CEE in 2016: Boots on the ground
As CEE's past year shows, we know we can’t get to clean energy without getting our hands dirty. This work is all about rolling up our sleeves and digging in.
CEE’s researchers are out in the field every day, pulling apart boilers, learning from building operators, reaching into ductwork to plug energy leaks, and validating new technologies to achieve the broadest cost and energy savings. Our engineers and lighting pros are similarly hands-on, spending their time bridging gaps among homeowners, contractors, and utilities to save customers money and improve the local economy. For example, our Energy Intelligence program zeroes in on the real-time needs of small industrial customers — an underserved segment of energy customers — making sure their facility operations are as efficient as possible to enhance bottom lines and employee workdays.
Our longstanding, productive relationships with the energy-services community underscore the point. CEE’s staff help train insulation professionals and building operators on best practices and emerging techniques, working side by side with Minnesota’s finest contractors in lighting, electrical, HVAC, insulation, and more — all boots on the ground and pulling together to provide practical energy solutions for our homes, our businesses, and our communities.
A “top 10” sampling of 2016 milestones helps illustrate our approach:
- Chris Duffrin began work as CEE’s second president in 37 years. With his strong history in field work and program management, Chris hit the ground running for a busy year (see below), piling his deep experience and earned insights onto CEE’s ongoing efforts and positioning us even better for the future.
- After more than three decades on the job, founder Sheldon Strom retired with a bang. Sheldon fostered CEE’s development as a home base for the energy field’s most pragmatic problem-solvers. We celebrated his contributions with a fitting party that included comments from longtime CEE colleagues, Sheldon’s sons, and Minnesota State Senator Scott Dibble.
- The U.S. Department of Energy recognized CEE’s research, policy, and engagement work this year with four federal grants. CEE is a key partner in three of these energy-related grants and leads one investigation into aerosol envelope sealing for single-family homes, in which researchers will work directly with home builders to identify the best approach.
- Our “CIP in Your District” tour visits continued. “CIP” stands for Minnesota’s Conservation Improvement Program. At each tour stop, electrical contractors and businesses talk with legislators and other decisionmakers about CIP’s high value, with firsthand accounts of the local jobs and savings it creates.
- We revamped our website to engage and better serve our diverse online audiences. If you’re reading this, you could be a home or business owner, government representative, community leader, tech researcher, or colleague at one of our many clean energy or environmental nonprofit partners. Because we partner with such a diverse crowd of energy customers and field pros, we’re working hard to make our website of service to all.
- We’ve posted and distributed many new resources to spread what we’re learning throughout the field, including our Take Charge of Your Community’s Energy Future brochure for individuals and community leaders; a user-friendly Multifamily Building Aerosol Sealing video; and a variety of archived presentations, webinars, and tech reports.
- The e21 initiative wrapped up Phase II, and is now ramping up for Phase III. Co-led with Great Plains Institute, e21 aims to better align utility regulations and revenues with a sustainable, low-carbon energy system. The next phase will focus on deeper engagement of regulators and utility staff, building on a strong track record of engagement with a wide range of field stakeholders.
- The One-Stop Efficiency Shop lighting program held tight as one of Minnesota’s most productive and cost-effective conservation programs. Delivered by CEE to small businesses in Xcel Energy’s Minnesota territory, One-Stop was pegged as a global efficiency model by the World Energy Council. While implementing energy-saving lighting upgrades for small commercial customers (another underserved customer segment), since 2000 the program has funneled about $140 million back into the state economy via partnerships with more than 900 electrical contractors, and accounted for nearly 460,000 megawatt-hours in energy savings.
- Managed by CEE staff, the City of Minneapolis’ Commercial Building Rating and Disclosure Program reported encouraging progress, working with building owners and operators to achieve an impressive 100% response rate for the city’s largest buildings and significant improvements in data compliance. The benchmarking success depends on strong communications and constant direct contact with building owners and operators.
- CEE and the Neighborhood Energy Connection announced plans to merge in 2017. Given the NEC’s strong history in residential energy efficiency, our merger holds exciting implications for both of our organizations’ field crews who are out in the community every day assessing efficiencies, informing homeowners, and maximizing energy savings.
That last one is a doozy — our upcoming merger with the NEC is a major game-changer for our work, Minnesota’s energy efficiency field, and the communities we serve. While we’ll continue reporting throughout this year about merger progress, two things are already clear: This merger will help us reach further and do even more to help the state’s families, businesses, and communities. And as always, wherever this next year takes us, you can bet we’ll arrive with our sleeves rolled up.
From programs to engineering, research, and engagement, CEE has built its reputation on deploying smart, data-informed staff into the field to improve energy efficiency while strengthening both the economy and the environment. We pursue each strategy with precision and in tandem with each other — research informs engineering, engineering informs programs, programs informs engagement, and so on.
With decades of experience under our work belts, we know that transitioning to clean energy takes real effort. So we’ll keep digging deep with dirty hands and boots on the ground, because at CEE our field work is the real work.
2015–2016 CEE Annual Report