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Briggs White
Discussion at NETL-Pittsburgh MOU Meeting to Focus on Transforming Energy Economy

NETL’s Briggs White, Ph.D., will focus on steps to transform the energy economy when he delivers the keynote presentation at the NETL-City of Pittsburgh Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) stakeholders meeting, set for 2-4 p.m. (ET) Thursday, June 10.

The NETL-Pittsburgh MOU Partnership was launched in 2015 to transform the city’s energy system and aging infrastructure. The MOU provides an opportunity for NETL to demonstrate how technologies developed at the Lab can support safe and efficient energy use in the city.

White’s presentation will focus on his current duties as deputy executive director of the Biden Administration’s Interagency Working Group (IWG) on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization.

The IWG was established in January to ensure the shift to a clean energy economy creates good-paying union jobs, spurs economic revitalization, remediates environmental degradation and supports energy workers in coal, oil and gas, and power plant communities across the country.

White successfully spearheaded a multi-agency effort to prepare the IWG’s initial report that described existing mechanisms that could support and revitalize the economies of coal and power plant communities and provided recommendations for action consistent with IWG goals.

Under the MOU, NETL has worked with the city to develop several innovative projects such as a prototype solid oxide fuel cell system to generate power, a system of microgrids across nine energy districts to ensure reliable supplies of electricity, and the use of geothermal energy at Hazelwood Green, a brownfield redevelopment project.

“The work of the IWG presents opportunities to build on these successes and catalyze robust economic activity to ensure workers in energy communities are not left behind as we take steps forward to meet the goals of the Administration to establish a carbon emissions-free power sector by 2035 and a net-zero emissions economy by 2050,” White said.

The Pittsburgh region produced much of the coal that made the U.S. an industrial power. Mining and related operations created coal wastes in the form of acid mine drainage, refuse piles and slurries, as well as fly ash and other byproducts from power generation.

Technologies advanced by NETL can be used to extract rare earth elements (REEs) and critical minerals (CMs) from coal wastes to provide new jobs in areas impacted by declining industries and mitigate environmental damage. REEs and CMs are essential for manufacturing batteries for electric cars, various electronics, magnets for wind turbines, solar cells and other products.

“There is tremendous need for a robust domestic source of REEs,” White said. “Producing them in the U.S. is one of several steps we can take to generate needed jobs, end our dependence on foreign suppliers and ensure no energy or power plant communities are left behind as the nation undergoes a transformation to clean energy.”

NETL and its partners also are leading efforts to produce sustainable chemicals from natural gas and carbon dioxide to serve as the feedstocks to manufacture various useful products. Other technologies could be used to produce hydrogen, a clean-burning fuel, that can be used for multiple purposes.

Stakeholders in the MOU include representatives from the City of Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, Duquesne Light Company and other local organizations.

At NETL, White also manages the High-Performance Materials, Water Management and Energy Storage research and development programs for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management.

NETL is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory that drives innovation and delivers technological solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future. By leveraging its world-class talent and research facilities, NETL is ensuring affordable, abundant and reliable energy that drives a robust economy and national security, while developing technologies to manage carbon across the full life cycle, enabling environmental sustainability for all Americans.