Many hats, worn well: CEE's Top 10 for 2015
I started in communications at CEE in April 2015, and learned early on that there is never a dull moment here. Ours is a culture of innovation and constant reinvention — we recognize that the fields of energy production and efficiency are evolving daily, so we use tools and approaches that help ensure we continue to change and grow right alongside them.
From innovative business and residential energy programs to nationally recognized independent research, community engagement and planning, pursuit of supportive public policies, engineering services, and low-interest lending, CEE is an organization that wears many hats well. As we dive into a new year with new adventures (and probably a few new hats), the timing is right to take stock of our past year.
With no shortage of highlights to choose from, I'm sticking with the tried and true "Top 10" list. Aside from the first item (which is truly CEE's top story), chronicling 2015 in no particular order:
- Sheldon to retire — In July 2015, CEE's longtime president and founder Sheldon Strom announced his retirement in 2016. Sheldon's announcement kicked off a rigorous national search for CEE's next leader. During Sheldon's tenure, CEE helped lay the foundation for Minnesota’s nation-leading clean energy policies. This transition will resonate throughout 2016 and beyond.
- Energy Policy Forum — CEE started 2015 with an audience of about 300 at its third and final 35th Anniversary Forum, juxtaposing past areas of focus with opportunities and challenges in coming years. Presenters included Minnesota State Representative Pat Garofalo, Department of Energy lead Bill Grant, and Xcel Energy CEO Ben Fowke.
- Minnesota's Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) defeats repeal — Disappointing legislation was introduced to eliminate the state's conservation improvement framework, which would have dismantled the most successful energy policy in our state history. It was defeated thanks to strong opposition by Minnesotans who recognize CIP’s benefits.
- IDS Center recommissioning — In August, IDS Center owner Accesso announced it had hired CEE's engineering team to study the building and recommend steps to cut steam and electricity consumption. Building on a history of sustainability efforts, Accesso plans to make the iconic skyscraper's operations even greener.
- Better ventilation in multi-unit buildings — Some of CEE's most exciting research results came via this project to cut energy waste and improve comfort for thousands of Minnesotans. Multifamily housing is inherently energy efficient, but can still benefit from reducing air leakage that wastes energy due to excessive heating and cooling.
- One-Stop Efficiency Shop program successes — One-Stop just closed out a successful year, meeting and exceeding its kilowatt-hour savings goals for small businesses in Minnesota by 61%. In 2015, One-Stop issued 1,970 utility rebates totaling over $6 million. Annually, participating businesses will realize $5.2 million over the life of equipment installed through the program.
- TrueFlow Capture Box — Despite the large number of U.S. households in multifamily buildings, energy efficiency is often overlooked in this sector. With a goal to shed light on this important sector, CEE's researchers have come up with a new tool to help multifamily building owners and managers operate more efficiently.
- Destination Medical Center — The McKnight Foundation selected CEE to provide the DMC Corporation board of directors with a series of pragmatic but far reaching recommendations to turn its expansive sustainability visions into reality. With planning and resolve, DMC can achieve carbon neutrality and implement the best district energy network in the country.
- Home Energy Squad program successes — CEE exceeded its Home Energy Squad program goals in 2015, with 2,668 home visits saving more than 1.4 million kilowatt-hours and over 218,000 therms. Home Energy Squad is a home energy efficiency program provided by Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy, delivered by CEE.
- Lending Center — CEE has upped its max loan amount for residential solar projects from $20,000 to $50,000 per project. In addition to raising the lending level, CEE's residential solar loans offer a low-interest rate with a 10-year term and no maximum income limit, providing Minnesotans with uncommonly powerful residential solar financing.
It's been a big year for CEE, with lots of progress on many diverse fronts. Given the variety, it's probably worth noting the thread that ties together each item on our Top 10 list:
Across our actions, collaborations, and communications, CEE's staff and board promote smarter energy use that strengthens the economy while improving the environment. The list above reflects the variety of informed strategies we employed to pursue our mission last year, but it's just the tip of the iceberg.
We wear lots of hats because we believe multiple mindframes help us work smarter. Our research informs our engineering, engineering enlightens programs, programs foster engagement, and so on in all directions. In this way, for over 36 years CEE has been able to provide a full range of practical and cost-effective offerings to help Minnesota homeowners, businesses, nonprofits, and governments cut energy waste and save money.
And as one great year ends, another begins! To keep on top of all CEE's biggest news in 2016, I hope you'll consider signing up for our monthly newsletters.
You Can Leave Your Hat On photo © Davide D'Amico, Creative Commons licensing, some rights reserved