The Georgetown University Energy Prize challenges small- to medium-size towns, cities, and counties to rethink their energy use, and implement creative strategies to increase efficiency. Currently, a select group of communities are leading the way by bringing together their local governments, residents, utilities, and to demonstrate success in reducing energy consumption over a two-year period.

  • The Georgetown University Energy Prize is a multi-million dollar competition that is challenging small- to medium-size towns, cities, and counties to work together with their local governments, residents, utilities, and others to achieve innovative, replicable, scalable and continual reductions in the per account energy consumption of gas and electricity.
  •  Throughout history, highly visible prize competitions have demonstrated their capacity to spur innovative approaches to some of the most difficult challenges faced by humanity.
  •  The Georgetown University Energy Prize will recognize noteworthy communities for their achievements in energy efficiency and innovative approaches to addressing this challenge.
  •  Formally launched in April of 2014, the Georgetown University Energy Prize represents years of study and development that brought leading academics together with government officials, industry professionals, and top national and global non-governmental organizations.
  •  The Prize is representative of American communities, having invited all cities and counties in the United States with a population between 5,000 and 250,000 to participate. More than 65 percent of the country – greater than 200 million Americans – live in cities and counties of this size, and the innovative approaches that emerge will lead the way for significant change that can impact a majority of Americans.
  • Local communities have long been the incubators for the practical implementation of innovative approaches to difficult problems. The Georgetown University Energy Prize will provide a powerful platform for communities to showcase city and county innovations to a national audience.


  • On January 14, 2015, the Georgetown University Energy Prize will announce the 50 communities who have been selected from among a national field to advance to the Semifinal round of the competition. With over 100 communities expressing interest, the field has now been narrowed to a group of select cities and counties who will be competing through 2016 to reduce their energy consumption and are vying to make it into the Finalist round in 2017.
  •  The Prize is tapping the imagination, creativity, and spirit of competition between cities and counties across the country to develop sustainable energy-saving innovations.
  •  Communities will need to demonstrate their ability to not only reduce energy consumption, but also to sustain it over a two-year period with significant improvements in adoption rates.
  •  Communities will also need to demonstrate that their actions are replicable and scalable in other communities across the country.
  •  Georgetown University is seeking to identify, study, and advance these best practices, creating the tools for other cities and counties across the country to drastically improve their energy efficiency.
  •  Each of the communities advancing to the Semifinals have developed multi-year energy savings plans, in addition to assembling and securing signed commitments of collaboration from their local government, electric and natural gas utilities, and many community-based organizations.
  • The Semifinalist communities hail from 26 states across the U.S.—from Alaska to Florida, from Vermont to Alabama, from California to Tennessee, and everywhere in between. Not only do these communities come from across the map, they come from across the political spectrum, represent all socioeconomic strata, and include demographically diverse populations.
  •  The Prize participants are engaged in a friendly competition and communities across the country are collaborating with one another to advance energy efficiency for all.
  •  Every community participating is working toward one goal: to develop innovative, replicable new approaches to community-wide energy efficiency.
  •   Only one community will bring home the Prize, but every community will win. Based on their own projections, individual communities anticipate that they will save $10 million or more by the end of the competition.  Nationally, the 50 participating communities are on pace to save over $200 million and over 3.8 billion metric tons of CO2 per year. To become more energy efficient, these communities are:
    • implementing bold policy approaches;
    • conducting deep data-mining of their energy use;
    • creating novel financing mechanisms;
    • focusing primarily on energy-intensive low-income neighborhoods; and
    • trying radically unique approaches to behavior change, using gamification or the latest methods in social science research—one community is even mobilizing kids as a vector for change by creating a  “pester power” campaign.


  • While we’re experts at mining for coal, for example, America does a poor job mining for efficiency. More than half of the total energy produced in the U.S. is wasted due to inefficiencies.[1]
  •  Recent reports[2] show that increasing America’s economic productivity and security is tied more closely to energy efficiency than to increasing the production of energy.
  •  Among the world’s 12 largest economies, America ranks 9th in terms of overall energy efficiency and 4th for energy efficiency of buildings.[3]
  •  Energy efficiency is the world’s most important “fuel” and is a critical zero-emissions resource needed to meet the nation’s growing energy needs. The energy saved through investments in efficiency eclipses the energy generated by any other single fuel source, including coal, oil, gas, biofuels, and solar.[4]
  •  While there are many initiatives and incentives available from governments, nonprofits and private corporations, the adoption rate for energy efficiency programs, such as home retrofits, remains very low.[5] This is a “stuck” problem and we need serious breakthrough thinking to improve America’s energy standing for the future.
  •  Regardless of the energy source, increased efficiency is a positive step for America and there is significant room for improvement. By tackling one part of the problem where it relates to household and municipal energy use, the Georgetown University Energy Prize is positioned to be the catalyst for long-term positive change.

[1] According to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, using Department of Energy/Energy Information Administration data from August 2010, out of all energy produced, the U.S. has an energy efficiency rate of 42 percent, which means 58 percent of all the energy we produce is wasted:

[2] According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy’s Research Report E133 published February 18, 2013:

[3] According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy 2012 International Scorecard, in a ranking of the world’s 12 largest economies in terms of energy efficiency:

[4] International Energy Agency Energy Efficiency Market Report 2013.

 [5] According to the Regulatory Assistance Project, studies suggest the least-cost path to meeting climate goals requires averaging at least 5% annual market penetration of whole-house residential retrofits, yet no jurisdiction is currently reaching even 2% per year:

Duluth energy efficiency is important to our residents and our local economy. This competition is a great way of encouraging residents to take steps that create long
term commitment to saving energy and practicing good stewardship. The benefits of this competition are far greater than the prize; I encourage the Duluth community to get involved.

Mayor Don Ness
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