National Geographic Society has launched the Terra Watt Prize to support entrepreneurs and investors in the quest to bring basic access to electricity to people worldwide. Two winners will receive grants of $125,000 to implement demonstration projects providing energy solutions to off-grid communities.

With Support From David Margulies

The Terra Watt Prize is the inaugural challenge of the National Geographic New Pacific Prize Program. This prize would not have been possible without the generous support and funding from David Margulies. David Margulies is a Los Angeles-based entrepreneur, who through privately-held New Pacific Holdings, LLC, is an active investor with controlling interests across a diverse range of industries. Margulies serves as a Managing Member of New Pacific Capital, LLC, a private equity firm and early stage investor, and a Managing Member of New Pacific Realty Corporation, a real estate investment firm and a pioneer in green building. He is a graduate of Vassar College and received an M.B.A. from UCLA. Margulies has also been a member of the National Geographic Council of Advisors since 2007.

The Challenge

Roughly 1.3 billion people—one in five globally—lack access to electricity. Energy poverty prevents advances in education, healthcare, and economic development. Without power, standards of living decline rapidly. Families struggle to find clean methods for heating, cooking, and lighting their homes. Discovering modern, sustainable energy solutions is essential to improving living standards in the developing world and is one of the keys to a healthier future for us all.

Discovering modern, sustainable energy solutions is essential to improving living standards.

The Opportunity

A worldwide movement is building to ensure universal access to sustainable energy. New companies are developing products and services to meet the demand—but many are struggling to find investors, showcase pilot projects, and scale their efforts. Today’s energy entrepreneurs need:

  • access to capital
  • ability to showcase sustainable business models.


The Terra Watt Prize is designed to address the challenges of energy entrepreneurship. Judges are independent investors and credible authorities with real-world expertise in energy access. The Terra Watt Prize application plays a productive role in the due diligence process—a design that facilitates potential investments for promising participants.

Competition Requirements

As a minimum, applicants must be able to provide basic electricity to 50 households. In this context, basic electricity is defined as enough power for (1) three light bulbs and (2) charging one cell phone. Since these are minimum requirements, applicants are encouraged to exceed either the number of households or the level of basic electricity. Proposals will be evaluated on four criteria: feasibility, impact, scalability, and sustainability. Qualified teams will have the opportunity to outline their strategic approach to a discrete project and pitch their sustainable business model.

How This Competition Is Unique

The Terra Watt Prize is structured to be an open, transparent, and value-added experience for all applicants. Once registered, participants will be able to communicate with other participants on dedicated forums and through private messaging. This feature will help facilitate collaboration and stimulate competition. Through this process, teams will generate more innovative ideas and potentially share lessons learned. All applicants will receive written feedback and their scores at the end of the competition.

Competition Timeline

REGISTRATION: The Terra Watt Prize launched on November 25, 2013. Participants must register by February 28, 2014. We encourage all applicants to register early to allow enough time to complete the process. Those who have not registered by 11:59 p.m. EST (U.S.) on February 28 will not be permitted to compete for the Terra Watt Prize.

APPLICATION: Registered participants have until April 15, 2014, to complete the application. During this application period, they will be able to join discussion forums, submit questions, network, and collaborate with other participants.

JUDGING and SCORING: Following the application deadline, judges will provide scores and comments through a specific process that ensures a level playing field for every applicant. During the review period, judges will see the rank order of applicants on the leader board and may contact applicants directly to begin their own due diligence process as potential investors. The top five scoring applicants, as evaluated by the judges, will advance to a final round. A Selection Committee will then determine which two winning applicants will receive a grant of $125,000 each.


For More Information

Please review each element of the Terra Watt Prize, including how scores are calculated, the credentials of our judges, and the strategy to provide a level playing field. Prior to registration, please direct any questions to