Energy drives the global economy, and access to energy has a direct correlation to economic growth and human development. However, around the world large regions and populations do not have access to energy that is reliable, affordable, and environmentally sustainable. Communities that lack access to energy – whether because of a lack of energy resources or a lack of infrastructure to support its delivery – will continue to be disadvantaged. Historically, governments and communities have solved this problem through large centralized energy generation and infrastructure projects that bring energy to remote, rural, or undeveloped areas. But a centralized solution does not have to be the only solution. Today there are an increasing number of technologies and systems that generate and distribute energy on a scale more appropriate for small communities, organizations, or even individuals. However, these technologies face several key barriers: efficiency, reliability, durability, cost, environmental sustainability, and regulatory acceptance.
A prize could focus on demonstrating a single type of distributed generation (such as solar) or incentivizing integration of multiple technologies for distributed generation, energy storage, and/or distribution (such as in a microgrid). The winning team might be asked to achieve a combination of requirements critical to adoption in the real world, such as 24/7 reliability, low or zero emissions, cost below TBD $/kwh, operation at extreme temperatures, and modularity/scalability.
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