The U.S. Department of Energy has announced its Buildings Upgrade Prize (Buildings UP) program, designed to accelerate the transformation of U.S. buildings into energy-efficient and clean energy-ready homes, commercial spaces, and communities.
The Buildings UP program 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.
DOE notes that upgrading existing buildings to efficiently run on clean energy will help address climate change. 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 will help reduce carbon emissions and energy costs while improving indoor air quality and occupant comfort.
According to a press release, in Phase 1 of the Buildings UP program, teams will submit 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 for the program. Phase 1 opens for submissions on February 18, 2023.
DOE said that 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.
The Buildings UP Prize 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.
Finally, the Buildings UP program 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.
Alejandro Moreno, Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, remarked:
“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. Transforming existing buildings is a complex task. Each building has its own set of needs related to size, use, age, location, and more—there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Buildings UP is designed to build capacity within multi-stakeholder teams to develop a variety of solutions and drive the implementation of effective building upgrade initiatives across the country.”
Phase 1 submissions are due by July 18, 2023.