18 Organizations Prioritizing Climate Solutions for Underrepresented Communities Win
The Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize fosters grassroots innovation, community-centric networks, and ground-up solutions
to accelerate climate and clean energy technology advancement within disadvantaged
communities. Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Renewable
Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced the prize’s Phase One winners, who are paving the
way to an inclusive, equitable, and just energy future.
Launched by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and Office of Economic
Impact and Diversity, the prize centers on climate and environmental justice as part
of the transition to a net-zero-carbon economy by 2050. DOE’s community-centric competition
awards organizations that advance the Justice40 Initiative by identifying activities related to climate and clean energy that support, build
trust, and strengthen relationships and partnerships with disadvantaged communities.
As part of the American-Made Challenges prize portfolio, the $5.1 million, two-phase
competition seeks to enable and enhance business and technology incubation, acceleration,
and other community- and university-based entrepreneurship and innovation in climate
and clean energy technologies. With over 200 applications, this prize has attracted
more applicants and followers than any prize to date. Of those submissions, 85% were
first-time applicants, and 54% of applications were submitted by a women-, minority-,
or disadvantaged-person-owned business.
During Phase One, teams submitted impact plans that detailed their experiences in
engaging and supporting disadvantaged communities. These plans also included activities
they would like to implement during Phase Two, resources and capabilities needed to
successfully execute prize goals, and finally, their vision and the anticipated long-term
impacts of their project.
From tribal nations to urban centers, rural towns to suburban America, and high schoolers
to college students, teams focused on communities from every corner of the nation,
demonstrating their commitment to building an inclusive innovation ecosystem and putting
people at the center of clean energy and climate justice.
The following Phase One winners will each receive $200,000 to carry out the activities
described in their impact plans:
- Accelerating the Impact of Diverse Entrepreneurs, Washington, D.C.: The American Council on Renewable Energy will expand and grow their Accelerate Program,
focused on emerging Black, Indigenous, and people of color leaders in the cleantech/renewable
energy space, manage the C-suite mentorship program, and release a series of case
studies to amplify and promote the best practices and lessons learned in building
up diverse founders in the cleantech field.
- Alabama Energy Transformation Initiative, Tuscaloosa, Alabama: The University of Alabama and Energy Alabama will work together to provide education
and empowerment programs to expose, train, and recruit minority students into clean
energy and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.
- Clean Energy Restoration for Rural Alaska Villages, Anchorage, Alaska: The Tebughna Foundation aims to return Alaskan Indigenous communities to clean and
affordable resources to help improve the daily lives of rural community members.
- Central Valley Innovation Ecosystem, Fresno, California: The Water, Energy and Technology Center at California State University, Fresno,
will create and manage a regionwide college-level program that matches students with
climate- and energy-focused startups and provides technical assistance and advisory
services to entrepreneurs and startups in underserved communities.
- Community Engagement for a Clean Energy Economy, Bethesda, Maryland: Two organizations, One Montgomery Green and Bethesda Green, will work with local
businesses to expand entrepreneurship training and mentoring, support Montgomery County
businesses in becoming green-certified and/or B Corporations, and promote financing
- Creative Collaborations Build Thriving Communities, New York, New York: Soulful Synergy will expand its existing Clean Energy Academy workforce training
program to recruit and train participants from disadvantaged communities at no cost
and ultimately build a more diverse workforce that is equipped to meet the challenges
of the Justice40 Initiative.
- Empowering the Future Energy Workforce, Richland, Washington: Washington State University Tri-Cities will develop new academic programs, research
collaborations, and entrepreneurial activities in clean energy and climate innovation,
including a research-based course with industry mentors and incubator integration
aimed at engaging, retaining, and empowering Hispanic/LatinX students.
- Energy Profiles Build Community Energy Resilience, Utuado, Puerto Rico: Data Miners for the Mountains will develop a heat map of regions in Puerto Rico
to show where energy resiliency projects can make the most impact; identify locations
to collect high-resolution energy consumption data; empower rural, mountain villages
in Puerto Rico to take control of a clean energy future by installing rooftop solar
and storage systems, starting with businesses and community service centers.
- Feed the Second Line: Get Lit, Stay Lit!, New Orleans, Louisiana: Feed the Second Line will assess interest among local restaurants in a solar-powered-plus-storage
microgrid, which would provide power for disaster relief scenarios; conduct feasibility
analyses and work with restaurants on installation financing and logistics; and work
with solar-panel installers to start apprenticeships for community members.
- Green Door Initiative, Detroit, Michigan: The Green Door Initiative will mitigate energy insecurity, increase access to climate-smart
job training and job placement/hiring for underrepresented residents (including returning
citizens), and establish an environmental justice model that can be replicated in
other communities and states.
- Increase Battery Work Force Development, Atlanta, Georgia: NanoResearch will increase participation of disadvantaged groups in battery research,
workforce development, and entrepreneurship for job and wealth creation; and increase
access for marginalized communities to secure more state and federal funding for battery
storage growth and electric vehicles.
- Native Sun REZ Network, Minneapolis, Minnesota: Native Sun will create the Reservation Energy Zone (REZ) Network: a network of tribes
seeking to share information, support, and opportunities; promote community electric
vehicle charging, workforce training, and weatherization and rooftop solar panels;
and connect communities to investors and the federal government.
- New Haven Eco-Entrepreneurship Creative Lab, New Haven, Connecticut: Gather New Haven will recruit young people to participate in the New Haven Eco-Entrepreneurship
Creative Lab and help students pitch climate-related technology projects to increase
community engagement and acceptance.
- Solar Utilization and Commercialization Coalition for Energy Efficiency Devices, Edinburg,
Texas: A coalition of professionals, organizations, and academic institutions that support
startups and entrepreneurs will work to bolster the solar manufacturing industry in
Texas and build economic potential in the Rio Grande Valley.
- “Xcelerating” Black Climate Startups in Portland, Portland, Oregon: NWX Launch will carry out climate-justice-related community building activities,
work on STEM workforce development, run an entrepreneur accelerator program consisting
of startup development and incubation, design and develop facilities for hands-on
workforce training, and provide incubator and maker spaces.
To help further meet their communities’ unique needs, the 18 winning teams will also
receive in-kind mentorship and other support services during Phase Two. During the
second phase of the prize, which is now open, these teams will spend 12 months implementing
their proposed programs and related activities.
Phase Two of the Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize is anticipated to close in May
2023. Up to six teams will receive awards from a prize pool of $1.5 million based
on their performance in this second phase.
Stay up to date with the prize and winner activities.