Today, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity (ED) announced the upcoming Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize. Scheduled to open for submissions in September 2021, the new prize will provide cash prizes of up to $250,000 each ($2.5 million total) to groups and organizations to support entrepreneurship and innovation in communities historically underrepresented and underserved in the energy sector.

“The Biden-Harris Administration has set ambitious goals to address climate change in a just and inclusive transition to net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2050 ,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Kelly Speakes-Backman. “To ensure that all Americans benefit from DOE’s work, it is urgent that diversity is reflected in the funding applications we receive and fund. We know climate change disproportionally affects underserved communities, so it is also critical that we change that – by partnering with these communities when developing climate solutions together.”

To achieve these ambitious goals, the nation must equitably invest in climate change mitigation and clean energy solutions and support those leading the innovation and deployment efforts equally.  The Administration’s Justice40 initiative has set a parallel goal: To deliver 40% of the overall benefits of relevant federal investments in climate and clean energy to underserved communities.

To help attract and support innovators and entrepreneurs from all backgrounds, the Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize aims to:

  • Support organizations to create or identify activities that provide incubation, acceleration, and community-based entrepreneurship and innovation services in climate and clean energy technologies.
  • Identify and fund activities that will help traditionally underrepresented groups apply for and receive DOE funding in support of DOE’s Justice40 goals.
  • Build trust and strengthen relationships and partnerships with underrepresented, underserved, and frontline communities or community-serving organizations to understand and lower barriers to entry to DOE funding opportunities.
  • Foster grassroots innovation in policy and process related to just and equitable clean energy deployment.
  • Support colleges, universities, and other educational institutions that serve large populations of students traditionally underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), including Minority Serving Institutions, tribal colleges, community colleges, and predominantly undergraduate institutions.

When the prize opens to submissions this fall, DOE will welcome applications from community-centric organizations and educational institutions with experience engaging with and promoting underrepresented and underserved communities. Such organizations will support environmental, climate, and energy justice and use their experience and institutional knowledge to serve as bridges between DOE and innovators.

DOE’s Office of Economic Impact and Diversity is leading a series of efforts to address this imbalance, eliminate structural barriers to DOE funding, and attract and support innovators and entrepreneurs from all backgrounds to accelerate a wider pool of applicants who can feed this need for novel perspectives and accelerate clean energy technology development.

More information about how DOE is working to support underrepresented groups to pursue innovative research in climate and clean energy technologies visit the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity’s website.

EERE has a strong commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion across their portfolio of projects. EERE encourages participation from diverse entities such as Minority Serving Institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities, other Minority Institutions, or members within Qualified Opportunity Zones[1].

Please refer to the American-Made Challenges website for additional information.