History & Timeline

Click through our timeline and read our history to explore highlights from our diverse work and major milestones throughout the years.

Center for Energy and Environment fittingly had twin beginnings in Minnesota’s Twin Cities — one as the Energy Office of Minneapolis in 1979, and the other as a consortium of St. Paul neighborhood organizations in the mid-1980s. And in 2017, our two rich histories and combined experience merged to form Minnesota’s leading energy efficiency nonprofit.

Our story starts during the 1970s energy crisis, when the Minneapolis Energy Office was staffed by early colleagues who would eventually establish themselves as an independent nonprofit. Led by Sheldon Strom, that visionary team:

  • Performed Minnesota's first blower door tests and infrared scans, early pioneers in tech approaches that have since become international energy efficiency industry standards.
  • Created the Energy Bank financing program, a precursor to CEE’s powerhouse Lending Center which has provided more than $200 million in home and commercial energy improvement loans.
  • Served thousands of residents through the Neighborhood Energy Workshops and Operation Insulation programs, foretelling the key role residential energy would play in CEE’s mission and our field.

Meanwhile, just across the Mississippi River, the Neighborhood Energy Connection was established in 1985 as the Saint Paul Neighborhood Energy Consortium, a coalition of St. Paul neighborhood organizations working to improve residential energy efficiency. The NEC’s first board of directors included community organizers and citizen representatives from several of St. Paul’s volunteer district councils. Funding was provided by Northern States Power Company (which now operates as Xcel Energy), thanks to the state-mandated Conservation Improvement Program and an early grant from the Minneapolis Foundation. During its impressive first year, the NEC conducted 1,298 residential energy audits and 261 energy management plans in St. Paul.

A few years later, when the City of Minneapolis dissolved the Energy Office in 1989, its former staff bundled their strategies into an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit, known initially as the Center for Energy and the Urban Environment and later renamed the Center for Energy and Environment.

Although born on opposite sides of the river, both organizations helped define a framework for the regional and national energy efficiency movement that emerged in the 1980s — and almost immediately, CEE and the NEC’s histories began overlapping and intersecting. Over the next several decades, early harmonies in vision and community partnerships quickly led to multiple shared efforts and approaches, including a long-term, deep collaboration around developing and delivering energy efficiency programs to serve Minnesota’s homeowners and renters.

Likewise, both organizations established successful home energy financing programs. Operating today as one merged nonprofit, CEE loans more than $10 million dollars annually through over 1,100 home improvement loans. CEE works with the Minneapolis Neighborhood Revitalization Program to improve residential properties in over 30 Minneapolis neighborhoods and — with more than 20,000 loans under our belt — CEE is consistently named top home improvement lender for the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency.

In our decades of intertwined history, CEE and the NEC have collectively served more than 50,000 residential customers with programs such as the Home Energy Squad, Community Energy Services, Neighborhood Energy Workshops, Operation Insulation, the Low-Income Weatherization Program, and the Multifamily Facility Assessment Program. And with innovation ranking high among our shared traits, our teams have pioneered a state of the art recycling program, the field-leading HOURCAR car-sharing program, and noise mitigation services for the Metropolitan Airports Commission Noise Mitigation Program.

In 2017, CEE and the NEC merged as one nonprofit, now operating under the shared name Center for Energy and Environment. And although our parallel paths date back years before we merged, we also benefit from all the independent footsteps that carried us here — each past experience, deep relationship, and creative endeavor of our individual nonprofits now become the shared assets of our merged identity.

Adding our two histories together, that amounts to around 70 concurrent years in operation, providing energy efficiency resources that strengthen our economy while improving our environment.

This year CEE starts a new chapter, now reaching further than ever to provide better programs and services. Our mission-driven efforts are strengthened by combined forces that still benefit from one foot firmly planted in St. Paul and the other in Minneapolis — and as our newly united history continues to unfold, we aim to expand our strategies and forge new opportunities to serve our region’s homes, businesses, and communities with the region’s best energy efficiency offerings.

Awards and Recognition

Minneapolis Health Department, Certificate of Recognition for long-time key partnership to help meet Climate Action goals (2017)

Minnesota Electric Association Contribution Award for One-Stop Efficiency Shop (2017)

Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance Inspiring Efficiency Award for Xcel Energy's Partners in Energy Program, CEE implements the program for Xcel Energy (2017)

Minnesota Housing and Finance Agency Platinum Top Producing Fix Up Lender (2016)

Rochester Energy Commission Community Partnership Award (2015)

American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy Champion of Energy Efficiency in Buildings, presented to President Sheldon Strom (2014)

American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy Exemplary Energy Efficiency Program Recognition for Energy Efficient Cities (2013)

American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy Exemplary Energy Efficiency Program Recognition for the Home Energy Squad (2013)

American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy Exemplary Energy Efficiency Program Recognition for the One-Stop Efficiency Shop (2013)

Minnesota Housing Finance Agency Lender Appreciation Award in Home Improvement: Metro and Central Regions (2012)

Finance & Commerce Progress Minnesota 2012 Award for the One-Stop Efficiency Shop Lighting Program (2012)

U.S. Green Building Council, Minnesota Chapter Leadership in Sustainability Award for 2011 Best Green Campaign for Energy Efficient Cities (2011)

Minnesota Housing Finance Agency Excellence in Development of Housing Choices Award (2007)

Minnesota Housing Finance Agency Outstanding Lender Award in Home Improvement: Twin Cities Metro Area (2004, 2006, 2007)

Minnesota Housing Financing Agency Outstanding Lender Award in Home Improvement: Emerging Markets (2004, 2005)

Governor's Award for Excellence for the One-Stop Small Business Lighting Program (2003)

Minnesota Housing Finance Agency Community Outreach Award for reaching under-served populations (2000, 2001, 2002)

Minnesota Housing Finance Agency Outstanding Outreach for Affordable Home Improvement (1999, 2001)