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Energy navigation pilot program to be launched

Published December 21, 2023

Minnesotans currently have access to a variety of programs that help increase energy efficiency and reduce customer utility bills. Programs and incentives are funded and offered by electric and gas utilities, as well as by federal, state, and local governments. Enrolling in initiatives like Energy Assistance, Gas Affordability Programs, and weatherization programs have complexities that can feel daunting to the average ratepayer simply looking to afford their monthly bill. We’re excited to announce that a new position has been created to help develop a program that will assist consumers in navigating these programs. Keep reading to learn more about how this role is part of a larger effort to improve energy program design.

Energy Efficiency Peer Learning Cohort

The Energy Efficiency Peer Learning Cohort is a collaborative group of local organizations and community members in the Twin Cities metro, focused on better understanding the energy needs of underserved communities. The Cohort has been convening for over four years, with the goal of improving the design and delivery of energy efficiency programs, with a special emphasis on addressing inequalities experienced by low-income, renter, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities. Since its inception, the Cohort’s planning team has included staff from Community Power, Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy (CEED), the Neighborhood Hub, the City of Minneapolis, and several individual community members. CUB has been a member of the Cohort’s Planning Team since it first began. Here’s an update on our work.

Cohort’s previous work

As CUB previously shared, the Cohort’s first year was focused on sharing information and gathering input on how to best build a vision for the future of energy programs in Minnesota. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the announcement and implementation of the cohort’s goals was slowed as member organizations focused on helping ratepayers navigate assistance and affordability programs during the global uncertainty of 2020.

Since 2020, the Cohort has engaged in multiple policy discussions on a diverse range of topics, including inclusive financing, the role of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in implementing Minnesota’s energy policies, and the impact of Xcel’s electric rate case. Outreach work continued to promote existing energy efficiency and affordability programs at a community level.  

The next round of this work also focused on further analysis and development of recommendations to improve efficiency programs. In 2022, the Cohort published a report called “Strategies for Equitable Energy Efficiency Program Design.”  The report provided concrete steps Minnesota utilities could implement to make their programs more accessible to the communities who need them most. Following the creation of this report, cohort members worked proactively with the utilities to encourage adoption of report recommendations. Many of the recommendations suggested in this report were adopted in utilities’ triennial plans recently approved by the Minnesota Department of Commerce. You can watch a webinar on the report here.

Cohort’s current work

With a firm bedrock of community input and improved utility program offerings now available, the Cohort is moving forward with the implementation of a program to help ratepayers better navigate affordability and energy efficiency programs. The pilot navigator program aims to improve access to the cost-savings, health, and safety benefits of energy efficiency programs by providing culturally relevant, community-rooted outreach and support to residents as they navigate the complex network of Minnesota affordability and energy efficiency programs. The program will initially target neighborhoods in the Twin Cities metro with a goal of reaching 1,000 households. Staff and volunteers will work directly in energy-impacted communities to bring program benefits to those households most in need of energy efficiency upgrades.

The Cohort is now hiring a Program Development Manager, hosted by Community Power, to implement and build the program from scratch, in collaboration with the Cohort’s planning team and other organizational partners. The role will focus on coordinating, on-boarding, and supporting community-based navigators, host sites, trainers, and program ambassadors to ensure the navigator program is a success. If you’re interested in applying for the position, you can find the posting here.

Author: James Birr

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