CEE's merger success started with twin beginnings and singular vision
This week, CEE legally joined forces with the Neighborhood Energy Connection, and our merged organization now operates under the shared name Center for Energy and Environment.
Center for Energy and Environment
Much further back than the months of planning that led to our successful merger, the NEC and CEE have often shared an intertwining path over decades. Read our joint history here, and check out our interactive History Timeline for a visual interpretation of our steps along the way.
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, Project Insulate, 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, the One-Stop Efficiency Shop, and services for the Metropolitan Airports Commission Noise Mitigation Program.
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 summer we start a new chapter, reaching further than ever to provide better programs and services. CEE's mission-driven efforts are now strengthened by combined forces that still today benefit from one foot firmly planted in St. Paul and the other in Minneapolis — and as our united history continues to unfold, keep an eye out for us 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.
CEE's interactive History Timeline