November 8, 2023   

DOE Commits $30 Million to Energy Projects

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Innovative lighting solutions included in multi-technology funding effort



The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Building Technologies Office (BTO) is offering up to $30 million in funding through the Building Energy Efficiency Frontiers & Innovation Technologies (BENEFIT) 2024 program. This opportunity aims to enhance building decarbonization by investing in nine areas of technology, with a focus on equitable solutions and community-based projects.

While commercial lighting retrofit advancements are part of the focus, the funding opportunity also extends to technologies that improve HVAC systems, building envelopes, and overall energy resilience.


For lighting people:

For professionals in lighting, Topic 4 of the BENEFIT 2024 funding opportunity is particularly relevant. It focuses on advancements in commercial lighting retrofits, with a particular emphasis on increasing the adoption of LED lighting in commercial settings, where current usage is around 50% according to the DOE. This low adoption rate represents a significant opportunity for energy savings, as commercial settings consume the majority of electricity for lighting.

The DOE has observed that educational facilities are notably behind in transitioning to LED lighting, which not only provides energy cost savings but also offers health benefits. LED lighting can enhance cognitive performance and productivity by providing light levels and spectral content conducive to occupant health during the day.

This topic also comes at a critical time as major manufacturers are moving away from producing mercury-containing fluorescent lamps, which are common in commercial troffers. This shift is leading to increased scarcity and higher costs for these types of lamps.


Lighting performance specifications:  A high bar

The DOE is inviting proposals that will tackle these issues by developing commercial light fixtures that are cost-effective, easy to install, and have high luminous efficacy (greater than 200 Lumens per Watt). These fixtures should also have excellent color rendering (with a TM-30 Rf score greater than 90), be made with sustainable materials, and be compatible with a variety of sensors and controls, all while being conducive to occupant health. It's important that these proposed lighting solutions are feasible for manufacturing within the United States.

The goal is to create lighting products that can easily be adopted and installed across commercial buildings, particularly in educational settings, enhancing light quality and efficacy, and promoting occupant health. Proposals should address cost, health impacts, ease of installation, compatibility with control systems, sustainable material use, reliability, light output over time, and U.S. manufacturability.


Team recommendations

Teams that are ideally suited to respond to this funding opportunity should have expertise in lighting product development, manufacturing, and design. It is also beneficial for teams to include members who have knowledge of how lighting affects human physiological responses and who understand the needs of the potential customer base, especially those in disadvantaged communities such as schools, community centers, and churches.

Applicants must submit a concept paper by December 18, 2023, through the EERE eXCHANGE portal to be eligible for full application submission.


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