Six Teams Recognized for Their Solutions to Expand Clean Energy Opportunities in Underserved Communities
This week, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced six grand prize winners of the Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize. The prize seeks to foster a just and equitable clean energy future by investing in community-led innovation and entrepreneurship programs in areas historically underserved by federal funding. This prize is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 initiative to deliver at least 40% of the overall benefits from certain federal investments in clean energy to disadvantaged communities. The winning teams in this first-of-its-kind competition will receive $250,000 each for their entrepreneurship, job-training, mentorship, and other solutions to expand clean energy and economic opportunities in underserved communities.
“The Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize was designed to help foster an equitable and just clean energy transition by directly empowering underserved communities,” said Alejandro Moreno, Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “These projects show that when we listen and put communities in the driver’s seat, we can find transformative solutions and accelerate progress toward our climate goals. I am so inspired by these teams, and I know their work will have an impact long after this competition ends.”
The final phase of the inaugural Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize culminated this week at a final event where teams presented their year-long efforts to a panel of expert reviewers. Teams were evaluated based on their community engagement, partnerships, and outcomes. Reviewers also considered the teams’ abilities to foster clean energy innovation and entrepreneurship and to implement the program and build an ecosystem, and their long-term vision and projected benefits. Throughout the final phase of this prize, 18 competitors received support from DOE, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the American-Made Network, which includes incubators, universities, think tanks, industry groups, and other organizations.
The six winning teams are:
- Creative Collaborations Build Thriving Communities (New York, New York) The Clean Energy Academy team expanded its workforce training program for disadvantaged communities, which serves as an on-ramp for professionals looking to enter or transition into the clean energy workforce and provides an upskilling opportunity for existing workers.
- Data Miners of the Mountain, Phase Two (Utuado, Puerto Rico) Under the leadership of the Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña, this team is working to accelerate microgrid deployment in rural and low-resourced communities. They are working to empower communities to take control of a clean energy future by installing rooftop solar and storage systems, starting with businesses and community service centers.
- Empowering the Future Energy Workforce (Richland, Washington) Washington State University’s Tri-Cities team developed the Clean Energy Ambassadors Network, which aims to empower the future energy workforce by engaging and retaining students, particularly Hispanic/LatinX students. The team plans to continue this program and develop a “Clean Energy” certificate that will prepare students to join the next generation of clean energy leaders and thinkers.
- Get Lit, Stay Lit (New Orleans, Louisiana) Feed the Second Line is working with neighborhood restaurants to install solar panels and batteries and create a resilient city-wide “Stay Lit” network. This team was inspired by Hurricane Ida, when New Orleans lost power for 10 days and restaurants were forced to throw away perishable food. This solution creates neighborhood food sites, cooling centers, and cell phone charging hubs, and empowers local businesses to become first-first responders.
- Tebughna Sunshine (Anchorage, Alaska) The Tebughna Foundation serves the Dena’ina Athabascan tribal community of the Native Village of Tyonek. This project is using traditional principles of land stewardship for Alaska Native communities to create and identify technical assistance resources for renewable energy technologies and pilot a solar array at Tyonek’s tribal center. The team also plans to create an accessible handbook for deploying equitable clean energy in Alaska Native Villages.
- Xcelerating Black Climate Startups in Portland (Portland, Oregon) The Northwest Xcelerator (NWX) Team collaborated with VertueLab and the Port of Portland to develop and build a culturally specific, non-extractive acceleration support ecosystem for climate innovators from Black and underserved communities. The team has also been working on a program to accelerate startup development and incubation, facilities for hands-on workforce training, and incubator and maker spaces.
DOE also announced it will launch a second round of the American-Made Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize. This next iteration of the prize will build on the success of the first competition by awarding prizes for community-led clean energy entrepreneurship and innovation efforts. The new competition will consist of two tracks: the first will be similar to the original prize – a community-based organization track; the second track will be aimed at college students to identify and work to address a critical issue in their community related to the clean energy transition.