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Unleashing the Power of Entrepreneurs to Solve Our Energy Challenges

December 13, 2011 - 5:51am


One of the most important things we can do to provide for a more sustainable future for our children and grandchildren is find new ways to unlock our ingenuity. Across the planet, creative minds are generating ideas that will make our lives better – and save energy – and they’re translating them into action through entrepreneurship. By cultivating the best clean energy ideas and working to move them from paper to prototype to commercial success, entrepreneurs are the engine driving us to a more secure energy future.

DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) plays an important role in this process by investing in the development and commercialization of clean energy technologies that strengthen the economy, protect the environment, and reduce America's dependence on foreign oil.

Clean Energy Business Competition

One of the ways EERE is opening doors for America’s young entrepreneurs is through the National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition (NCEBPC). Announced in late September, the challenge funds six regional collegiate business competitions that are inspiring young entrepreneurs to found innovative, clean energy companies. These competitions, based in California, Colorado, Texas, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland, encourage students from across the country to develop successful business plans and join a new generation of American clean energy leaders. Part of the Obama Administration’s campaign to inspire and promote entrepreneurship called Startup America, the challenge will provide student participants with the skills needed to create new businesses and transform promising energy technologies from U.S. universities and national laboratories into innovative energy products that will help to create jobs, boost American competitiveness, and strengthen our economy. You can follow the development and progress of these competitions at the NCEBPC Blog.

The regional competitions will be completed by May 1, 2012. Panels of expert judges will select a winning team from each region to advance to the finals. The six regional winners will each receive $100,000 in DOE prize money and a chance to compete for a National Grand Prize at a competition held at the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. in early summer 2012.

Funding for Innovators to Develop Data-Driven Software Tools, Streamlined Processes

As part of DOE’s SunShot Initiative, the Department will invest up to $7 million in funding for innovative organizations that can help reduce the non-hardware costs of residential and commercial solar energy installations. The funding will support the development of tools and approaches that reduce non-hardware, or “soft” costs, such as installation, permitting, interconnection, and inspection – which together can amount to up to half of the cost of residential systems. Solutions developed through this effort will make the process of buying, installing, and maintaining solar energy systems faster, easier, and less expensive. DOE seeks applicants that will develop data-driven software tools, streamlined processes and innovative approaches, to reduce non-hardware cost.

This initiative complements the SunShot program’s Rooftop Challenge, which supports innovative approaches to information technology systems, local zoning and building codes and regulations in order to simplify and expedite permitting processes.

To find more opportunities to partner with DOE to help move your clean energy ideas into the marketplace, please visit EERE’s Funding Opportunity Exchange website.