Media: A change of leadership at energy center (From Finance and Commerce)

Feb 2, 2016

From Finance and Commerce:

After running the energy office for the city of Minneapolis for a decade, Sheldon Strom saw an opportunity to break away from the bureaucracy and start a nonprofit energy organization in 1989.

The city had “lost interest in energy,” he recalled, and he and staff always felt being independent would allow for greater creativity — and effectiveness. Strom convinced 18 to 20 people to quit the city and join a fledgling organization that became the Center for Energy and Environment.

“It was a really great decision and it worked well because it gave us flexibility,” said Strom, 71, who recently announced his retirement. “We were too young to know any better.”

Today the CEE is one of the best-known providers of energy-efficiency strategies in Minnesota and the country. The nonprofit now has more than 90 employees and an annual budget of $11 million. With a portfolio of at least 125 “formal research” projects, the CEE has contributed more to understanding energy efficiency in the built environment than any other organization outside of the federal government, Strom believes.

Rick Carter, senior vice president of LHB Inc.’s Minneapolis office and one of the state’s leading building energy experts, said Strom’s assessment rings true. “He was a pioneer, so much so that when we [LHB] started talking about efficiency in the early ’90s he had already been doing it for 10 or 15 years,” he said.

What makes CEE fairly unique is that it has programs focused on residents, neighborhoods, commercial properties and research. A CEE neighborhood program helped Carter make his own Minneapolis home more efficient.
The organization’s impact has been “deep and wide and widespread and ubiquitous,” Carter said. “They offered so many programs over such a long period of time, from the lighting program to cutting-edge research.”
Strom also made a lasting contribution to Minnesota’s strong renewable-energy and energy-efficiency legislation, said Minnesota Public Utilities Commissioner Nancy Lange.

“Our homes and businesses use less energy, we pay lower utility bills, and our energy system emits less carbon pollution because of robust energy-efficiency programs,” she said in an email. “Sheldon Strom, and the long-standing efforts of CEE, deserve much credit for making the economic and environmental case for Minnesota’s efficiency policies.”

Strom recently turned over the CEE to Chris Duffrin, a Macalester College graduate who served as executive director of the Neighborhood Energy Connection (NEC) since 2008. “The reason I recommended that Chris apply is he’s always exceeded my expectations since I knew him years ago,” Strom said. “I think he’s got the principles and values CEE has — he’s ethical, considerate of the staff, very modest. He’s a perfect fit for our culture.”...

Read the full article at Finance and Commerce