News Release: CEE to guide rural Wisconsin pilot for Focus on Energy

Apr 9, 2020

Pilot aims to improve access to energy efficiency programs beyond urban centers

CEE has been awarded a two-year customer engagement pilot in rural Wisconsin by FOCUS ON ENERGY®. Focus on Energy is a statewide energy efficiency and renewable resources program for customers of 107 partnering Wisconsin electric and natural gas utilities. Through time-limited campaigns coupled with longer-term strategies, the pilot will engage rural households to implement behavior-based energy savings and foster greater participation in Focus on Energy programs.

Rural Wisconsin customers tend to be more spread out and expensive to reach with energy efficiency programs. To close that gap, this behavioral pilot will tap into community motivators, incentives, and new platforms. Community members will choose local charitable causes that earn points as residents save energy, and the cause achieving the highest point total will receive a financial reward. The pilot’s digital platform will help test approaches for residents and businesses to save energy and become more aware of energy usage, while gathering valuable information to help Focus on Energy develop future behavioral programs.

“We are excited to experiment with reaching and serving rural communities through a combination of digital engagement and leveraging existing community motivators,” said Katie Jones, CEE’s community program manager. “Our team will help residents lower their energy bills through easy savings opportunities, laying a foundation for Focus on Energy to carry successes forward into their next generation of programs.”

To plan and implement the Focus on Energy rural pilot, CEE will partner with software developers at Accelerated Innovations (St. Paul, MN) to build the digital engagement platform for behavior change. Additionally, utility consultant E Source (Boulder, CO) will provide customer segmentation and market research expertise to support the pilot.

This effort builds on CEE’s decades of regional work in the upper Midwest, often serving rural communities. In some markets, CEE’s engagement and behavior change programs have been able to encourage more than 90% of contacted customers to sign up for home energy audits. Through one of its programs, CEE has enrolled more than 10,000 customers in home audits in more than two dozen Minnesota communities. In 2019, CEE completed a rural pilot program with Xcel Energy to engage customers around peak demand reductions and help reduce the utility’s costs and environmental impact by determining the potential for clean, distributed energy resources to counterbalance needs for system upgrades.

“We’re thrilled to collaborate with CEE to bring the benefits of energy efficiency to every corner of Wisconsin,” said Focus on Energy Director Erinn Monroe-Nye. “CEE’s rich history of work with rural communities gives us confidence this pilot will break new ground and open opportunities for Wisconsinites.”

On March 19, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin greenlit the pilot. It will launch this summer and initially focus on two communities yet to be determined.

About CEE

Center for Energy and Environment is a clean energy nonprofit with special expertise in energy efficiency stretching back nearly 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. Learn more at

Media Contact 

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

Related Links

CEE's Programs for Communities
Focus on Energy