Five Years of the Future of Energy Challenge
How would you pave the path to a sustainable energy future? What would you dream up if you could be financially and creatively supported by global leaders who share your passion and want to see your ideas lead to fully-fledged, sustainable business ventures?
For five years, the Future of Energy Challenge has provided that platform for the next generation of thinkers, inventors, and social entrepreneurs who envision a better, more sustainable future. Each year, the challenge looks at some of the most pressing issues that we face in developing an environmentally-conscious energy system and invites teams to submit their solutions to compete for $10,000 of non-dilutive funding to invest in the next stage of their startup. There is no singular answer to addressing the climate crisis; In fact, only through a dynamic, multi-faceted approach that brings together diverse voices, skill sets, and perspectives across industries and areas of expertise can we actualize a future that is better for people and the planet. Whether it is access to affordable, more sustainable transportation or reducing carbon emissions, for the past five years the Future of Energy Challenge participants have been dedicated to creating inspiring, scalable solutions that move us one step closer in the right direction.
Innovators at Work
There is no time to waste when it comes to addressing the climate crisis and our community has worked to answer that call by coming together to share their ideas to make a difference. Here is a look at some of the past winners of the Future of Energy Challenge and what they’ve accomplished:
New World Energy
This past competition cycle, New World Energy was chosen as the 2021 winner for their innovative solution to turn waste into more sustainable energy by piloting a revolutionary method of hydrogen production that uses zero fossil fuels to help power the economy of the future. When asked what it meant to be selected as the winner of the Challenge, Founder and CEO Tatyana Whited said, “It means that we are ready to build a world of green energy with people who share our vision -- that we have developed a future technology that makes a difference in solving the environmental crisis we are facing today.” With over 28 years of combined experience in science and technology, the New World Energy team plans to move forward with their winning solution by building a pilot station that will showcase their sustainable energy method. The pilot station will produce as much as 3 tons of sustainable hydrogen per day. In addition, New World Energy plans to grow their team in order to improve their technologies at a faster rate, with the ultimate goal of providing reliable and affordable heat and electricity from their method within the next two years.
“Our technology changes the way people think about green energy. It makes green hydrogen available and affordable, and at the same time, it helps curve our waste footprint,” noted Whited. “[Our solution] will create green energy infrastructure across the US at a fraction of the cost of anything available and possible today and create green energy sector jobs. We hope [our method] will become contagious and allow us to create a green energy movement that motivates people to switch to alternative fuel vehicles, re-think their habits and recycle, and ultimately support green energy developments in the US and across the globe.”
In 2020, reinventing the pickup truck was top of mind for Alejandro Perez and Cara Ciaglo from University of Texas at Austin, who developed Petal Transport to sustainably address the challenges of cargo trucks moving around in big cities. They created short-trip mobility equipment that is pedal-assisted and acts as trucks -- but in the bike lane! “It’s nice to be seen,” stated Perez on winning the Challenge. “It’s been tough to propose to develop hardware in the US. There is a stigma behind creating hardware from an investment point of view because of the upfront capital investment. We know that [our solution] can change mobility and we have known it for a while, but there was work we needed to do to get that message clear. This program gave us the opportunity and resources to spread that message.”
The 2019 winning team launched ElecTrip to utilize technology and electric vehicles to transport business professionals and other customers in between Texas cities to reduce consumers’ carbon footprint and ensure more safe, efficient transportation. The idea came from founder, Mandeep Patel who realized that getting to necessary, in-person client meetings was expensive, time-consuming, and unsustainable, regardless of whether an individual was traveling by air, bus, or regular auto transport. He stated, “We looked at [electric vehicles] and really started to understand their potential and that’s when it became clear that combining a sustainable technology with an existing business need, we could create Electrip.” The business centers on using door-to-door, private professionally driven Telsas to serve as the ideal mode of transportation for executives, lawyers, and entrepreneurs to meet with their clients. Each Tesla is booked on demand and comes with wifi and laptop charging stations to create a comfortable working environment for customers while they travel to their destination.
The Future of Energy Challenge 5.0
How the program works
On January 18, 2022, The Future of Energy Challenge 5.0 will kick off by opening applications for teams who dream of launching their own sustainable energy enterprise. These teams will be encouraged to submit their solutions to this year’s challenge question:
“Addressing GHG emissions across a supply change is an area with substantial opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to have an impact in the energy space…How might emissions be significantly reduced, whether applied to individual consumer or commercial activities?”
From the pool of applicants, up to six teams will be selected as Future of Energy Scholars. Future of Energy Scholars will further develop their solutions through an eight-week business accelerator, which is designed to grow solutions into scalable enterprises. Participating teams will receive mentoring by industry experts and will be expected to arrive at a prototype or proof-of-concept stage at the end of the program. The winning team will receive $10,000 to further the development of their sustainable energy start-up.
Teams who submit by either one of the two early bird deadlines (February 18 & March 18) will receive personalized feedback from Net Impact. Teams will then have the option to revise and resubmit before the final submission deadline. All Future of Energy Challenge submissions are due by April 15.
To learn more details about this year’s competition and how you can participate, check out our website and download the challenge brief. Our community of inspiring leaders are changing the world, and you, too, can help build a more sustainable future.