Leaders with local environmental sustainability nonprofit GreenSpaces said Wednesday that they are going to lead Chattanooga in a contest for the Georgetown University Energy Prize, a national competition that aims to improve America’s energy standing by challenging communities across the country to rethink energy use. 

"[We are] excited to be leading the Chattanooga team in creating a plan that has the potential not only to substantially reduce the energy consumption in Chattanooga, but to be a model for others across the country," Dawn Hjelseth, director of development for GreenSpaces, said in a prepared statement.

Chattanooga has assets that set it apart, such as the smart grid, and many people and organizations who are passionate about the issue, she also said. 

At a press conference in Washington, D.C., today, Chattanooga was announced as one of more than 50 communities that have signed letters of intent to compete for the prize.

The Georgetown University Energy Prize’s application phase is still open for the nearly 9,000 other eligible U.S. communities with a population between 5,000 and 250,000.

During this application phase, Chattanooga leaders will work closely with local utilities and local energy-efficiency experts to develop an energy-saving plan before June 30. 

After Chattanooga officials submit their plan, it will be judged against other applications and considered for potential advancement to the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals. 

The competition concludes in 2017 with one winning community being awarded a $5 million prize to use for energy-efficient programs to help with the implementation of a long-term green plan. 

"Many homes, schools, businesses, governments and individuals have already begun to do their part in reducing energy consumption—but it’s not enough," Dr. Francis Slakey, executive director of the Georgetown University Energy Prize, said in a prepared statement. "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."