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Energy Department to cut carbon emissions at national labs

DENVER — As the U.S. Energy Department sets goals and targets for decarbonizing industry writ large, it also is taking steps to shed carbon from its own operations.

The department will spend $38 million to reduce carbon emissions at four of its 17 national laboratories. The initiative comes as the White House seeks to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2050, and it is expected to serve as a blueprint for other labs and hard-to-decarbonize industries.

It’s one part of an ongoing effort to promote clean-energy technology both within the transportation industry and beyond.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm unveiled the Net Zero Labs Pilot Initiative on Wednesday while speaking at the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit in Denver. She is expected to tour the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., on Wednesday afternoon.

The national laboratories are among the most power-hungry facilities in the federal government. They have “demand and resilience requirements far exceeding those of a standard facility,” according to the Energy Department, because of data centers, reactors and other infrastructure that’s difficult to decarbonize.

“Transitioning to a net-zero future will require slashing carbon pollution across all industries, from shipping to manufacturing to construction, and even the operation of our national laboratories,” Granholm said in a written statement.

The funding for the initiative comes from the department’s current fiscal year budget, not from the infrastructure bill passed last fall.

The Idaho National Laboratory, National Energy Technology Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and National Renewable Energy Laboratory are the recipients of the initial funding. At the latter, decarbonization efforts will center on hydrogen production, storage and movement.

Hydrogen is a key focus for the Energy Department. Last fall, it launched an “Energy Earthshot” which aims to reduce the cost of clean hydrogen to $1 per kilogram within the next decade. Further, the department is expected to unveil at least four areas in the country that can serve as formative hydrogen hubs, which work to scale both hydrogen supply and demand.

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