News Release: Two nonprofits merge for greater reach and impact

Nov 10, 2016

CEE and Neighborhood Energy Connection announce plans to merge in 2017 

The boards of two Minnesota nonprofits known for their community-focused energy efficiency efforts have signaled an intent to merge their organizations for greater reach and mission impact.

Board and staff leaders of the Neighborhood Energy Connection (NEC) and Center for Energy and Environment (CEE) have been actively considering options for a merger since earlier this year and have now arrived at a tentative plan for process and timing. With details to be worked out in the coming year, the merged entity will increase the capacity and breadth of offerings from each organization and will maintain the name Center for Energy and Environment.

“The NEC and CEE have long shared similar missions and approaches to residential energy efficiency, one home and one neighborhood at a time, making this next step feel like a natural evolution in our work,” says longtime NEC board member Tom Garry. “This merger will allow us to build upon each organization’s successes, adding efficiencies as we increase our collective reach.”

In addition to mission and program parallels dating back to the 1990s, like-minded leadership and a shifting policy framework have brought the NEC and CEE into even closer collaboration recently. This culminated last spring in the hiring of the NEC’s leader at the time, Chris Duffrin, to replace CEE’s retiring president Sheldon Strom. From 2008 to 2016, Duffrin led the NEC to refine its program offerings, engage new utility partners, increase its customer base, and take steps to improve the likelihood of whole-home energy improvements. With Duffrin’s transition from the NEC to CEE, both boards recognized a timely opportunity to explore how the nonprofits might partner even more effectively and efficiently with each other going forward.

Among the groups’ common strengths is an emphasis on local relationships, including longstanding partnerships with regional energy utilities. In Minneapolis, CEE delivers the Home Energy Squad residential energy efficiency program for Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy; the NEC delivers essentially the same program for Xcel Energy in St. Paul. Between the two of them, the organizations conducted energy assessments in more than 8,500 homes in 2015, helping homeowners save energy through major upgrades and installation of energy-saving products and materials.

With a staff of 35, the NEC’s recent focus areas have included home energy programs and a robust energy efficiency and home project loan program. In addition to similar financing and residential programs, CEE’s staff of 85 complements the NEC’s services with engineering services and efficiency programs for commercial buildings and businesses, engagement and educational resources, independent research on air quality and energy-related tech, planning partnerships with utilities and regional governments, and public policy efforts.

Emphasizing the months of discussions and legal and financial due diligence that went into the boards’ decision to merge, CEE’s board chair Carol Johnson points out, “The NEC and CEE clearly share integral ties in our goals, strategies, and spirit. This merger opens the door for us to combine forces to better serve customers and communities with the region’s best energy efficiency programs and services — helping customers control their energy costs while improving the vitality of our local economy.”

Duffrin also recognizes the power of doubling down to serve a developing market. In a recent blog post introducing CEE’s 2015-2016 annual report, he stated:

“CEE actively seeks out strategic partnerships to help us develop projects and reach areas that we haven’t reached before or can't reach on our own … [The] clean energy field will continue to grow in new directions … ensuring that pioneering organizations like ours continue to evolve and innovate right along with it.” 

For periodic updates, keep an eye on CEE’s merger progress online at