News Release: Energy Program Innovator to Lead CEE

Jan 14, 2016

The board of directors of Center for Energy and Environment (CEE) today announce the hiring of Christopher Duffrin as president of the Minnesota-based clean energy nonprofit. Duffrin comes to the organization from community-focused energy efficiency nonprofit Neighborhood Energy Connection (NEC), based in St. Paul. He will begin at CEE on March 1, overlapping briefly with CEE’s longtime leader and founder Sheldon Strom, who will retire later this spring.

“I am particularly impressed with Chris’s deep commitment to the public interest, a perfect fit for CEE’s community-based core values,” explains board chair Carol K. Johnson. “Sheldon has prepared CEE well for today’s rapidly evolving fields of energy efficiency and production. Now stepping onto groundwork laid by Sheldon and strengthened by CEE’s expert staff, Chris adds deep experience and fresh insights into program development and relationship building, positioning us even better for the future.”

Since 2008, program innovation has been Duffrin’s hallmark at NEC. In addition to overseeing the organization’s goal setting, external relations, and administration and finances, he has been a creative catalyst to expand and enhance NEC’s program offerings. From residential energy audits to home loans, Energy Fit Homes certification (in partnership with CEE), the award-winning HOURCAR car-sharing program, and more, Duffrin has kept a keen focus on improving the nonprofit’s long-term capacity to deliver innovative, high-quality programs and stabilize the organization’s revenue base. 

His efforts have paid off. Under Duffrin’s leadership, NEC’s annual budget increased from $2 million to $5 million, the staff count nearly tripled, and organizational assets grew almost four-fold. Duffrin strategically restructured NEC’s spending priorities to increase the number of staff, reduce administrative costs from 11% to 6%, decrease long-term occupancy costs, and channel investments to areas such as staff training to enhance overall organizational culture and expertise.

Central to his work, Duffrin amped up NEC’s energy efficiency programming by refining existing offerings while developing new ones, engaging new utility partners, increasing the customer base, and making structural adjustments to increase the likelihood of whole-home energy improvements. Using HOURCAR as one program example, Duffrin guided NEC to grow Minnesota’s first car-sharing program from 500 to 2,600 members and from 16 to 65 cars by forging new institutional partnerships.

The board’s selection of Duffrin concludes a rigorous national search facilitated by executive search firm KeyStone Search. “We looked across the country and met some outstanding candidates,” says Sheldon Strom, CEE’s founder and retiring president. “And, as things go, our board found the best candidate working just across the river. I’ve known Chris for years and have been constantly and consistently impressed with his broad range of skills, intellect, and integrity. He is the perfect person to take CEE to new heights — I could not be happier to turn over the keys to this organization I love to Chris Duffrin.”

Given NEC’s diverse portfolio, Duffrin has notable experience supervising staff roles ranging from building science to technology implementation, management, business development, finance, lending, fundraising, communications, and marketing. Prior to NEC, Duffrin was assistant director of the Energy CENTS Coalition, where he worked previously as an advocate for low-income customers at the Public Utilities Commission and legislature and as an energy efficiency program manager. Before that, he was acting director of the Minnesota Senior Federation, where he coordinated public policy activities and statewide public relations. He holds a BA in history from Macalester College, St. Paul, and currently serves on the Energy Vision Advisory Committee of the City of Minneapolis.

Duffrin is excited about the opportunities, which include leveraging powerful ongoing collaborations with a familiar player. “I’m sure NEC and CEE will continue working closely together. I believe we can use this change to strengthen our already solid partnership,” he emphasizes. “At CEE, I look forward to making use of all available connections to improve existing efforts even as we develop in new directions — taking advantage of some of the best minds in the region, from engineers to researchers, advocates, operations staff, and more. I’m eager to work with the full staff and board to hone a comprehensive vision for our future together.”

About Center for Energy and Environment

Center for Energy and Environment is a Minnesota nonprofit that promotes energy efficiency to strengthen the economy while improving the environment. For over 35 years, CEE has provided a range of practical and cost-effective programs to help Minnesota homeowners, businesses, nonprofits and governments reduce energy waste and save money. Online at and