DOE launches $2.5 million prize to expand energy justice and inclusiveness goals

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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) launched a $2.5 million Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize, which aims to pave the way to an inclusive, equitable, and just energy future.

The prize is intended to fund organizations working with disadvantaged communities in clean energy as well as foster connections between DOE and innovators the agency has not previously reached.

Eligible applicants include nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations; state, local, and tribal governments and government entities; for-profit companies; and academic institutions with experience in supporting environmental, climate, and energy justice. The prize is intended to support, create, and identify activities that provide incubation, acceleration, and community-based entrepreneurship and innovation services in climate and clean energy technologies.

In addition, DOE said the prize aims to achieve five goals:

  • Enable clean energy and climate innovation, and entrepreneurship programming and capabilities, at colleges and universities that serve large populations of students underrepresented in STEM, minority-serving institutions, community colleges, and undergraduate institutions.
  • Create or increase participation in clean energy and climate-smart job training and job placement/hiring, including programs that target participation from disadvantaged communities, such as formerly incarcerated individuals and youth transitioning out of foster care.
  • Foster grassroots innovation related to just and equitable clean energy deployment through activities focusing on community-centric networks and bottom-up solutions for sustainable development, based on the needs of the communities involved.
  • Identify and fund activities that will help disadvantaged communities become aware of, apply into, or otherwise secure DOE funding or other federal, state, local government, or private (for-profit or nonprofit) funding.
  • Enable the development of replicable clean energy transitions that deliver just and equitable benefits to disadvantaged communities.

DOE said that teams do not need to have a scientific or engineering background to compete. In Phase One, up to 10 winners will receive an initial cash prize of up to $200,000 each, with the opportunity to receive additional awards. Winners from Phase One will receive in-kind mentorship and other support services. In Phase Two, up to three teams will be awarded cash prizes from a prize pool of $500,000. The prize is open for submissions for Phase One through Feb. 25, 2022.

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