Energy Efficient Cities: Using a Community-Based Approach to Achieve Greater Results in Comprehensive, Whole-House Energy-Efficiency Programs

The Energy Efficient Cities project was developed to demonstrate the delivery of innovative residential energy-efficiency programs to reduce energy use and environmental impact in at least 6,000 homes through a community-wide partnership approach, with initial seed funding from Minnesota’s Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. With strong and crucial support from local gas and electric utilities, city-specific programs were developed in eight cities: Apple Valley, Austin, Duluth, Minneapolis, Owatonna, Park Rapids, Rochester, and St. Paul.

While each city developed a customized approach, all of the programs were designed to provide a “one-stop shop” whole-house approach that would make it as easy as possible for homeowners to take energy-efficiency actions, while maximizing participation and energy savings. This comprehensive approach involved the following components in every program:

  • Community-based marketing strategies to recruit participants to workshops, for training participants to take low-cost energy actions and to serve as an entry into the program;
  • Home energy visits that include installation of low-cost materials, identify other energy-saving opportunities, and provide a customized energy action plan;
  • Energy usage feedback reports to encourage individual energy-saving actions;
  • Follow-up assistance, including providing cost-share for completion of major efficiency upgrades including insulation, air sealing and major mechanicals replacement; and
  • Training and quality assurance for insulation and air sealing contractors.

The project exceeded its original goals for participation, with 8,243 people attending workshops, 6,922 of those households completing a home energy visit, and 1,474 homes completing major energy-efficiency upgrades. Quality-assurance protocols were developed to provide confidence to the homeowner that their upgrade was being done right, as well as to ensure promised energy savings would be realized. Thirty-six contractors were trained in highperformance installation techniques for insulation and air sealing jobs. The upgrades completed under this program generated $4.8 million in work for Minnesota’s insulation and heating contractors. The estimated total energy savings from measures installed in these homes is $13.8 million for the homeowners over the life of the measures. The programs will be continued in at least five of the participating cities.

This report provides a summary of the project, as well as lessons learned for implementing similar programs.

Full Report (PDF)
Energy Efficient Cities: Using a Community-Based Approach to Achieve Greater Results in Whole-House Energy-Efficiency Programs