The Twin Histories of CEE

Sep 22, 2021
historical photo of Center for Energy and Environment community work

This August, I became the new technical editor at CEE. As a writer and editor, I learn best through stories. I took some time to sift through CEE’s background and found a narrative of energy stewardship that I am fortunate to be joining.

Center for Energy and Environment’s history is a tale of two cities. CEE’s roots trace to twin beginnings — one as the Energy Office of Minneapolis in 1979 and the other as a consortium of St. Paul neighborhood organizations in the mid-1980s.

During the 1970s energy crisis, the Minneapolis Energy Office comprised a visionary group led by Sheldon Strom. This team eventually established an independent nonprofit that would become CEE. These energy pioneers ran Minnesota’s first blower door tests and infrared scans, created an early version of CEE’s celebrated Lending Center, and assisted Minneapolis residents with home energy and insulation improvements. As the Energy Office was dissolved in 1989, its former staff set to work founding the 501(c)(3) nonprofit that would be known as the Center for Energy and Environment.

Across the Mississippi river, the St. Paul Neighborhood Energy Consortium was established in 1985. The Neighborhood Energy Connection was born from this coalition of St. Paul neighborhood organizations working to improve residential energy efficiency. Xcel Energy, then known as the Northern States Power Company, provided funding for the NEC. In its impressive first year, the group conducted 1,298 residential energy audits and formed 261 energy management plans.

Both CEE and NEC helped set the standard for energy efficiency in Minnesota and across the country. Naturally, their work began intersecting and their common vision and mission led to coordinated efforts and partnerships. This was most evident in their shared commitment to help Minnesota homeowners and renters lower their energy costs and improve energy efficiency. CEE and NEC also each created successful home energy financing programs that made energy-related repairs and renovations possible for more Minnesota homeowners than ever before.

After years of collaboration, CEE and NEC merged into a single energy nonprofit in 2017 under the shared name Center for Energy and Environment. Over the decades, CEE and NEC have collectively served more than 50,000 residential customers through programs such as the Home Energy Squad, Community Energy Services, Neighborhood Energy Workshops, Operation Insulation, the Low-Income Weatherization Program, and the Multifamily Assessment Program. Today, CEE annually loans more than $18 million through 1,100 distinct home improvement loans and operates in 32 Midwest cities and 24 Twin Cities neighborhoods to improve residential properties.

Combining these two histories, CEE has around 70 concurrent years of experience in providing energy efficiency resources that strengthen the economy while improving the environment. And in addition to serving the Twin Cities Metro, CEE’s work now reaches greater Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Iowa in an ever-expanding list of regions and states in the U.S.

As in all twin tales, CEE is strengthened by two courses that are as shared as they are unique. Combined efforts strengthened CEE’s mission-driven approach, while the independent steps that CEE and NEC took provided the CEE of today with deeper and more varied experience in the energy efficiency world. As this now united history unfolds, CEE will continue to expand our strategies and forge new opportunities to better support residents, businesses, and communities as they rise to meet tomorrow’s energy challenges and create a sustainable environment that serves all.

Related Links

CEE Annual Report 2020

CEE's Mission & Values