TEPRI and CDCB to Partner Again for Department of Energy’s “Energizing Rural Communities” Prize

(AUSTIN, Texas – August 11, 2023) – The Texas Energy Poverty Research Institute (TEPRI) is receiving $100,000 from the Department of Energy’s Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations as part of Phase One of the Energizing Rural Communities Prize. Partnering with come dream. come build, a nonprofit community housing development organization working in the Lower Rio Grande Valley counties of Cameron and Willacy, TEPRI will help build collaboration between stakeholders across communities through TEPRI’s planned Energy Assistance Resource Network (EARN) of South Texas. The project will also develop a solar demonstration site in Brownsville to show the benefits of solar on commercial and residential properties. The project includes the installation of solar PV on a manufacturing facility and on prefabricated homes before they are dispatched to communities in South Texas. This solution bundles clean energy goals with the need to increase available affordable housing in the Rio Grande Valley. 

“These prizes are designed to accelerate community-driven energy improvement projects in rural or remote areas across the country,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “Today’s announcement reflects one of the many strategies this Administration is implementing to support energy projects that make energy systems more resilient, reliable, safe, and affordable for the nearly 50 million Americans living in rural or remote areas.”

TEPRI will be leveraging the funds for two purposes. The first is to pay for the installation of solar PV at the home manufacturing facility and on the prefabricated mobile homes to serve as a demonstration project for the region and to generate data on energy usage and bills. Secondly, and key to receiving the award, is expanding the partnership TEPRI has with CDCB to help organize energy planning in the region. The future of this partnership will include a TEPRI South Texas Project Manager who will identify new funding opportunities, support energy planning for the region, and educate stakeholders on the value of energy efficiency and on-site solar plans using the demonstration site. 

 “Cameron County sits at the southern tip of Texas, bordering Mexico. The area is rich in culture, but also, home to some of the most impoverished communities in the United States. Our project aims to build collaboration opportunities between regional stakeholders to better plan projects that can address the energy needs of the residents and bring much needed resources to the area. Our community-based partner, “come dream come build,” is a trusted community-based organization with an exemplary track record for serving the needs of community members,” says Margo Weisz, TEPRI’s Executive Director.

“Our team believes that by creating the right forums that bring change agents together, and creating a solar demonstration site, we can support leaders to take bold actions to reduce energy burdens through clean energy and at scale. Today, we have the critical opportunity to shape the way households who contend with low incomes participate in and benefit from our rapidly evolving energy systems. Tools and technology that reduce energy burdens and increase energy equity are available through a suite of distributed energy resource solutions, including energy efficiency and solar. Identifying strategies that meet the needs of households in South Texas, who are disproportionately burdened by high energy costs, will be the lynchpin to a successful transition throughout the state.”

Founded in 2015, TEPRI is a nonprofit independent research organization that advances lasting energy solutions for low-income communities. Partnering with stakeholders from the energy sector and community-based organizations TEPRI conducts research, creates tools for practitioners and stakeholders, and demonstrates new models that can scale for widespread impact. As the energy systems in Texas evolve, TEPRI endeavors to shape the way households participate in and benefit from the transition to cleaner energy. 

Andrew Robison, Research Analyst, andrew@tepri.org