CEE CARD Grants: Helping utilities bring energy savings to Minnesotans

Feb 3, 2021
Press Release
RTU unit

The Minnesota Department of Commerce has granted a total of $2.4 million in conservation research funding to the Center for Energy and Environment and its partners for 10 multiyear projects in which CEE will either lead or participate. The Department announced recipients last week for its 2020 cycle of Conservation Applied Research and Development (CARD) grants, totaling $4.5 million for 22 projects, including the 10 projects affiliated with CEE.

“Minnesota is a leader in energy policy,” said Minnesota Department of Commerce Temporary Commissioner Grace Arnold in an official statement. “These grants, and the research projects they help fund, are important tools to help us make progress... Improved energy efficiency comes with many benefits, from reducing greenhouse gas emissions to creating jobs.”

The newly awarded funds will support research to advance the energy efficiency field and help utilities bring enhanced energy savings to Minnesota consumers, often in partnership with like-minded organizations that complement CEE’s efforts to provide practical energy solutions for homes, businesses, and communities.

By design, CARD projects quantify the savings, cost-effectiveness, and field performance of advanced technologies; characterize market potential of products and technologies; and investigate and pilot innovative program strategies. Completed projects provide utilities with information to improve relevant program designs or create new programs within their Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) portfolios.

Below is the complete list of 2020 CEE-affiliated CARD projects. In each case, the grant total represents the full amount awarded by the Department of Commerce to that project lead, with lesser funds to be paid by the project lead to subcontractors. For the first seven projects, CEE is the project lead and official grantee; for the final three projects, another organization is project lead and CEE will serve as a subcontractor.

Note: CEE regularly self-funds a significant portion of its research budget to supplement competitive grants. For these 10 projects, CEE and its research associates will pay for all research elements not covered by CARD, averaging roughly 10% of the total costs per project.

Funded work

Energy Savings from Residential Zoned Air Distribution Systems

  • Grant total: $49,839 over 13 months

  • Project team: CEE (lead)

This project will assess the energy savings opportunities for residential zoned air distribution systems. It will identify current and future system configurations for Minnesota’s residential market to determine the potential statewide energy savings.

Overcoming the Market Barriers for RTU Retrofit Enhancements

  • Grant total: $175,521 over 18 months

  • Project team: CEE (lead)

The goal of this project is to develop strategies to overcome the market barriers to energy efficiency improvement of existing rooftop units (RTUs). This study will identify and analyze the market barriers for RTU retrofit technologies, and suggest strategies to overcome them.

Air-to-Water Heat Pumps: The cold climate solution for high-efficiency cooling, space heating, and water heating?

  • Grant total: $330,048 over 36 months

  • Project team: CEE (lead)

This project will assess the energy savings and cost-effectiveness of air-to-water heat pumps for heating, cooling, and domestic hot water. The project will also inform utilities and consumers about system types and configurations, and advise which are best suited for Minnesota homes.

Optimizing the New Generation of Grocery Refrigeration Equipment

  • Grant total: $392,393 over 36 months

  • Project team: CEE (lead) with subcontractor VEIC and others as needed

As the grocery industry moves to the use of carbon dioxide as a refrigerant, its summertime energy use is increasing. This project will evaluate the savings and program potential for design features to increase efficiency of transcritical CO2 systems in Minnesota’s climate.

Heat Pump for ACs: Energy Savings and Modernization of Single-Family Cooling Systems Goal

  • Grant total: $153,380 over 16 months

  • Project team: CEE (lead), with subcontractor Leede Research

This project will use characterization and modeling efforts to examine an emerging market product category of interest to manufacturers — air source heat pumps that are designed and marketed as AC replacements.

How Smart Do Intelligent Buildings Need to Be?

  • Grant total: $202,737 over 24 months

  • Project team: CEE (lead), with subcontractors LHB, Parallel Technologies, and Igor, Inc.

This market analysis will help optimize intelligent building systems to balance energy savings against these systems’ increased costs, baseloads, and operations and maintenance. Guidelines will define the appropriate level of smart technology implementation for each type of commercial building space use.

Advanced Controls for Residential HVAC Fan

  • Grant total: $288,659 over 33 months

  • Project team: CEE (lead), with subcontractor Slipstream

This field study will measure the savings potential and characterize the market for a commercially available fan controller to increase the efficiency of residential heating and cooling systems. The results will include measures for residential gas and electricity savings for CIP programs.

Cold Climate Variable Refrigerant Flow Demonstration and Market Research

  • Grant total: $378,957 over 26 months

  • Project team: Slipstream (lead), with subcontractor CEE ($126,788)

This project will demonstrate cold-climate variable refrigerant flow systems in buildings. The project will support the development of a program to increase market penetration, identify market barriers and programmatic frameworks, and demonstrate cold-climate performance.

The Market for Passive House Multifamily Projects in Minnesota

  • Grant total: $255,580 over 24 months

  • Project team: University of Minnesota CSBR (lead), with subcontractor CEE ($41,021)

This effort will use data from regional Passive House-certified multifamily projects to understand the potential costs, energy and carbon savings, and market barriers. The team will determine their suitability for a new utility CIP program focused on high-efficiency, whole-building energy performance.

HVAC Contractor Decision Research

  • Grant total: $209,312 over 12 months

  • Project team: EcoMetric Consulting (lead), with subcontractors CEE ($27,692) and Apex Analytics

This project aims to provide in-depth data on the motivations and barriers that drive the decisions of individual HVAC installers working in smaller commercial buildings. The resulting information will ensure that program interventions are meaningful to decision makers and responsive to market conditions.

Subscribe to our quarterly newsletter Field Notes for updates on these and other projects.

About CEE

Center for Energy and Environment is a Minnesota 501(c)(3) clean energy nonprofit with special expertise in energy efficiency that stretches back 40 years. Working in homes, businesses, and communities, CEE discovers and deploys the most effective energy solutions to strengthen the economy and improve the environment. Online at mncee.org.

Media contact

Tim Hanrahan, 612-244-2419, thanrahan@mncee.org

Related links

Field Notes sign-up
CEE Research home page
CEE Resources