Earlier this week, the Department of Energy ("DOE") announced $22 Million Dollars in prize money availability under a new program entitled "The Buildings Upgrade Prize" or "Buildings UP".

According to the DOE, the Buildings UP program is designed to accelerate the transformation of U.S. buildings into energy-efficient and clean energy-ready homes, commercial spaces, and communities

The Buildings Upgrade Prize is offering more than $22 million in cash prizes and technical assistance to teams across America with winning ideas to accelerate widespread, equitable energy efficiency and building electrification upgrades.

According to Alejandro Moreno, Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, "We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to leverage billions of dollars in funding available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act, utility rebate programs, and many other sources to upgrade our existing buildings and help address climate change".

Per DOE's press release, proposed solutions can be varied and may include adoption of efficient electric equipment and appliances, including heat pumps and heat pump water heaters, as well as enhanced building efficiency through measures such as insulation and air sealing. Together, these efforts should help reduce carbon emissions and energy costs while improving indoor air quality and occupant comfort.

In Phase 1 of Buildings UP, teams are required to submit ideas for innovative concepts to increase building energy upgrades, choosing to enter one of two pathways: "Equity-Centered Innovation" or "Open Innovation."

Winning "Equity-Centered Innovation" teams, focused on delivering upgrades to low- and moderate-income homes; small, disadvantaged businesses; and other equity-eligible buildings, will receive $400,000 in cash.

Winning "Open Innovation" teams will receive $200,000 in cash. Winners from both pathways will also receive expert technical assistance and coaching to help bring their ideas to life.

Community-based organizations, state and local governments, Indian tribes, building owners, utilities, nonprofit organizations, energy efficiency program implementers, and other organizations are encouraged to team up and apply.

Phase 1 opens for submissions on February 18, 2023.

Separately, up to 50 Application Support Prizes of $5,000 and 10 hours of technical assistance are available to help new and under-resourced teams complete Phase 1 applications.

The Application Support Prize opens for submissions on Jan. 18, 2023, and will be awarded on a rolling basis until funds are expended.

Buildings UP is administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and is part of the American-Made program, which fast-tracks innovation through prizes, training, teaming, and mentoring. Teams competing in Buildings UP will have access to the American-Made Network, connecting the nation's entrepreneurs and innovators to America's national labs and the private sector. Mentoring, tools, resources, and support through the American-Made Network help accelerate the transition of ideas into real-world solutions to achieve clean energy goals.

Buildings UP was developed and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Building Technologies Office as part of its overall mission to reduce the carbon footprint of the U.S. building stock while maintaining or improving affordability, comfort, and performance.

Phase 1 submissions are due by July 18, 2023.

Parting Thoughts – if you are an owner of a building or a community-based organization, state and local government entity, an Indian tribe, a utility a nonprofit organizations or an energy efficiency program implementers, now is the time to dust off your thinking cap and team with others who can be helpful to apply for these grant funds. Real money available to assist along with technical know how – what do you have to lose.

Duane Morris has an active ESG and Sustainability Team to help organizations and individuals plan, respond to, and execute on your Sustainability and ESG planning and initiatives. We would be happy to discussion your proposed project and how this DOE funding prize might apply to you. For more information or if you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky, Alice Shanahan, Jeff Hamera, Nanette Heide, Jolie-Anne Ansley, Robert Montejo, Seth Cooley or David Amerikaner or the attorney in the firm with whom you in regular contact or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

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