chains, reducing the reliance on foreign sources and meeting the escalating demand for critical minerals. These minerals, including rare earth elements, are pivotal for manufacturing clean energy technologies such as solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles, and hydrogen fuel cells. Leveraging the abundant presence of valuable rare earth elements in coal and coal production waste, this investment will facilitate the creation of high-quality jobs within energy communities, aligning with President Biden’s ambitious climate agenda and Bidenomics strategy for inclusive economic growth.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm expressed enthusiasm for this investment, stating, “President Biden’s Investing in America agenda is providing a historic opportunity to convert coal products into the critical materials needed to build an array of clean energy products. The President’s transformative investments will strengthen our national security by lessening our dependence on international supply chains while delivering high-quality jobs and healthier communities for all Americans.” 

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To propel the development of a domestic supply chain essential to the U.S. economy, clean energy, and national security, the DOE has released a Funding Opportunity Announcement titled “Front-End Engineering and Design (FEED) Studies for Production of Critical Minerals and Materials from Coal-Based Resources.” Currently, the United States imports over 80% of its rare earth elements from non-domestic suppliers, but with rare earth elements naturally occurring in domestic coal and coal wastes, this opportunity aims to tap into this unconventional resource. The program will fund research, development, and demonstration projects that facilitate the establishment of intermediate- and/or demonstration-scale facilities for domestic production and refining of rare earth elements and other critical minerals across the country.

The FEED studies will define technical requirements, focusing on project scope, schedule, and costs, thereby reducing risks during the construction and operation of future facilities. These facilities will play a crucial role in leveraging the nation’s abundant coal reserves, waste coal, and coal ash, which collectively amount to more than 250 billion tons, 4 billion tons, and 2 billion tons, respectively, at various locations nationwide. Moreover, by utilizing these national coal and coal by-products to extract, separate, and produce rare earth elements and other critical minerals and materials, these facilities will contribute to creating healthier environments within local communities.

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Promoting environmental justice and equity is at the core of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment. Therefore, funding applicants are required to carefully address societal considerations and impacts, emphasizing early and active engagement with communities. Projects must outline how they will deliver economic and environmental benefits while mitigating any adverse effects, incorporating diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility principles. Additionally, workforce development and quality job creation are crucial factors that applicants need to consider. Projects selected under this opportunity will be accountable for developing and implementing strategies to ensure robust community and worker benefits, with subsequent reporting on these activities and outcomes.

The DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM) has been instrumental in advancing critical minerals and materials since January 2021. Over $41 million has been invested in projects supporting resource identification and production of rare earth elements and other critical minerals and materials in traditional fossil fuel-producing communities nationwide. Among these investments, $16 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has been allocated for detailed engineering and cost studies for a first-of-a-kind domestic facility that will extract and separate rare earth elements and critical minerals from unconventional sources like mining waste. This funding will not only present opportunities for land and water remediation but also generate the rare earth elements necessary for a thriving clean energy economy.

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FECM remains steadfast in its commitment to minimizing the environmental and climate impacts of fossil fuels and industrial processes while striving for net-zero emissions throughout the economy. The primary technology areas of focus include carbon capture, carbon conversion, carbon dioxide removal, carbon dioxide transport and storage, hydrogen production with carbon management, methane emissions reduction, and critical minerals production.

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