Community Energy Innovation Prize Expands Support for Community-Led Solutions Including New Collegiate and Manufacturing Tracks
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today launched the Community Energy Innovation Prize, a competition that will award up to $7.5 million in cash prizes as well as mentorship opportunities to organizations supporting innovation, entrepreneurship, capacity building, and economic development in communities historically underrepresented in climate and energy technology funding. The Community Energy Innovation Prize is the successor to both DOE’s Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize and Community Clean Energy Coalition Prize and supports 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 Community Energy Innovation Prize, which is administered through the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) American-Made Challenges platform, aims to support local organizations with proven track records of engaging underserved communities and/or promoting environmental, climate, and energy justice as they enact community-led climate and clean energy solutions. This expanded prize also focuses on inspiring the next generation of clean energy leaders with opportunities for college students to work with community partners and has an additional focus on fostering innovation in clean energy manufacturing ecosystems in historically underserved communities.
“The Community Energy Innovation Prize is designed to empower leaders from underserved communities and give them tools and resources to develop and enact their own vision of a clean energy future,” said Alejandro Moreno, Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “When we listen and let communities lead, we accelerate progress toward local needs and the country’s climate goals. I am excited to see what inspiring ideas these new teams and students bring to this competition.”
The Community Energy Innovation Prize has three tracks:
- Clean Energy Ecosystem Track: In this track, a total prize pool of $4.9 million is available for community-led projects across a wide range of clean energy initiatives, technologies, and areas of focus that advance local clean energy transitions.
- Manufacturing Ecosystem Track: In this track, a total prize pool of $2.1 million is available for projects that advance clean energy manufacturing innovation ecosystems in historically underserved communities. Successful applicants will bring together public, private, and community stakeholders to address key barriers to advancing manufacturing innovation, business models, and market development. These projects may include, but are not limited to, manufacturing-related education and workforce development, entrepreneurship, resilient supply chains, circular economy development, or other goals related to clean energy manufacturing.
- Collegiate Track: In this track, a total prize pool of $450,000 is available for student-led teams to work alongside a community partner on a project related to the clean energy transition. These efforts aim to help prepare students for careers in clean energy through collaboration in a real-world setting. Students from minority serving institutions, universities located in rural and/or disadvantaged communities, and community colleges are especially encouraged to apply.
All three tracks of the prize will play out over three phases. Any eligible team may compete in the first phase, CONCEPT, where applicants form their coalitions and develop project ideas. Up to 34 teams across the three tracks will be selected as CONCEPT phase winners and receive an initial cash prize along with mentorship and access to NREL technology experts. Winning teams will be eligible to move on to the PROGRESS and IMPACT phases.
Applications to compete in the CONCEPT phase for all three tracks are now open. Collegiate Track submissions are due on November 3, 2023, and Clean Energy Ecosystem and Manufacturing Ecosystem Track applications are due on February 2, 2024. Interested Clean Energy Ecosystem and Manufacturing Ecosystem Track competitors are encouraged to join a webinar to learn more on October 12, 2023 at 3pm E.T. Interested Collegiate Track competitors are encouraged to join a webinar to learn more on October 2, 2023 at 3pm E.T.
The Community Energy Innovation Prize is funded from offices across DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and Office of Economic Impact and Diversity and administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The Manufacturing Ecosystem Track is funded by DOE’s Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Technologies Office. Learn more about DOE’s American-Made Challenges program.