Making An Impact: Prize Competitors Bring Fresh Ideas to Community Clean Energy Projects

23 Teams Named CONCEPT Phase Winners in the Clean Energy Innovation Prize’s Ecosystem Tracks

April 2, 2024 | By Tiffany Plate | Contact media relations

Person installing a solar panel on a wall

The Community Energy Innovation Prize just awarded $100,000 to the ecosystem tracks winners of the CONCEPT Phase for their plans to engage local communities in clean energy planning. Photo from iStock

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The benefits of deploying clean energy in communities are clear: a healthier environment, more job opportunities, and reliable power at affordable costs, just to name a few. And now, thanks to the American-Made Community Energy Innovation Prize, more than 20 U.S. communities will get some much-needed help planning local clean energy projects.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Community Energy Innovation Prize, administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), is designed to support capacity building, innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic development related to clean energy and climate for disadvantaged communities in accordance with the Justice40 Initiative.

In the prize’s Clean Energy Ecosystem and Manufacturing Ecosystem tracks, competitors with a demonstrated history of community work were challenged to connect with an underserved community and collaboratively make plans to develop a project that promotes environmental, climate, and energy justice. And applicants in both tracks responded with creative ideas to make serious change. (Winners of the Collegiate Track’s CONCEPT Phase were announced in December 2023.)

Now, the 13 winning teams in the Clean Energy Ecosystem Track and 10 teams in the Manufacturing Ecosystem Track will use their $100,000 cash prizes, along with in-kind mentorship services provided by the American-Made Network, to continue developing their proposed project plans alongside their chosen communities.

“Our growing pool of community-based prizes is showing communities—and the country at large—what’s possible when it comes to increasing efficiency, reducing energy costs, and creating jobs on a small scale,” said Liz Doris, NREL’s director of the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis. “This prize’s added focus on clean manufacturing helps expand that potential even further as we push toward a 100% clean energy economy.”

In the two ecosystem tracks, competitors submitted impact plans focused on underserved communities that detailed the work they hope to accomplish in subsequent prize phases within their track. In the Clean Energy Ecosystem Track, impact plans could include workforce development ideas or ways to deploy local clean energy technologies. In the Manufacturing Ecosystem Track, competitors were asked to develop ideas around manufacturing-related education, entrepreneurship, resilient supply chains, and more.

Clean Energy Ecosystem Track Winners

This track rewards projects that advance community-based clean energy transition programs from a wide range of initiatives, technologies, and areas of focus.

The winners of this track’s CONCEPT Phase are:

  • East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI) and Cooperative Energy Futures (CEF) (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
  • Pomona, CA – Direct-to-Renter Clean Energy Program (Pomona, California)
  • Convivencia Hispana Energy Navigators (St. James, Minnesota)
  • Project:HOMES (Tangier, Virginia)
  • Team Bean (New Orleans, Louisiana)
  • People Power: Energy Security|Ownership (Fort Smith, Arkansas)
  • Innovate Gloucester (Gloucester, Massachusetts)
  • Community Through Colors (Isabel Segunda, Vieques, Puerto Rico)
  • LEI Foundation Energize Waianae Moku (Wai’anae, Hawaii)
  • RESCo Innovation Team (Rosebud Sioux Reservation, South Dakota)
  • Requity Foundation (Baltimore, Maryland)
  • Shake Energy Collaborative (Honolulu and Wai’anae, Hawaii)
  • First State Community Green Energy Coalition (Wilmington to New Castle, Delaware)

Manufacturing Ecosystem Track Winners

This track aims to further the development of innovation ecosystems related to manufacturing by addressing key challenges in the development and adoption of emerging materials and manufacturing technologies.

The winners of this track’s CONCEPT Phase are:

  • Clean Tech Innovation Network (Chicago, Illinois)
  • CEIP Warren (Warren, Ohio)
  • Metals Innovation Initiative (MI2) (Four counties in Kentucky)
  • PDX Clean Industry Network (Portland, Oregon)
  • IMPACTT (Evansville, Indiana)
  • Green Leap Riverside (Riverside County, California)
  • Scale for ClimateTech (New York State)
  • Eighth Generation Consulting (Osage Territory – Pawhuska, Oklahoma)
  • APLUS (Arlington, Texas)
  • Southland Development Authority Team (Tinley Park, Illinois)

These teams will now use their cash prizes in the next phase to make progress on their planned community-driven clean energy activities. Teams will report on their activities at the end of the PROGRESS Phase in July 2024, when they will be eligible for an additional $100,000 cash and additional mentorship services. Those winning teams will then move on to the IMPACT Phase to present the results of their initiatives at a final event in December 2024. Learn more about the winning teams’ projects.

Follow the Community Energy Innovation Prize to learn more about the activities of all prize competitors. To stay up to date on other prize news, visit the American-Made program and subscribe to the American-Made newsletter.