American-Made Challenges


Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize

Enabling a just and equitable transition to a clean energy economy

This challenge is closed

up to $2.5 million in total prizes

This challenge is closed

Webinars and Recordings


Advancing equity, civil rights, racial justice, and equal opportunities is a responsibility of the entire U.S. government, including the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize fits into the Biden administration’s Justice40 Initiative, which promises to deliver 40% of climate investment benefits to disadvantaged communities and, at the same time, inform equitable research, development, and deployment within DOE.

Part of the American-Made Challenges series and sponsored by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and Office of Economic Impact and Diversity, this prize aims to fund organizations for ongoing and/or proposed activities related to climate and clean energy that support, build trust, and strengthen relationships and partnerships with disadvantaged communities. Specifically, this prize 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.





Prize Stages


Phase One

From tribal nations to urban centers, rural towns to suburban America, and high schoolers to college students, teams competing in Phase One 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.

Each competing team submitted an impact plan 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. In May 2022, DOE announced 18 winners of Phase One of the Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize, who received cash awards of $200,000 each. Learn more about all of the Phase One submissions.


Phase Two

Phase Two of the Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize is open only to Phase One awardees. It will start in May 2022 and remain open for 12 months. Finalists may submit narratives describing activities carried out and progress they have made toward the goals of the prize since the end of Phase One.

Up to six winning teams will be selected to receive a share of a $1.5 Million cash prize pool to continue to carry out the activities they have successfully executed on as described in their impact plans. 



Prize Goals

The goals of the prize are to:

  1. 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.
  2. Create or increase participation in clean energy and climate-smart job training and job placement/hiring, including programs that target participation from disadvantaged communities, including formerly incarcerated individuals and youth transitioning out of foster care.  Workforce training could cover identifying energy efficiencies and greenhouse gas inventories, renewable energy manufacturing, and deployment.
  3. 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.
  4. 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, in support of the government’s Justice40 goals.
  5. Enable the development of replicable clean energy transitions that deliver just and equitable benefits to disadvantaged communities in support of the government’s Justice40 goals.

The winners of Phase One of the Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize  received cash awards of $200,000 each. Phase One winners are eligible to participate in Phase Two of the prize, anticipated to take place over the 12 months following the Phase One awards, during which time that a total of $500,000 will be awarded to up to three teams. 

For more information on the Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize, please review the Official Rules Document.




Who can participate?

Please review the official rules for the application process and instructions for competing.

If you want to subscribe to updates on the prize or have any questions, you may use the contact feature on the HeroX platform, or message us directly.



Challenge Updates

And the winners are...

June 28, 2023, 11:05 a.m. PDT by NREL Prize Moderator (Amanda Morton)

After a year of hard work and incredible impact within their communities the first cohort of Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize teams competed for the grand prize. 

Please congratulate the 6 winning teams:

  • Creative Collaborations Build Thriving Communities (New York, New York) The Clean Energy Academy team expanded its workforce training program for disadvantaged communities, which serves as an on-ramp for professionals looking to enter or transition into the clean energy workforce and provides an upskilling opportunity for existing workers.
  • Data Miners of the Mountain, Phase Two (Utuado, Puerto Rico) Under the leadership of the Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña, this team is working to accelerate microgrid deployment in rural and low-resourced communities. They are working to empower communities to take control of a clean energy future by installing rooftop solar and storage systems, starting with businesses and community service centers.
  • Empowering the Future Energy Workforce (Richland, Washington) Washington State University’s Tri-Cities team developed the Clean Energy Ambassadors Network, which aims to empower the future energy workforce by engaging and retaining students, particularly Hispanic/LatinX students. The team plans to continue this program and develop a “Clean Energy” certificate that will prepare students to join the next generation of clean energy leaders and thinkers.
  • Get Lit, Stay Lit (New Orleans, Louisiana) Feed the Second Line is working with neighborhood restaurants to install solar panels and batteries and create a resilient city-wide “Stay Lit” network. This team was inspired by Hurricane Ida, when New Orleans lost power for 10 days and restaurants were forced to throw away perishable food. This solution creates neighborhood food sites, cooling centers, and cell phone charging hubs, and empowers local businesses to become first-first responders.
  • Tebughna Sunshine (Anchorage, Alaska) The Tebughna Foundation serves the Dena’ina Athabascan tribal community of the Native Village of Tyonek. This project is using traditional principles of land stewardship for Alaska Native communities to create and identify technical assistance resources for renewable energy technologies and pilot a solar array at Tyonek’s tribal center. The team also plans to create an accessible handbook for deploying equitable clean energy in Alaska Native Villages.
  • Xcelerating Black Climate Startups in Portland (Portland, Oregon) The Northwest Xcelerator (NWX) Team collaborated with VertueLab and the Port of Portland to develop and build a culturally specific, non-extractive acceleration support ecosystem for climate innovators from Black and underserved communities. The team has also been working on a program to accelerate startup development and incubation, facilities for hands-on workforce training, and incubator and maker spaces.

While we could not fund all 16 of the high-quality teams that competed, we look forward to seeing the impacts they're making in their communities for years to come.

And please stay tuned, for the next Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize!

- The Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize Administration Team

Multiple Funding Opportunities Open for Applications NOW!

Jan. 20, 2023, 11:41 a.m. PST by NREL Prize Moderator (Amanda Morton)

The U.S Department of Energy has announced a number of funding opportunities:


EnergyTech University Prize

In EnergyTech UP, student teams will compete for $370,000 in cash prizes for successfully identifying a promising energy technology, assessing its market potential, and creating a business plan for commercialization.

EnergyTech University Prize Registration Closes: Jan. 26, 2023, 9:59 p.m. MT


EAS-E Prize

The goal of the EAS-E Prize is to support a suite of design solutions, tools, and/or technology innovations that make electrification more affordable and accessible in existing U.S. homes. Through this prize, the U.S. Department of Energy Building Technologies Office aims to create more opportunities and successes for electrification of the U.S. housing stock with a focus on equitable solutions for all homeowners—not only through affordability, but also by enabling solutions specific to dwellings more common in low-income and under-resourced communities. In some homes, load reduction strategies (e.g., building envelope upgrades) can also improve the reliability, affordability, and performance of electrification upgrades.

Design solutions/tools and technology innovations are eligible for the prize, with the goal to spur an ecosystem of products and approaches that work for every homeowner ready to make the switch. Low-power electrification solutions that limit the electricity demand of individual appliances or the whole dwelling (e.g., by avoiding electrical panel upgrades or controlling coincident loads) are strongly encouraged, because of their potential benefits to the project cost and speed of installation and their wider grid impacts. The innovations developed and launched in response to this prize will benefit the broader housing retrofit market by advancing building electrification solutions that are fast, easy, and scalable.

EAS-E Prize Phase 1: Concept Paper Deadline: March 8, 2023, 1 p.m. MST


Community Power Accelerator Prize

The American-Made Community Power Accelerator Prize is a $10 million prize competition designed to fast-track the efforts of new, emerging, and expanding solar developers and co-developers to learn, participate, and grow their operations to support multiple successful community solar projects.

The goal of this prize is to grow a robust ecosystem of community solar project developers that incorporate meaningful benefits into projects across the United States.

Join us for an informational webinar to learn more about the Community Power Accelerator Prize:  Feb. 1, 12 p.m. ET - Register Here

Community Power Accelerator Prize Phase 1: Ready! Deadline: March 15, 2023, 3 p.m. MT


Buildings Upgrade Prize

Upgrading existing buildings to efficiently run on clean energy will help address climate change.  Building upgrades may include transitioning to efficient electric equipment, including heat pumps and heat pump water heaters, and improving building efficiency through measures such as insulation and air sealing. Together, efforts will help reduce carbon emissions and energy costs, while improving indoor air quality and occupant comfort.

Developed by the U.S. Department of Energy Building Technologies Office (BTO), Buildings UP aims to build capacity to rapidly and equitably transform U.S. buildings. Teams will submit innovative concepts to leverage the billions of dollars available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), utility rebate programs, and many other funding sources, capitalizing on this once-in-a-generation opportunity to equitably transform a wide variety of buildings across diverse geographies. As teams progress through the prize, they will receive cash prizes and technical assistance to help bring their ideas to life.

Join us for an informational webinar to learn more about Buildings UP : Feb. 2, 12 p.m. ET - Register Here

Buildings Upgrade Prize Phase 1: Concept Deadline: July 18, 2023


Energizing Rural Communities Prize

The prize will launch in February as part of the $1 billion Energy Improvements in Rural or Remote Areas (ERA) Program, created by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED). The ERA Program supports projects that improve the resilience, reliability, safety, availability, and environmental performance of energy systems in rural or remote areas of the U.S. with populations of no more than 10,000 people. 

Through workshops and community input, the ERA Program has found that two of the biggest barriers to improving energy systems in rural or remote areas are developing the necessary partnerships and securing financing. 

The Energizing Rural Communities Prize has two tracks: 

  • The Partner track—with a $10 million cash prize pool—will support plans to connect rural or remote communities to government funding, technical assistance, or a network of partners that can help implement clean energy demonstration projects. 
  • The Finance track—with a $5 million cash prize pool—will support plans to access capital or to develop community ownership models to help finance clean energy demonstration projects in rural or remote areas. 

This prize is for entrepreneurs, university faculty and student groups, community organizations, tribal and local governments, financial institutions, industry professionals, and others with ideas to help organize or finance a clean energy demonstration project in a rural or remote area. 

Join us for a rules workshop to provide feedback to the Energizing Rural Communities Prize: Feb. 1, 12 p.m. ET - Register here

Energizing Rural Communities Prize Deadlines TBA


DOE Launches New $50 Million Program to Help Communities Meet Their Clean Energy Goals

Clean Energy to Communities’ Program Will Connect Local Leaders with DOE’s National Laboratories to Help Communities Transition to a Clean Energy Future

C2C offers three levels of technical assistance:  

  • In-depth technical partnerships: Multi-year partnerships that provide cross-sector modeling, analysis, and validation, paired with direct funding to help four to five selected teams of local governments, electric utilities, and community-based organizations each their goals and/or overcome specific challenges.  
  • Peer-learning cohorts: Small groups of local governments, electric utilities, or community-based organizations that meet regularly for approximately six months to learn from each other and lab experts in a collaborative environment to develop program proposals, action plans, strategies, and/or best practices on a pre-determined clean energy topic. Cohorts will include approximately 100 communities in total. 
  • Expert match: Short-term assistance (40-60 hours) with one or more technical experts to help address near-term clean energy questions or challenges for up to 200 communities. 

Clean Energy to Communities - Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.


Additionally, U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has announced: 2023 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering $3,000,000 in prize awards over two phases in it's 2023 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition for impactful and inclusive approaches to foster a thriving, collaborative national innovation support ecosystem to advance research and development (R&D) from ideas to impact.

Stage One: $50,000 cash prizes will be awarded to organizations (Catalysts) to catalyze relationships between aligned stakeholders (Ecosystem Partners) that lead to the development of Growth Accelerator Partnerships. Catalysts work collaboratively with Ecosystem Partners to bring additional resources, deepen network connections, and develop strategies that amplify the impact and success of the Growth Accelerator Partnership and the STEM/R&D-focused entrepreneurs and small businesses it serves. SBA encourages creative models for ecosystem building. SBA welcomes Stage One submissions from a broad range of organizations with a collaborative vision to nurture a national ecosystem for equitable access to entrepreneurship.

Competition Goals:

  • Increase the pipeline and success of STEM/R&D-focused entrepreneurs and small businesses;
  • Increase the success of STEM/R&D-focused entrepreneurs in accessing capital and resources to advance their businesses;
  • Incentivize innovation ecosystem stakeholders to provide equitable access to resources for underserved communities and industries;
  • Catalyze partnerships and relationships between stakeholder groups to strengthen the national innovation ecosystem; and
  • Connect both new and established participants in the national innovation ecosystem

2023 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition Deadline: February 24, 2023 at 12:00 pm EST. 

18 Winning Teams Selected for the Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize!

May 24, 2022, 12:20 p.m. PDT by NREL Prize Moderator (Amanda Morton)

Thank you to all of the teams and individuals that submitted one of the many entries into the Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize! 

Please congratulate the 18 winning teams:

  • Accelerating the Impact of Diverse Entrepreneurs Washington, D.C.: The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) will support small and emerging renewable energy companies owned or operated by women, Asian-Indian, Asian-Pacific, Black, Hispanic, or Native American leaders, with the goal of tripling the number of businesses in the program over the next four years, and increasing diversity in clean energy C-suite leadership.
  • Alabama Energy Transformation Initiative, Tuscaloosa, AL: The University of Alabama and Energy Alabama will work together to provide education programs to expose, train, and recruit underrepresented students into clean energy and STEM fields through energy assessment trainings and field trips.
  • Central Valley Innovation Ecosystem, Fresno, CA: The Water, Energy and Technology Center at California State University, Fresno, will create and manage a region-wide, 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.
  • Clean Energy Restoration for Rural Alaska Villages, Anchorage, AK: The Tebughna Foundation aims to create opportunities for Alaskan indigenous communities to develop clean and affordable energy resources based on traditional principles of land stewardship, and will create a handbook for equitable clean energy deployment in Alaskan Native Villages.
  • Community Engagement for a Clean Energy Economy, Bethesda, MD: One Montgomery Green and Bethesda Green will work with the community to create an equitable and actionable carbon reduction roadmap, run entrepreneurship training programs, and facilitate community collaborations for clean energy transition initiatives.
  • Creative Collaborations Build Thriving Communities, New York, NY: Soulful Synergy LLC will expand their workforce training program, which focuses on energy efficiency and building systems, to at least 250 new participants from disadvantaged communities.
  • Empowering the Future Energy Workforce, Richland, WA: 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, PR: The Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña, in partnership with Fundación Borincana and Pecan Street, will empower rural villages in the interior mountains of Puerto Rico to take control of their clean-energy future by installing rooftop solar and storage systems.
  • Feed the Second Line: Get Lit, Stay Lit!, New Orleans, LA: Feed the Second Line will pilot solar-plus-storage microgrid installations and an apprenticeship program to in local restaurants to serve as disaster relief hubs.
  • Green Door Initiative, Detroit, MI: As part of their ‘motor city to solar city’ efforts, the Green Door Initiative will expand their climate-smart job training and placement programs, including for returning citizens, and create a model sustainable neighborhood block -- creating jobs installing solar panels and improving energy efficiency -- to reduce energy insecurity.
  • Imani Green Works! Community Justice & Innovation, Chicago, IL: Imani Green Works is a coalition of nine organizations working to create a minority-owned, minority-managed company to provide clean energy workforce development programs for historically disenfranchised residents of Chicago’s Pullman Community and Washington Heights neighborhoods, and conduct community workshops to foster grassroots innovation in climate smart projects.
  • Increase Battery Work Force Development, Atlanta, GA: Three minority owned business will partner with Clark Atlanta University, a an HBCU, to create an education program, an internship program and an entrepreneurship course for high school students through graduate students focused on battery design, manufacturing, and testing. 
  • Native Sun REZ Network, Minneapolis, MN: The Native Sun Community Power Development will create the Reservation Energy Zone (REZ) Network to help tribes seeking to share opportunities around clean energy, including through mentorship, through assistance to local rural schools in applying for the Solar for Schools program and through investment opportunities for clean energy projects.
  • New Haven Eco-Entrepreneurship Creative Lab, New Haven, CT: Gather New Haven will recruit young entrepreneurs to participate in the New Haven Eco-Entrepreneurship Creative Lab to develop equitable clean energy solutions, and enable the students to pitch climate-technology projects to increase community engagement and acceptance.
  • Path to Tribal Energy Sovereignty, Pine Ridge, SD: Red Cloud Renewable will provide tribal communities with the workforce and entrepreneurship training, technology know-how, and resources to drive solar and other renewable energy projects on tribal lands. 
  • SEEEDing Knoxville's Just Energy Ecosystem, Knoxville, TN: The nonprofit Socially Equally Energy Efficient Development (SEEED) aims to design a community-driven just energy ecosystem, encourage distribution of clean energy benefits to the community and develop clean energy jobs training for disadvantaged youth.
  • 'Solar Utilization and Commercialization Coalition for Energy Efficiency Devices, Edinburg, TX: A coalition of professionals, organizations, and academic institutions that support startups and entrepreneurs will work to bolster the solar manufacturing industry in Texas and support startups in the industry to build economic potential in the Rio Grande Valley.
  • "Xcelerating" Black Climate Startups in Portland, Portland, OR: This team will launch a climate-tech business accelerator tailored for entrepreneurs from local Black and underserved communities. Their projects will include developing a culturally-informed energy curriculum for use with black-owned startups, an entrepreneur accelerator program with the goal of creating more black-owned businesses, and a program to incentivize investment using a just transition offset strategy. 

We were amazed by this community and while we could not fund all of the high-quality submissions that we received we hope to continue to support this group of visionaries through other means. Please continue to follow this site so you are aware of these opportunities as they arise. If your team was not selected as a winner, you will receive an email with the reviewer feedback.

We encourage you all to keep pushing forward with your vision for a just and equitable clean energy future.

- The Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize Administration Team

More Resources For Technical Assistance and Funding

March 29, 2022, 2:42 p.m. PDT by NREL Prize Moderator (Amanda Morton)

Hello Innovators,

We're still anticipating announcing prize winners at the end of April. In the meantime we would like to make our competitors aware of a few opportunities:


The Department of Energy's Reducing Barriers: Workforce Technical Assistance Workshops

These trainings are offered virtually at no cost to participants. Attendance of all workshops is not required but registration is required.

Energy Transitions Initiative Partnership Project

Deadline 4/15. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) partners with the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Energy Transitions Initiative Partnership Project (ETIPP) to help remote, island, and islanded communities transform their energy systems and increase energy resilience. The ETIPP partner network connects selected communities with regional nonprofit or academic organizations ("regional partners"), energy experts at DOE research institutions (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, NREL, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories), and DOE offices to navigate options for addressing local clean energy and energy resilience challenges. Please be aware that ETIPP is not a grant program and does not provide direct funding to selected communities. The purchase and deployment of energy infrastructure is also not available through ETIPP.


The Department of Energy does not have any open SBIR/STTR grants at the moment, but our peers at the National Science Foundation have a few that could be relevant for some of our teams. More details can be found here.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s Clean School Bus Program

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s Clean School Bus Program prioritizes support for schools serving low-income and historically marginalized communities, and in alignment with the administration’s Justice40 Initiative. That funding opportunity opens in April 2022


Keep innovating,

The Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize Administration Team

Resources While You Wait

March 7, 2022, 12:18 p.m. PST by NREL Prize Moderator (Amanda Morton)

Hello Innovators,

It's been a week since the submission window closed, and we know you're all anxiously awaiting results. We have received over 200 submissions and are making the reviewer assignments now to our expert reviewers. 

While we wait for the reviewers to score your submissions, we wanted to point you to some resources that the Clean Energy Business Network (CEBN) has pulled together to support JEDI in clean energy:

  • Sign-up for a 1:1 meeting here.
  • Visit the Cleantech Funding Database for the most up-to-date list of funding opportunities. You can filter funding type to "Community Focused" and/or "Diversity/Inclusion" to find more JEDI-focused opportunities.
  • Fill out this teaming form  for organizations, businesses, and educational institutions interested in connecting to one another and working on JEDI initiatives in clean energy.
  • Follow CEBN's blog series on the different programs that DOE and other federal agencies have for cleantech innovators: Insight into Federal Cleantech Programs.
  • Attend one of the Powering Forward webinars topics in the clean energy ecosystem. Past topics include: building a diverse clean energy ecosystem, environmental justice, and current political event impacts on clean energy.

We hope these resources are helpful to you and look forward to engaging with you in the future!

Please contact Allie Judge at if you have any questions about CEBN and it's resources available to you.


Thank you for your interest in Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion funding and development opportunities in clean energy.


The Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize Administration Team

Webinars and Recordings

Phase One

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