2019 Spotlight: Start at home
Alongside other 2019 Annual Report spotlights, this post describes an important area of CEE's work.
Because our homes intersect with energy in so many complex ways, CEE considers residential energy use from all angles in our efforts to increase efficiency.
As energy generation gets cleaner by embracing renewables, it’s good timing to consider how we can best leverage residential electrical loads to ensure that our region’s power grid stays as dependable and responsive as possible at all times — benefiting from periods of lower use to prepare for peak use. And new technology is also changing home energy use: CEE’s state-funded research into cold-climate air source heat pumps opens doors to new opportunities for home heating that embraces increasingly clean electrification as a grid resource.
CEE delivers Home Energy Squad for Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy, pairing on-the-spot installations of energy-saving products with an energy assessment for greater home comfort and savings. Partnering with 30 local cities and neighborhoods, in 2019 we visited 8,824 homes, and helped save energy amounting to about 6.3 gigawatt hours and 29,390 decatherms (natural gas). By employing the right efficiency measures, CenterPoint Energy estimates that customers can cut their natural gas bills by 10 to 30 percent.
In spring 2020, Home Energy Squad began offering virtual home energy visits to help Minnesotans continue to find their biggest energy savings, while keeping their families safe and healthy at home. The cost-free visit is conducted online, solving efficiency problems in the moment while also helping to identify possible future projects to save even more when the time is right. And when residents are ready, CEE's lending programs make it easy and affordable for homeowners to remodel their homes with low-interest financing as well as several metro-area community partnerships that provide loan, grant, and down payment assistance programs for their residents. In 2019, CEE provided 1,016 home improvement loans totaling nearly $14 million.
Specific to residential gas savings, CEE was among those honored in 2019 with a Participant Award from CenterPoint Energy. CEE was celebrated as the new home inspection rater with the highest average gas savings per home the previous year at 39.2 decatherms. The High Efficiency New Homes Program is a joint offering between CenterPoint Energy and Xcel Energy to promote high efficiency home construction that exceeds the Minnesota Residential Energy Code. Each participating home is inspected and tested by a third-party professional trained in advanced building science. Among its offerings for new homes, CEE provides certified ratings through the Home Energy Rating System index, the industry standard for Minnesota's homeowners and builders to predict home energy efficiency.
Among our most notable offerings are the Home Energy Hub and CEE’s free Energy Advisor Service — nearly 800 residents used our Energy Advisors in 2019 to complete energy efficiency projects and earn rebates. And CEE designed Home Energy Hub for residents of cold-climate states such as Minnesota. Developed by home energy experts, our site encourages action — and if anyone has questions or needs extra help, Energy Advisors are standing by to answer calls and emails.
The growth of solar energy in Minnesota also has many potential implications for our energy use at home. As contributors to the State of Minnesota’s Solar Pathways Project, CEE’s researchers used models to examine the potential for demand management strategies (as well as storage and other approaches) to overcome challenges in a more solar-powered electric grid; our team also helped with stakeholder engagement.
We’ve built our reputation by helping people to use energy as efficiently as possible. From our long history with air source heat pumps to our growing attention to beneficial electrification, CEE keeps reaching for new opportunities to achieve greater efficiency and savings in homes and other buildings.
Home Energy Squad
Minnesota Solar Pathways
New Homes Programs
CEE's Residential Loans
Air source heat pump research