Community Energy Services draws from CEE’s experience applying community organizing principles to residential energy program design, but program staff are always looking for new ways to engage and educate people about energy. In this post, Program Coordinator Helen Booth-Tobin gives an update on a new pilot project to reach homeowners outside their neighborhoods.
CEE recently launched an initiative called “401(e): Workplace Energy Saving Program.” The goal of this program is to help businesses promote sustainability in the workplace and help employees save energy at home using educational workshops held over the lunch hour. After attending a “lunch n’ learn workshop”, employees have the opportunity to sign up for a special discounted “Home Energy Squad Enhanced Visit,” similar to the home visit offered through Community Energy Services (CES).
CES has been available to eligible homeowners since 2009. In the past, CES participants were required to attend an informational workshop in their community before they could receive a home visit including an energy audit. Looking forward, we wanted to explore new avenues outside of the current CES territory. 401(e) is another option for homeowners to be able to join the program, learn about saving energy, and schedule a home visit. The benefit to 401(e) is that it provides an opportunity to offer home visits to all Xcel and CenterPoint customers regardless of their location, whereas CES is currently only available to Minneapolis and St. Louis Park homeowners.
401(e) is available to any business of any size in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. As we launch the program, we have been looking to go into businesses that have a commitment to providing new opportunities and an educational outlet to their employees. Last month Community Organizer Ashley Robertson and I held the first 401(e) workshop at LHB, a mid-sized architecture, engineering, and planning firm with a location in downtown Minneapolis. (An earlier guest post by Rick Carter, the Senior Vice President in their Minneapolis office, describes their work on sustainable design in Minnesota.) LHB promoted the workshop around the office and provided lunch to everyone who attended. The workshop presentation included tips on saving energy at the workplace as well as at home, informational resources for employees to bring home to their families, and financing information for those interested in completing energy efficient home improvements. All fifteen people who attended were engaged in the presentation; we had many questions and received a lot of positive feedback. At the end seven people signed up for a home visit. We have several 401(e) workshops scheduled in October at a variety of organizations, including a law firm, an interactive marketing group, and a nonprofit.
This year our goal for 401(e) is to create a "lunch n’ learn" model to expand as our residential program expands. We are excited to bring the program to as many businesses as we can! Please contact us if you know of a business that could benefit from the 401(e) program! You can download the flyer below for more information.
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