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Energizing Rural Communities Prize

The upcoming Energizing Rural Communities Prize is for you if you want to build essential partnerships or secure the capital needed to help a rural or remote community improve their energy systems and advance clean energy demonstration projects.

Follow the Challenge

Energizing Rural Communities Prize

This February, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED) is launching the $15 million Energizing Rural Communities Prize to challenge individuals and organizations to develop partnership plans or innovative financing strategies to help rural or remote communities improve their energy systems and advance clean energy demonstration projects.

This prize is part of OCED’s $1 billion Energy Improvements in Rural or Remote Areas (ERA) Program which was created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to demonstrate new ways to improve the resilience, reliability, safety, availability, and environmental performance of energy systems serving our nation’s rural or remote areas with populations of no more than 10,000 people. The ERA program reflects the Biden-Harris Administration’s continued commitment to ensuring no communities are left behind in the historic transition to a clean energy future.

Nearly 50 million Americans live in rural or remote areas where energy costs are often disproportionately high and service can be unreliable. The ERA Program found that two of the primary barriers to improving rural and remote energy systems are the limited access to partners and to funding.

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Prize Structure

The Energizing Rural Communities Prize has 2 tracks, and each track has 2 phases.

Track 1: Partner

Applicants to the Partner track should focus on strategies to build or improve partnerships that connect rural or remote communities to government funding, technical assistance, or a support ecosystem to help implement clean energy demonstration projects. Prize submissions could include plans for securing resources to support early-stage projects, aggregating energy demonstration projects to make workforce or equipment acquisition more efficient, creating opportunities for communities to collaborate, or forming project teams.

Phase 1

$6.0M Prize Pool

Phase 2

$4.0M Bonus Prize Pool

Track 2: Finance

Applicants to the Finance track should focus on developing innovative business models and approaches to community ownership models that help finance clean energy demonstration projects in rural or remote areas. Prize submissions could include plans to develop new community ownership models, innovative financing mechanisms to support local businesses, local green banks, training programs on underwriting and accessing capital, and business models for long-term operations and maintenance solutions.

Phase 1

$3.0M Prize Pool

Phase 2

$2.0M Bonus Prize Pool

* Applicants can submit to multiple tracks, but must apply for each separately

** Phase One winning teams will also receive in-kind mentorship and other support services during the 12-month period following winner announcements.

Who is Eligible to Compete?

The competition is open to individuals and organizations that may include entrepreneurs, university faculty and student groups, community organizations, tribal and local governments, financial institutions, and industry professionals.


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Solutions that help shape the future

Do you see an opportunity to help organize or finance a clean energy demonstration project in a rural or remote area? Follow this prize for notifications to apply when the prize opens and the official rules, available in February.

You can also message us directly at ruralenergyprize@nrel.gov with any questions.

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