DOE Partners with Georgetown to Launch Small Town Energy Efficiency Prize

Credit: Georgetown University Energy Prize
Credit: Georgetown University Energy Prize

This past July, President Obama chose Georgetown University as the venue to launch his administration’s historic National Climate Change Action Plan, a precedent-setting strategy whose three principal aims are to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, prepare the U.S. for climate change impacts, and lead international efforts to address climate change.

The choice of Georgetown U. as a venue may have been more than a matter of appropriate setting and local convenience. This past March, the university’s program on Science in the Public Interest (SPI) and McDonough School of Business’ Global Social Entrepreneurship Initiative (GSEI) announced plans to launch the Georgetown University Energy Prize, a two-year nationwide energy efficiency competition. The competition will give small and medium-sized communities nationwide (populations 5,000-250,000) the chance to vie for a $5 million prize and participate in a nationwide effort to lower energy consumption, boost energy efficiency and reduce energy bills.

Adding momentum to the initiative, the Department of Energy (DOE) this week announced a commitment to collaborate on the energy prize, which it describes as “a competition to encourage innovative, replicable, and scalable approaches to reducing energy use in communities across the United States.”

Fostering innovation, scalability and replicability in community energy efficiency

U.S. municipalities ranging in size from 5,000-250,000 residents – of which there are 8,892 according to GUEP – account for some 200 million Americans, more than 65 percent of U.S. communities. Couple that with the fact that we as Americans waste more than 50 percent of energy production and it’s clear that there are some serious potential gains to be realized by boosting energy efficiency, benefits and rewards that fall right in line with the goals expressed in the President’s National Climate Change Action Plan, as well as public-private initiatives such as the National League of Cities’ Sustainable Cities Institute.

As GUEP founder and executive, Georgetown U. Upjohn Lecturer on Physics and Public Policy Francis Slakey explained in a July 12 post on the National League of Cities’ blog,

“As a nation, we have yet to fully tap into the enormous potential that energy efficiency offers. By decreasing energy use, we get more from existing resources, support increased resource productivity and economic growth, and enable consumers to save money. Together, these elements hold tremendous power and promise for national energy security and independence, making a compelling case for giving this issue more of our attention.”

GUEP’s principal aims are three-fold:

  • to foster innovative approaches to energy efficiency
  • to educate the public and engage students in energy issues, and
  • to grow markets for products and services that facilitate energy efficiency.

GUEP gears up for early 2014 launch

Slated for an early 2014 launch, GUEP has established a preliminary set of rules for those communities interested in entering the competition. During the pre-launch phase from this past July-December, communities will need to submit a non-binding Letter of Intent. Additional pertinent information is available on the “Resources for Competitors” page of GUEP’s website.

Then, a panel of judges will evaluate the results of communities’ energy efficiency programs based on “reductions in energy use, innovation of approach, quality of community outreach, sustainability and replicability.”

GUEP points out that though only one community will win the $5 million prize, “everyone who participates will benefit.” Elaborating on this, GUEP states,

“The competition provides a unique platform of extensive financial opportunities, educational, and technical resources for competing communities including: one-on-one technical assistance, annual workshops, case studies showcasing energy efficiency successes in other communities, tips for household energy conservation, opportunities to apply for seed grants, and direct engagement with federal policymakers in Washington, D.C.”

In collaborating with Georgetown U., various DOE agencies will contribute to realizing the Obama Administration’s strategic climate change action, as well as GUEP’s energy efficiency, goals. Its Building Technologies Office (BTO) will help GUEP refine competition guidelines, promote the competition “among key stakeholders” and provide technical assistance to participating communities.
DOE’s Better Buildings Residential Network (BBRN) will be central information exchange and sharing among participating communities.

An independent journalist, researcher and writer, my work roams across the nexus where ecology, technology, political economy and sociology intersect and overlap. The lifelong quest for knowledge of the world and self -- not to mention gainful employment -- has led me near and far afield, from Europe, across the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa and back home to the Americas. Twitter: @mightysparrow LinkedIn: andrew burger Google+: Andrew B Email: huginn.muggin@gmail.com