In 2021, we received another year of competitive applications for all the Inspiring Efficiency Awards. Today, we are highlighting one winner in the Innovation category. The Inspiring Efficiency Innovation Award is presented each year to an organization for developing and implementing a successful new and innovative program, campaign or strategy or implementing a program in a new and innovative way.
The first Innovation award winner we are highlighting is the City of Minneapolis Home Energy Disclosure. The City of Minneapolis and the Center for Energy and Environment (CEE) worked together to pass a time of listing energy disclosure policy for single-family homes. Minneapolis is only the fourth city in the country to pass a similar policy, putting them at the forefront of innovation. This policy was implemented in January of 2020 and requires an energy disclosure report and score for every single home listed for sale. This not only informs homeowners of energy improvement possibilities, but also motivates them to implement these improvements. The home energy disclosure policy puts energy efficiency on the map and shows the value of home energy performance. In addition, they followed up and assisted new homeowners in working with an energy advisor service, creating further opportunities for energy efficiency upgrades in Minneapolis. While we could go on about the incredible aspects of this policy, the people behind it shared the inside scoop on what makes this policy so great.
Q: The political action that resulted from this campaign made Minneapolis a leader in motivating homeowners to make energy efficiency changes, what unique strategy made the campaign so successful?
Our overall goal was to remove barriers to making energy efficiency upgrades by providing easy-to-understand information that shows exactly how homeowners can improve their homes’ efficiency and resiliency. Another chief aim of this campaign was to build the visibility and value of energy efficiency among homeowners and the real estate market. In the first year of the policy, the number of Minneapolis homes receiving an energy audit increased from 1,000 to more than 6,000. And because the energy improvement process can be confusing for the average homeowner, The City of Minneapolis partnered with CenterPoint Energy and Center for Energy and Environment to offer services to facilitate upgrades. Each energy audit results in a report that makes tailored recommendations for cost-effective, high-impact energy upgrades. The report also highlights contacting an Energy Advisor as a key next step. Energy advisors can answer homeowner questions and connect them to rebate-eligible contractors and low or no interest financing as needed to complete projects.
In the first year of the policy, the number of Minneapolis homes receiving an energy audit increased from 1,000 to more than 6,000.
Q: Can you tell us more about the stakeholder engagement aspect of the development for this campaign?
A key component of the policy development was to engage stakeholders early. These stakeholders included various City departments, the real estate business community, housing inspectors, contractors and the public. Meetings, trainings, webinars, community meetings and more were used as channels to inform stakeholders of the policy development and collect feedback. On February 15, 2019, the policy unanimously passed and has been operating smoothly since its launch, largely due to the early and consistent engagement.
Q: What did you learn through running this campaign, be it challenges you overcame or strong results?
One big learning came out of engagement with the real estate business community. We learned that motivating real estate agents and their clients to value energy efficiency would be greatly helped by promoting it. For example, good wall insulation, while very impactful for a home’s energy efficiency, is rarely considered by buyers unless it is specifically advertised. This meant that we needed to not only point out when a home needed energy efficiency improvements, but also highlight when a home already had them. We added visual elements to the energy audit report to show off existing energy efficient features with new accompanying language that simply and clearly described their benefits. This development has allowed the campaign to be more flexible and interesting to our varied stakeholders, increasing the pace of building visibility and value of energy efficiency in the market.
Q: Are there any new campaigns in the works that similarly advocate for increased energy efficiency in your community?
The City of Minneapolis rolled out another residential energy disclosure policy September 1st known as the Time of Rent energy disclosure. This ordinance requires that property owners provide information on the average cost of the energy that an apartment uses based on energy use, square footage and number of bedrooms. The City has already begun training and testing with property owners and have worked closely with CenterPoint Energy and Xcel Energy on a web portal that provides a link to a building or apartment’s energy data. Therefore, the property owner just needs to provide a prospective tenant the link to the web portal to meet the disclosure requirements.
This fall, the City will be using a combination of advertising and outreach mediums such as social media, direct mailings and bus stop billboards to create awareness of the program and how to the use the information to compare the full housing and energy costs of an apartment before a lease is signed.
The City of Minneapolis truly stands out as a leader for their commitment to innovation in policies for energy efficiency upgrades. Their stakeholder collaboration and consistent engagement shows their commitment to serving their community and filling their needs.
Did your organization or team members implement a policy or contribute positively to your community in the last two years in an innovative way? Nominate them for a 2022 Inspiring Efficiency Award to recognize their diligence and dedication. The application period is open until September 17th and you can find the forms here. For more on the past year's winners, check out our previous posts >