CEBN Looks Back on 2021

Lynn Abramson, Andy Barnes, Allie Judge, and Annabelle Swift | December 23, 2021

Here at the Clean Energy Business Network, we are all about the ‘network.’ Our collective strength as an organization relies on the individual contributions of our members. With each new project you build, each time you sign onto a policy letter, each new connection you forge, you are building a cleaner, healthier, more resilient, and more affordable energy future for all Americans. As we look back on 2021, we wish to express our gratitude for your contributions to our community of changemakers.

The past year has been trying in many ways, as we close out the second year of a global pandemic and many people are quarantining apart from their loved ones this holiday season. And yet, it has also been an incredible year, with record investment and deployment in the clean energy markets, along with historic new policies enacted to promote investment in climate solutions, energy resilience, and environmental and economic justice.

In CEBN, we’ve celebrated some exciting new milestones in 2021: doubling the size of our network over the past four years to reach 6,000 clean energy business leaders, along with doubling the size of our original staff to four full-time employees.

Read on to learn more about what we’ve accomplished together this past year and our vision of how to build upon this progress in 2022.

Helping Entrepreneurs Navigate Energy Innovation Programs

This year, CEBN significantly expanded our work with the Department of Energy (DOE). In late 2020, we secured a subcontract to serve as a Power Connector for the DOE’s American-Made Challenges (AMC) and other programs for emerging clean energy technologies. Throughout the year, we’ve leveraged events, communications, and our complimentary U.S. Cleantech Funding Database to boost awareness and access to the AMC prizes and other small business funding opportunities through the DOE and the Small Business Administration (SBA). As an AMC Power Connector, we:

  • Recruited and supported competitors for seven different funding opportunities, three of which are currently ongoing
  • Engaged 850 individuals in educational outreach and provided 1:1 support to 81 applicants
  • Conducted outreach to more than 1,000 organizations and businesses.
  • Held 14 events for competitors, including webinars, townhalls, office hours, and business development workshops

In 2022, we are working to expand our partnerships with government programs, incubators/accelerators, and investors to foster an ecosystem of entrepreneurial support across the nation.

Advancing Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Clean Energy

In conjunction with our growing reach and resources, CEBN expanded our efforts in 2021 to prioritize justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) initiatives in clean energy. Two of our current projects with DOE—supporting Small Business Innovation Research and the Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize—include a specific focus on recruiting and supporting competitors from communities that have historically been underrepresented and underinvested in the clean energy ecosystem.

To accomplish this goal, we have partnered with Banks & Company—a Black-owned public relations firm that has led diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in energy and other industries—in an intentional effort to engage with communities of color to mitigate issues of inequitable access to federal R&D funding opportunities.

In addition to our work with Banks & Company and the DOE, we have expanded CEBN’s focus to include more JEDI-centered initiatives:

  • Launched the Mária Telkes Fellowship, 2-year executive leadership mentorship program for up-and-coming/mid-career cleantech professionals from diverse backgrounds
  • Produced several episodes of our Powering Forward webinar series focused on building a more inclusive clean energy economy
  • Secured a grant from the Small Business Administration’s 2021 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition (GAFC) to support outreach to innovators from underrepresented and under-resourced communities

Moving into 2022, we are committed to dedicating even more of our services, programming, and partnerships to furthering an equitable and accessible clean energy economy that supports a just transition.

Securing Policy Wins for Clean Energy

CEBN built support for investments in cleaner, more reliable, more affordable energy throughout the year, through both the routine appropriations bills (annual federal funding process) and other infrastructure legislation.

Major pieces of legislation affecting clean energy were considered in Washington this year, including the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which was enacted November 15, 2021, and the Build Back Better (BBB) Act, which passed the House of Representatives and in currently pending in the Senate. CEBN humanized the impacts of these policy developments through case studies and media outreach telling the stories of innovators and entrepreneurs leading the clean energy transition. We mobilized collective action from small business leaders who often don’t have a voice or position of influence in Washington. Our engagement on these issues included the following:

Looking ahead to 2022, we plan to play a role in shaping implementation of IIJA and BBB at the federal and state levels, particularly with an eye to the unique needs of small businesses.

Expanding Premium Membership Services

 Thanks to the our charitable grants and contracts, we are able to make the vast majority of our resources freely available to the public, supporting small businesses without eating into their bottom line. We also offer low-cost, premium memberships (starting at $250/year) providing enhanced access to information and exposure to potential partners while providing modest additional support to increase the impact of our organization.

In 2021, we expanded some of the services that we provide to our Premium Members. We understand that many small business leaders lack the time and resources to navigate the constantly shifting policy landscape impacting their market opportunities and manage the day-to-day challenges of running a company. To that end, we:

  • Launched Quarterly Policy Memos for premium members providing concise summaries on important legislative or administrative updates
  • Began offering an Association 401(k) plan that offers small businesses options to add a new, plug-and-play retirement plan or customize their existing plans to add more sustainable options through Environment-Social-Governance (ESG)-aligned investments

These initiatives come on top of our existing member benefits, such as opportunities for exposure via our searchable Member Directory, newsletter, and social media. Learn more about the benefits you receive by becoming a Premium CEBN Member.

Thank you again for your role in building the clean energy economy of the future. We wish you and your loved ones a happy and healthy holiday season and prosperous New Year.