Overview & Requirements

Background: Commercial & Industrial Energy Waste Reduction Programs

Energy Waste Reduction (EWR) programs have been around since 2008, as a result of the passing of Public Act (PA) 295. PA 342, known as the Clean and Renewable Energy and Energy Waste Reduction Act, amends Michigan’s 2008 energy law, PA 295. With ever increasing requirements for utilities, along with the high adoption and heavy saturation of current energy conservation measures, we are looking for new opportunities in energy waste reduction technologies.

E-Challenge 5 seeks to tap the best and brightest engineering minds at Michigan universities to come up with pioneering energy efficiency technologies. Universities with the most innovative and deployable ideas will be awarded funds to demonstrate their technology at a DTE customer location. During the demonstration period, universities will gather data and complete a workpaper (further described below) that will be submitted to the MPSC. The MPSC will evaluate the new measure for inclusion in the Michigan Energy Measures Database (MEMD), allowing Michigan utilities to incentivize the new measure under their Commercial and Industrial EWR programs.

Letter of Intent Submission Procedure

To participate in this year’s E-Challenge, universities must submit a letter of intent describing their ECM by September 24, 2021. Submissions will be evaluated for meeting the eligibility requirements detailed below. Universities may submit any product, material, software, hardware, or technology that is innovative in demonstrating energy savings in its application or use. 

The letter of intent is a one-to-two-page document describing the ECM’s purpose and background including a technical description of the measure, how it provides energy savings, the targeted customer (commercial, retail, industrial, etc.), and if there are any limitations to its applicability. Additionally, the letter should list faculty and student team members. Teams that comprise both graduate and undergraduate students should be limited to a maximum of eight students, including a maximum of two graduate students per team. Undergraduate-only teams are limited to 10 students. There is no limit on the number of faculty on each university team.

Submissions will be completed through a portal at e-challenge.net. Questions can be directed to Leslie A. Smith, CMP, at lsmith@esd.org. All questions and answers will be made public and become part of the public domain by being posted at e-challenge.netAll entries must be submitted online by 5 p.m. September 24, 2021.  

Screening of applications will be completed by September 28, 2021. Applicants may be contacted to modify submission to better meet eligibility criteria. All entrants will be notified of acceptance, via email, by September 29, 2021. 

Eligibility Requirements

The following guidance is provided for eligibility of the ECM, participating university and demonstration site: 

  1. The ECM can be any software, hardware, control system, sensor, equipment, process, material, or infrastructure that produces measurable natural gas and/or electric energy savings.
  2. The ECM may target building equipment, control systems, manufacturing processes, or occupant behavior.
  3. The ECM must be ready for commercialization, and able to be standardized for rebates (e.g., energy savings may be affected by variables such as operating hours or seasonal weather patterns but must be predictable within a range of operating conditions).
  4. The final proposal (due in December) must include in the documentation, proof of concept with supporting data.
  5. The ECM must have a simple payback of 1-8 years for electric savings measures and greater than 1 year for gas savings measures.Simple payback is defined as the first cost (cost of equipment and installation) of the ECM divided by the annual energy cost savings.
  6. ECMs that have been, or are currently, “rebate qualified” for DTE cannot be considered for this challenge unless significant energy savings improvement is identified. DTE will provide guidance on what technologies are considered “rebate qualified”. LED lighting will not be considered for this challenge.
  7. The ECM must be applicable to industrial or commercial use.
  8. The ECM can be a new technology, or an existing technology applied in a different way.
  9. The ECM cannot be renewable technology, energy storage technology, load shifting, distributed generation (micro-grid) or co-generation, electric vehicles, or fuel switching.
  10. The participating university must be located within the state of Michigan.
  11. The demonstration site must be served by either DTE electric or DTE Gas. The ECM must target the fuel type supplied by DTE at the demonstration site. DTE shall have consent to the final site selection.
  12. Universities may partner with another organization for the demonstration site location and to provide cost sharing for implementation.
  13. Universities may also partner with another organization to conceptualize/prototype the ECM.

Technology Preferences

The intent of the E-Challenge 5 is to propose, develop, and test an innovative ECM that produces energy savings for DTE’s commercial and industrial customers. There are many different technologies and approaches, however, preference will be given to proposals that address the following objectives:

  1. Market Readiness – Preference will be given to ECMs that are close to or market ready. ECMs should be able to be installed/utilized at a DTE customer’s site without major design changes or component/part changes.
  2. Adoption – Preference will be given to ECMs that can be adopted widely by customers in DTE’s service territory.
  3. Energy Savings – Preference will be given to ECMs with the greatest energy savings potential.
  4. Cost Effectiveness – Preference will also be given to ECMs that provide the best business case for the end user, i.e., the greatest savings per cost to implement.

Proposal Submission

Proposals will be due by December 10, 2021.  All submitted material becomes the property of ESD and will not be returned (does not imply ownership). All submission data will be subject to a third-party audit. Proposals shall include a draft of sections 1-5 and 8-10 of the workpaper (outlined below) as well as a proposed demonstration site and budget


A workpaper template and example workpaper are provided click here to summarize how the new technology would be applied as an energy conservation measure. Workpaper sections are provided in the table to the right. A draft of sections 1 and 2 should be submitted as part of the letter of intent, due September 24, 2021. A draft of sections 1-5 and 8-10 should be submitted as part of the proposal, due December 10, 2021. Universities chosen to demonstrate their ECM must submit a final draft of all sections in the winter semester of 2023 (approximately April, 2023).


A separate demonstration site proposal outlining the budget (including cost sharing of the universities and any corporate partners), corporate partners, and the proposed demonstration site must be submitted by the December 10, 2021 deadline. Demonstration sites must be DTE electric and/or DTE gas customers.

    Judging Process

    Applications will be evaluated by an impartial panel of industry judges chosen by DTE and The Engineering Society of Detroit. In January 2022, a Finalist or Finalists will be announced and awarded funds to demonstrate their technology at their proposed demonstration site (DTE Energy reserves the right to award more than one entrant). Projects are judged on their merit relative to the challenge criteria. Awards are based on the inherent qualities of each project as perceived by the judges. Any and all awards of the judges of the program are final unless otherwise determined by DTE in its sole discretion. 

    Awards will be announced in early January 2022. The program administrators reserve the right to award one, multiple, or no plans based on the quantity and merits of submitted applications. 

    Finalists will be recognized at the 2022 DTE/ESD Michigan Energy Efficiency Conference and Exhibition scheduled for May 2022 at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi.

    Challenge Award & Scholarships

    Once the proposals have been selected, universities will be awarded funds to create the demonstration for their innovation. Award funding may be used to cover student and faculty time and other expenses (such as mileage), prototyping of the ECM, installation of the ECM at the demonstration site, and other activities related to demonstrating the technology. Awards may not be used for any university administrative or facility fees unrelated to the demonstration of the ECM. A detailed budget (including any cost sharing) must be supplied with the proposal submitted on December 10, 2021. Award funding provided by DTE will not exceed 50% of the university’s overall budget for their challenge project. Demonstration and implementation progress will be audited throughout the demonstration process.

    Student scholarships will be awarded during the Fall and Winter semesters. Scholarships will be distributed directly to the students as outlined in the timeline section below. Students may elect to have their scholarship check made out to themselves or to their university to be applied to their account. Graduate students will receive scholarships of $4,000 per semester and undergraduate students will receive $1,000 per semester. All student teams participating in the proposal phase will be awarded scholarships. University teams selected to move on to demonstrate their ECM will be awarded scholarships in winter 2022, fall 2022 and winter 2023 terms. An updated list of student team members will be required at the beginning and end of each term.