WASHINGTON -

The Environmental Center in Bend took an important step toward expanding its mission to embed sustainability into daily life Wednesday by signaling its intent to compete for the $5 million Georgetown University Energy Prize.

The prize is a national competition that aims to dramatically improve America’s energy standing by challenging communities across the U.S. to rethink their energy use.

At a press conference in Washington, D.C., attended by Lindsey Hardy of The Environmental Center, Bend was announced as one of more than 50 communities who have signed letters of intent to compete for the Prize.

“Central Oregon can and should be a leader in the transition to a clean energy future,” said Mike Riley, executive director of The Environmental Center.  “Bend has a strong environmental ethic, abundant sunlight, a group of experienced energy sector businesses and professionals, and a strong competitive spirit.  We can win this prize!”

At the press conference, the Georgetown University Energy Prize’s Application Phase is now officially underway for the nearly 9,000 eligible communities across the U.S. with a population between 5,000 and 250,000.

During this Application Phase, The Environmental Center will submit an application to be considered for advancement to the Quarterfinalist Phase. If selected as a Quarterfinalist, they will then have to work closely with local utilities and local energy efficiency experts to develop an energy-saving plan by November 2014.

The Environmental Center led the local effort to bring Clean Energy Works Oregon to Central Oregon in 2012.  That same year, TEC launched Go Solar! Central Oregon, a grassroots solar campaign based on the popular “Solarize” model.

In the upcoming two years of the competition, TEC will be setting ambitious stretch goals related to energy efficiency and renewable energy and will use the competition as a framework around which they can organize and build momentum for clean energy — and perhaps win some money for Bend as well.

Once Quarterfinalist applications have been submitted in June, they will be evaluated and considered for potential advancement to the Semifinals and Finals.

The competition will begin in winter 2015 and conclude in 2017, when one winning community will be awarded a $5 million prize to use on energy efficiency programs that ensure continued implementation of its long-term energy-saving plan.

“Many homes, schools, businesses, governments, and individuals have already begun to do their part in reducing energy consumption—but it’s not enough,” said Dr. Francis Slakey, Executive Director of the Georgetown University Energy Prize.

“In order to fully realize the benefits of energy efficiency initiatives, we must commit to addressing our national energy problem together, one community at a time.”

About The Environmental Center

The Environmental Center is a nonprofit center for education and action that supports a healthy environment. As the community hub that embeds sustainable thinking and action into daily life,

The Environmental Center has played an important role in shaping Bend since 1988. Hallmarks of our work include collaboration with local businesses and governments and a focus on practical, positive solutions that support a sustainable future.  For more information about The Environmental Center, visit www.envirocenter.org.  To get involved in their local effort to compete for the Georgetown University Energy Prize, contact Lindsey Hardy at 541-385-6908 x18 or lindsey@envirocenter.org/.

About Georgetown University Energy Prize

The $5 million Georgetown University Energy Prize challenges small- to medium-size towns, cities, and counties to rethink their energy use, and implement creative strategies to increase efficiency. To compete for the Prize, local governments, residents, utilities, and others will need to work together to demonstrate success in sustainably reducing energy consumption over a two-year period. To learn more about the Georgetown University Energy Prize and to track the competition’s progress, visit www.guep.org, or follow the Prize on Twitter (@GUEnergyPrize) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/guenergyprize).