On November 16, 2023, the Mississippi Development Authority’s Energy and Natural Resources Division (the State Energy Office) and NASEO hosted a meeting in Blue Mountain, Mississippi, to kick-off Phase 1 of their recently awarded U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Energizing Rural Communities Prize award. The prize is run through the DOE Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations and provides funding to individuals and organizations to develop innovative partnership and financing strategies that support efforts in rural or remote communities to improve their energy systems and advance clean energy demonstration projects. The intrastate collaboration supported by this prize brings together the State Energy Office, the Office of Broadband Expansion and Accessibility, and a municipal utility – New Albany Light, Gas and Water – to explore an opportunity to deploy a broadband-dependent solar and storage microgrid in the rural town of Blue Mountain. The November meeting allowed the project partners to meet with additional stakeholders (including Tennessee Valley Authority, Blue Mountain College, and local manufacturers) and local government representatives (including the Mayor of Blue Mountain) to discuss some of their resilience and reliability challenges that could be mitigated by a solar and storage microgrid. The proposed microgrid could help lower energy costs for the community, reduce outages and disruptions to the local community, provide clean energy, and bring workforce and economic development opportunities such as educational partnerships with local high school and community colleges. The project team will host another in-state meeting in the spring which will bring together additional stakeholders and community members, followed by the submission of an application for Phase 2 of the prize award. For more information on the Energizing Rural Communities Prize, please click here.