Fifty cities and counties, including Berkeley, have been named semifinalists in the $5 million Georgetown University Energy Prize.

Berkeley is one of 50 communities across the country selected as a semifinalist for the Georgetown University Energy Prize, a national competition to reduce energy use with a $5 million prize for the winning community. Berkeley is one of six Northern California cities in the competition, with other semifinalists coming from 26 states.

“We have a legacy of innovation and leadership in energy efficiency and we’ve been making steady progress on our Climate Action Plan commitments,” said Neal De Snoo, Energy Program Officer for the City of Berkeley. “Berkeley is ready for a bit of friendly competition, and we’re ready to bring home the prize.”

The 50 cities and counties in the competition will be judged on their performance over the next two years in reducing utility-supplied energy consumption “in a manner that is likely to yield continuing improvements within their own community and replication in other communities.” 

The $5 million awarded to the winning entry must “benefit the community at large” in line with spending proposed in the community’s program plan.

While the competition looks only at energy supplied directly by electricity and gas utilities, Berkeley’s Climate Action Plan covers all energy use in the city. The goal of the plan is to reduce Berkeley’s greenhouse gas emission by 80% below 2000 levels by 2050. It sets an interim goal of 33% reduction by 2020.

In the June 2014 report on the Climate Action Plan, city officials reported that Berkeley had reduced greenhouse gas emissions 8% below 2000 levels, a long way short of the 33% goal by 2020.

According to the Georgetown prize organizers, the 50 semifinalists all assembled a team, developed “compelling and detailed plans,” and secured commitments from local government, utilities and community organizations.

“The competition looks truly like America,” said Francis Slakey, founder and executive director of the Georgetown University Energy Prize. “Not only do these communities come from across the map, they represent the nation’s full political, social and economic diversity. Some are paying the highest prices for energy, some have the ambition to be carbon net-zero, but all the communities share the goal of transforming America’s energy future.”

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Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...