Energy Efficiency Peer Learning Cohort update

Published September 8, 2021

Since 2019, an active group of community organizations and individuals have been busy increasing their knowledge of energy policy and energy efficiency programs. This group is known as the Energy Efficiency Peer Learning Cohort. The Citizens Utility Board has the pleasure of being part of planning this effort along with the Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy (CEED), Community Power, and the City of Minneapolis. A new round of work began in the spring of 2021 and we wanted to provide an update of all the work done to date.

First Round of Work

The first round of the Cohort work took place from June 2019 through October 2020. Representatives from Twin Cities community organizations spent these months together learning about our energy systems. We discussed how energy is generated and delivered and how decisions about our energy options and programs are made. We examined current energy efficiency program offerings and explored different models in the country. Community events were held periodically to share information about existing programs and to present information about other programs in the country. The group ultimately created a vision of how the design and delivery of energy efficiency programs could be improved, with a special emphasis on addressing inequalities experienced by low-income, renter, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities.     

The pandemic disrupted the intended conclusion of the program. We had initially planned to broadly share this new vision. We instead decided to share the vision as we progressed through the second year of the cohort. As the impacts of the pandemic became evident, we focused on helping community members learn about shut-off protection and energy bill assistance programs during the summer and fall of 2020. Several members of the cohort were involved in providing comments related to energy policy issues such as inclusive financing and Xcel’s Integrated Resource Plan.

Current Work

We are now in the second iteration of the cohort work. This cohort consists of representations from community organizations and individuals active in their communities. In this round, the cohort has been organized into three interrelated teams working simultaneously: Policy, Outreach, and the Conservation Applied Research and Development (CARD) Grant.  

The Policy Team is building off the knowledge gained in the first year of the Cohort and has identified two specific areas of concentration for gaining a better understanding and identifying methods to be involved in decision making. The first is to work on the concept of inclusive financing and the second is to look at the leadership of the Public Utilities Commission.  

The Outreach Team is focusing on reaching out to communities with information on how to avoid a utility shut-off, get help with energy bills, and learn about energy efficiency options. There will be a strong effort this fall to help communities be aware of resources heading into the winter heating months.  

The CARD Grant Team is focused on conducting research to identify how energy efficiency programs can better meet the needs of low-income, renter, and BIPOC communities. Cohort members are represented on the project’s Steering Committee. More details about this effort were described in a recent blog.

What’s Next

The current work is planned to go through the early winter of 2022. The work has an important purpose in trying to make sure that energy efficiency programs are based on the needs of the communities they are intended to serve. Our cohort members play an invaluable role in being part of that community voice.  Our hope is that continued work in this area will continue to equip community organizations with the knowledge and capacity to influence energy policy and program design now and in the future. We will keep you updated as this work continues.

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Author: Carmen Carruthers

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