• The San Juan Daily Star

Utuado energy resilience project awarded federal innovation prize

The Utuado project’s proposal is to empower rural areas in the interior mountains of Puerto Rico to take control of their clean energy future through the installation of solar and storage systems on roofs.

By The Star Staff

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on Tuesday awarded Energy Profiles Build Community Energy Resilience in Utuado its Inclusive Energy Innovation prize and $200,000.

The Utuado project was one of 18 groups and organizations that received $3.6 million through the Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize — a first-of-its-kind competition designed to support entrepreneurship and innovation in communities historically underserved in federal climate and energy technology funding. The selected projects are helping develop the next wave of diverse clean energy business owners, executives and workforce that are creating bottom-up solutions for sustainable development.

The project in Utuado is a joint initiative of the Mountain Hydroelectric Cooperative, the Borincana Foundation and Pecan Street, whose proposal is to empower rural areas in the interior mountains of Puerto Rico to take control of their clean energy future through the installation of solar and storage systems on roofs.

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón applauded the award.

“The prolonged recovery and restoration of electricity in rural areas of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria demonstrated the need to incorporate resilient energy in housing development in our small communities, as part of the effort to make renewable resources part of a diversified energy supply,” she said in a written statement. “I congratulate the Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña, Fundación Borincana and Pecan Street for their joint effort, and I congratulate them for having achieved this goal and encourage them to continue to the next phase.”

The Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize supports the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 initiative to put environmental and economic justice at the center of the United States’ transition to a net-zero economy by 2050.

“Delivering an equitable clean energy transition means we must tear down the structural barriers preventing those most impacted by climate change from receiving the support they need to develop solutions for their communities,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said in a statement. “I’m so proud of DOE and I want to congratulate the first-ever Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize and the 18 winners who are helping build an inclusive community of innovators to tackle the climate problems of today and tomorrow.”

The Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize, launched by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity with additional funding from the Office of Technology Transitions, is supporting teams of entrepreneurs, community organizers, nonprofits and academic institutions working to achieve energy justice in the national transition to clean energy.

A recent study found that out of some $1 billion in philanthropic funding provided to a dozen national environmental grantees, just over 1% of the funding was awarded to energy justice-focused organizations. The study also revealed that inadequate access to funding and to information about proper procedures during the request for applications process were barriers that prevented the organizations from being considered for funding opportunities.

Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize encouraged applications from innovators who had never applied for federal funding, and at least 80% of submissions were from first-time applicants to DOE funding opportunities.

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