Skip to main content

Georgetown Energy Efficiency Prize Seeks to Get Communities Involved in Reducing Energy Consumption

Print PagePrint Page


By Kimberly Lam (MBA’14)

The push for the United States to become more energy efficient has been a recurring topic in the 21st century. The U.S. has recognized that energy efficiency is a necessity and 22 states across the nation have mandated energy-saving policies. However, the challenge remains to penetrate the broader market and get consumers active in saving energy.

Georgetown’s Professor Francis Slakey is tackling this challenge head on by launching the Georgetown University Energy Prize (GUEP): a $5 million prize for the community that leads the way on energy efficiency.

With the goal to foster innovative approaches to energy efficiency, educate the public on energy issues and grow markets for products and services that facilitate this goal, GUEP will be the first-of-its-kind to engage consumers through a prize-based model. Professor Slakey noted that while there have been many attempts to engage consumers, there have been several barriers due to a gap between willingness to change behavior, and deploying both action and technology.

“No one has applied a national prize like this,” Slakey stated. “It’s been proven that increasing competition can get people more active on energy efficiency.”

Slakey recognizes the challenge in getting communities involved. That’s why it was essential for Slakey and his team to shape the prize to offer a “guaranteed set of benefits that any participating city will get, including seed funding commitments to deliver educational materials, webinars, workshops and much more.”

The competition will be open to communities with populations between 5,000 and 250,000 – 70% of the population of the country.  The $5 million prize will be transformative and impactful to cities of that size.

The GUEP team has chosen to only measure reductions in residential and municipal energy. According to Slakey, the reason for limiting it to those two is: “We don’t want to penalize a city for economic growth if a new manufacturing plant opens, or reward a community if a manufacturing plant leaves – and we couldn’t think of a way to treat economic change, so we dropped industrial energy use.”

The prize is coming to life in partnership with Georgetown’s Science and the Public Interest and Global Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI). On campus, both Professor Slakey and Professor Bill Novelli, founder of GSEI, were simultaneously searching for ways to tackle the energy efficiency problem, both with a similar desire and the respective skillset to address social issues. When they found each other there was no question as to whether to launch the prize.

Slakey hopes the prize will serve as a platform for the future at Georgetown. “We can be known for managing large scale prizes, starting in the energy space. If successful then we can consider continuing this prize activity and establish an even stronger reputation.”

To Slakey, Georgetown is a perfect fit for a prize like this – an institution in science and policy, with a natural combination of skills spanning both industry and entrepreneurs.  He noted, “At Georgetown, there is a desire to tackle global problems with a sensitivity for global justice – that is at the root of this institution.”

For more information you can visit the Georgetown Energy Prize website here: http://guep.org/