'People need and want great news': Cleanie Awards sees rise in early submissions

A national awards program for the cleantech and renewable industry has added categories this year to spotlight utilities and other companies that are keeping the lights on and helping their communities during the pandemic. More on the Cleanie Awards after today’s Midwest cleantech headlines…

♻️ RECYCLING: A University of Wisconsin-Madison professor is leveraging his expertise in biofuels to expand plastics recycling using pyrolysis. George Huber believes the technique could lead to closed-loop plastics recycling in which used material is melted down and reprocessed into new polymers.

🎉 DIVERSITY: Rheaply (previously featured in Centered) is included in a Chicago Inno roundup of nine Black-owned startup companies in the city that have raised $1 million or more from investors. The company’s online classified marketplace reduces waste by helping people buy, sell, trade and donate items, including personal protective equipment and medical supplies.

And, now, back to the Cleanie Awards. The contest, now in its third year, aims to recognize innovation, leadership, and programs in the clean energy sector. Centered recently spoke with its executive director Randee Gilmore about the pandemic’s impact on the industry and how it’s adapting. 

Q: From your vantage point, what kind of impact is the coronavirus pandemic having on cleantech innovation?

A: We are entering the third year of the awards and submissions are at a record high for the first few weeks after launch. We didn’t know what to expect and how organizations would react to the awards. But we hedged on the fact that 2019 was a great year for the industry and people want and need great news. 

While the past 60 days have been unprecedented, there’s no doubt that projects are continuing. This industry has created momentum that slower capital markets can’t stop. When we are looking at the expanse of the industry and how development has ebbed and flowed, this is another one of those ebbing periods, but we always come back.

Q: You’ve added a couple of categories this year related to the challenges we’ve faced in recent months with the pandemic. Anecdotally, what are some success stories you’ve heard about how cleantech companies are responding?

A: Our new categories this year are Keep the Power On and Community Give Back. Keep the Power On will focus on recognizing utilities for their commitment to ensuring energy capacity meets demand in communities across the nation. Community Giveback distinguishes corporate teams that have enacted impactful programs that give back to their communities in this time of crisis.

We had heard of organizations creating outreach programs for their communities and found that to be something that we wanted to spotlight. Our industry isn’t just brick and mortar offices, but we all live in and participate in communities across the country. This is a huge opportunity for ESG/CSR (environmental, social and governance/corporate social responsibility) teams to spotlight their communities and how they have all rallied together. We’re about to uncover some great stories in the submission process!

Q: How much participation do you see from the Midwest, and what do those entries — this year or in the past — tell you generally about the state of the cleantech economy in this part of the country?

A: That’s a great question. We haven’t traditionally segmented submissions by region. What I can tell you is that we can always use more from areas outside of the coasts. The Midwest, as a backbone of American manufacturing, is one area that we should hear more from. As you know, there is so much happening with cleantech in and around major hubs such as Chicago with CELI (Clean Energy Leadership Institute) and Clean Energy Trust, along with progressive legislation on renewables, and Milwaukee as a water tech capital and Minnesota legislation on renewables, as well.

Submissions for 2020 are open until July 30, with early bird pricing ending on June 30. More details here.

Help us cover the Midwest cleantech economy! Send news tips, press releases, and feedback to katie@centered.tech or connect on Twitter @centereddottech.


Centered is a publication of the Energy News Network, in partnership with the Illinois Science and Energy Innovation Foundation and mHUB.