Energizing Rural Communities Prize

March 9, 2023 | Allie Judge, Associate, CEBN

The Department of Energy (DOE) is offering $15M through the American-Made Energizing Rural Communities Prize. This prize challenges 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.

The Energizing Rural Communities Prize is structured in two phases. Phase One will award $100,000 to up to 90 awardees. Those awardees are eligible to apply by July 2024 to compete for an additional $200,000 in Phase Two.

IMPORTANT UPDATE – Please Read before Submitting Application

There has been much confusion over Phase One vs. Phase Two of the prize and what information should be included in your application. The prize administrators have sent out an update here with more details, and the timeline in the graphic below can be used for guidance.

A key takeaway is that Phase Two begins once the Phase One awards are given out (which is expected in July 2023), so any section of the rules that asks you to describe “Activities During Phase Two” is referring to what you are expecting to use the $100k prize for over the next year. It is not referring to what teams would do with the $200k prize.

Ongoing Power Connector Support –

  • Clean Energy Business Network: Sign up for 1:1 office hours to ask questions about the prize and get direct feedback on your application.
  • Entrepreneur Futures Network: Register for group office hours to ask questions about the prize, meet other applicants, and get feedback on your application. EFN also has a teaming function on their website to facilitate connections.
  • Arrowhead Center at New Mexico State University: Book a 30-minute meeting with the Arrowhead Center to ask questions and/or get feedback on your application.

Past Events

March 21 at 1pm ET – The prize administrators held an informational webinar event on March 21. Watch the recording here.

April 5 at 4pm ET – Prize administrators held a webinar on the PARTNER Track. Watch the recording here.

April 6 at 1pm ET – Prize administrators held a webinar on the FINANCE Track. Watch the recording here.

What projects are eligible for the prize?

Successful applicants should develop plans to take the first steps necessary for developing a clean energy project in a rural or remote community. No construction is required as part of the prize. There are two tracks that competitors can apply for:

  • Partner Track: facilitate new or existing partnership that enable the development of clean energy projects. Up to 60 winners in Phase 1 will receive $100,000 for this track.
  • Finance Track: connect communities to capital for current or future clean energy projects. Up to 30 winners in Phase 1 will receive $100,000 for this track.

“Rural or remote” community is defined as: “a city, town, or unincorporated area that has a population of not more than 10,000 inhabitants.” For more details on the eligibility requirements for identified areas, see pages 35-36 in the prize rules.

If you have additional questions related to eligibility or the rules of the prize, please contact the prize administrators directly using the prize’s questions forum or email ruralenergyprize@nrel.gov.

Who should apply?

The competition is open only to private entities (for-profits and nonprofits), non-federal government entities such as states, counties, tribes, and municipalities, academic institutions, and individuals. See page 33 of the prize rules for more details.

Additional rules outlining the prize can be found here, and the prize website offers a resource center and forum to ask questions of prize administrators.

How do I apply?

CEBN is here to work with you throughout the application process. First-time applicants should especially feel welcome to contact us with questions or book our office hours. All materials in your application package should be submitted here.

The application package consists of:

  • A 3-minute video
  • Cover page
  • Summary slide
  • Partner Track: Partnership Plan (<5,000 words) and Evidence of Commitment*
  • Finance Track: Project Plan and Financial Statement (<5,000 words)*

* These materials will not be made public.

 When do I apply?

Phase One applications are due by May 24, 2023 at 5pm ET. Phase Two will open in July 2023 and close in July 2024. Although the process for applying is straightforward, we encourage you to get started early to ensure that your application is ready and that you understand the prize goals well in advance of the deadline.


CEBN will be holding office hours as part of our work as a Power Connector on this prize. Be sure to check back on this page for updates and reach out to Allie Judge with any questions.