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ACEEE: Minneapolis, Chicago Among America’s Most Energy Efficient Cities

On Wednesday, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released its 2015 City Scorecard, which ranks the energy efficiency of 51 large American cities in five program and policy areas –local government operations, community-wide initiatives, buildings, energy and water utilities and transportation.

While Boston once again took first place in this biennial report, Chicago and Minneapolis led the way in the Midwest, both earning slots in the top ten, coming in at numbers six and seven, respectively. Both cities also earned the “Most Improved” designation from ACEEE.


Kansas City, where MEEA supported the development of updated energy codes specifically commended by the report, was ranked 27th. MEEA has also been active in Chicago and Minneapolis, supporting statewide code development processes in each.

Other Midwestern cities ranked in the report include Milwaukee, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Louisville, Indianapolis and Detroit. And with the adoption of updated residential codes slated to take effect in early 2016, Detroit has shown a commitment to efficiency that should be reflected in future ratings.

Lawrence, Kansas, Dubuque, Iowa and Madison, Wisconsin, while not officially ranked by ACEEE, performed self-evaluations using ACEEE’s Self-Scoring Tool. Madison’s impressive score would have earned it a spot at number 11 on the list.

These rankings are not just about past achievements (or even a little healthy competition). ACEEE offers concrete ways to increase energy savings by highlighting best practices and areas needing improvement in each city. Minneapolis, for example, was praised for its “investment in (and savings from) electric and natural gas utility efficiency programs”—efforts involving MEEA members CenterPoint Energy and Xcel Energy. The report did, however, suggest Minneapolis could improve by extending energy code benchmarking to include multifamily buildings.

“Overall, we found that cities are still laboratories of innovation, pushing the envelope to reduce energy waste,” said the report’s lead author David Ribeiro. “By capturing these efforts in the Scorecard we hope local leaders from cities of all sizes can learn best practices from each other and deliver the benefits of energy efficiency to their communities, such as a stronger economy and a cleaner environment.”

With innovation, investment and commitment to energy efficiency, Midwestern cities can continue to create more energy efficient communities and climb the ACEEE rankings. Look out, Boston—2017 is our year!

Building Operator Certification Illinois Veteran Program Spring Graduates

In April, three more veterans earned their Building Operator Certification (BOC) in Chicago and are now actively seeking new career opportunities. As part of the BOC program, MEEA and the State of Illinois connect unemployed and underemployed graduates with a network of Employment Partners who work to assist these veterans with career development. In 2015, Employment Partners Franklin Energy, CLEAResult, Ecova, Nexant, Lockheed Martin and Illinois AMVETS assisted with resume reviews and shared new job opportunities. Veterans Program Mentor ComEd assisted five veterans with homework completion during the course of the series.

MEEA is proud to highlight three recent graduates.

Lamar Gougis

In addition to receiving his Building Operator Certification in May in Chicago, Lamar Gougis also completed his A.A.S. in Air Conditioning and Refrigeration at Kennedy-King College in 2014.

“I now have an excellent understanding of theory in the construction of HVAC system, chillers and electrical systems,” Gougis said. “I’m also well-versed in installation and blueprint assessment.”

Gougis spent two years as a Quality Control Supervisor for the U.S. Marines, inspecting hazardous equipment and maintaining technical data from the Federal Logistics Systems. Gougis is looking for an opportunity to start a career in the operations and maintenance field with an entry-level position.

Christopher Myers

Christopher Myers, originally from Chicago, has been working in operations and maintenance for over 20 years. Since being honorably discharged in 1980 from the U.S. Navy, Myers has been working as an industrial electrician and a field HVAC Repair technician.

“I love the job of repairing, monitoring, and being able to get the equipment running again in the shortest time period,” Myers said.

In January, Myers was accepted into the BOC Veterans Scholarship program and began classes in Chicago. “My favorite part about the BOC program is the lessons information booklet, how easy and clear that the information was to understand.”

Myers is currently searching for an entry-level position in the operations and maintenance field, preferably HVAC, Electrical or Solar maintenance.

Fulton Bond

Fulton Bond started the BOC Program in January in Chicago with four years of experience as an electrician and maintenance weapon repairman for the U.S. Army. With a background in both teaching and IT, Bond is seeking a challenging entry-level position in the operations and maintenance field where he can continue to develop his comprehensive skillset.

“I’m hoping to find a position that has some room for growth,” Bond said. “I’m looking forward to learning more.”

For additional information about our recent graduates, including resumes, please contact Jenn Allen at or 312-784-7243.


Michigan Building Operators Face Off in Battle of the Buildings

The USGBC West Michigan Chapter hosted the Earth Day Energy Summit and awards ceremony for participants in the 2014 Battle of the Buildings contest. This EPA-derived challenge is a friendly competition where commercial building owners and operators strive to reduce their carbon footprint through implementing energy reduction measures. The program has completed a successful first year, already launched the second year and is planning a third. Considering this success, the contest has expanded beyond the Western Michigan region to encompass the entire state.

Cheri Holman, USGBC WM Director

Cheri Holman, USGBC WM Director

This year’s summit brought battle contestants (building owners and operators), utility organizations, state agencies and a myriad of other interested parties to celebrate the collective success of these biggest “losers.” A total of fifty buildings (roughly 11.5 million square feet of space) in West Michigan were entered into the 2014 competition. Collectively, the contestants saved approximately 1,149.6 metric tons of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) – the comparable emissions of driving an average passenger vehicle 2.7 million miles.

By entering the contest, participants became familiar with building energy benchmarking and energy management. They utilized the EPA ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool to track their monthly energy use, and were able to compare their consumption against similar buildings types and uses. Benchmarking was the basis of the competition because each building was able to compare their energy use to their peers via the 1-100 score created by the Portfolio Manager tool. Any building with a score of 75 or greater means the building is a top performer and eligible for recognition and to apply for an ENERGY STAR Certification.

One recommended training for Battle contestants is the Building Operator Certification®  Program  (BOC) – a nationally accredited, competency-based, training program which trains building operators how to use the Energy Star Portfolio Manager tool and reduce energy consumption through low- to no-cost efficiency measures.

Tom Kiser, Worthington Energy Innovations, LLC

Tom Kiser, Worthington Energy Innovations, LLC

This year’s celebration, held at the Amway Grand Plaza and Hotel, was kicked off by a presentation from “America’s Energy Coach,” Tom Kiser. He inspired the audience with his transformation from coaching a collegiate football team to starting his own energy efficiency business (Worthington Energy Innovations, LLC).

After the rousing speech from Coach Tom, Summit breakout sessions featured best practices and innovative energy reduction strategies for current and past competitors. Sessions covered the importance of managing and benchmarking energy use, investing in competency training for building staff (programs like the BOC training), encouraging energy-saving behaviors in colleagues and more.

Prior to the event, Rick Snyder, Michigan’s governor expressed his support of the challenge, saying, “I would like to thank the Michigan Battle of the Buildings Program for taking steps to reduce energy waste in our state… By working together, we can make Michigan’s energy resources more adaptable, reliable and affordable while preserving our environment for upcoming generations.” In addition to Snyder’s comments, Valerie Brader (Director of the new Michigan Agency for Energy) spoke at the conference about the important role competitions like the Battle of the Buildings have for the state. She highlighted the incredible opportunity energy reduction techniques–and investment in measures that display an economic and environmental payback–have for the state.

Valerie Brader, Michigan Agency for Energy, Director

Valerie Brader, Michigan Agency for Energy, Director

The 2015 competition is already underway and will be the biggest one yet. With the state-wide expansion and increased interest, there are currently 28.6 million sq. ft. of buildings competing–over double the amount from 2014.

In order to get involved and learn more about the Battle of the Buildings contest, check out the USGBC WM Battle of the Buildings website.

For Battle contestants, and other building operators, interested in learning more about the Building Operator Certification Training program, please email Ian Blanding or visit the BOC website.


Univ. of Minnesota Students Design Ultimate Energy Efficient Home

Congratulations to the University of Minnesota’s “Team OptiMN” who won the Department of Energy’s Race to Zero Student Design Competition last month in Golden, Colorado!

OptiMN's Impact Home

OptiMN’s Impact Home

The team, led by students Laurel Johnston, Peter Schneider, Cavan Wagg and Collin Coltman, bested 32 other teams from across the country in a competition to create a cost-effective home that uses little to no energy by optimizing energy efficiency and utilizing renewable resources. The team was also overseen by Professor Pat Huelman, who worked alongside MEEA on the development of Minnesota’s new building energy code.

OptiMN’s super efficient Impact Home will be built later this year by a Minneapolis nonprofit.

Congratulations to OptiMN and all the teams who participated in this year’s competition. Full results from the 2015 competition, including OptiMN’s winning presentation, can be found here:

Illinois Legislative Breakfast Shows Benefits of Efficiency for Businesses, Schools and More

On April 29, MEEA held a Legislative Breakfast event at Café Moxo in downtown Springfield, IL. The breakfast, attended by around 40 participants, including several state legislators, showcased businesses and organizations implementing energy efficiency programs, highlighting in particular the economic benefit derived directly from such programs.

Jacob Preciado from the Archdiocese of Chicago speaking at MEEA's Legislative Breakfast

Jacob Preciado from the Archdiocese of Chicago speaking at MEEA’s Legislative Breakfast

Jacob Preciado, the Construction Manager at the Archdiocese of Chicago, explained that in some of their churches the boilers are over 100 years old. Because the parishes all have to self-finance these improvements with a limited budget, utility rebates were vital for making upgrades possible.

Patty and Mike Hartnett, Co-Owners of Constructive Ideas, have expanded their business because of the Illinois Home Performance (IHP) and rebate programs. They explained to breakfast attendees how sealing a “leaky” home not only saves energy costs but also improves comfort.

David Bowman, Workforce Specialist at Lincoln Land Community College, talked about his experience working with Building Operator Certification (BOC) teachers and noted that BOC course offerings a draw for the college.

Kiersten Sheets is the Energy Solutions Implementer at Ruyle Mechanical Services, Inc. Kiersten discussed her company’s involvement in the Illinois Energy Now Program since 2011, which has enabled them to offset costs for energy efficiency projects for nine government buildings, 12 school districts (including a university), and two park districts – totaling $591,923.95 in reduced energy costs.

Anne Smith, the Executive Director of the Menard County Public Housing Association, and Freddie Perez, an Environmental Consultant with Project Green Chicago, also gave informative presentations on how energy efficiency has positively impacted their organizations.

Thank you to all the speakers, attendees and legislators who helped make this event a huge success! Your efforts show that investment in energy efficiency makes sense for our environment, our state and our wallets.


ACEEE Market Transformation Panel Discusses National Benchmarking Trends

The ACEEE Market Transformation National Symposium brought over 350 energy professionals together in Washington, D.C. in April to cover diverse and emerging topics within the scope of market transformation. With two new cities adopting benchmarking ordinances last week, ACEEE held a timely panel on future uses of benchmarking data and data integrity.

The Panel

Panelists for the “Better Quality Data and Confidence through Ratings” included Jayson Antonoff, Technical Director at City Energy Project, Marshall Duer-Balkind, Program Manager for Energy Benchmarking, District of Columbia Government, and John Supp, Account Management at DC Sustainable Energy Utility. The panel was moderated by Jenn Allen, Program Manager at MEEA.


While all of the presenters have seen large scale transformation in the market with numerous cities adopting benchmarking initiatives (and many more on the way), they agreed there is still room for improvement in data integrity and opportunities to leverage the data for increased energy savings.

“Owners can’t often access tenant data,” Duer-Balkind said in his presentation. “Also, manual entry often creates errors. The solution is for building owner initiated requests for aggregated whole-building energy consumption data and direct automated upload from utility databases to Portfolio Manager.”

Accessibility and Automation

Both Washington D.C. and Seattle have benchmarking programs that automate information from utility databases. More cities are currently working with their utilities to follow suit using the DOE Better Buildings Data Accelerator program. Other cities, like Chicago, require a third party verification of the data as part of the benchmarking ordinance.

“There is a need to make the data more accessible,” Antonoff said. “For example, the City of Philadelphia found that an interactive map with energy scores was better received by the public than spreadsheets full of data. Making the information easy to find will provide more opportunities for the general public to be more engaged.”

Supp agrees. “Gathering this volume of data and doing nothing with it would be a disservice to citizens,” Supp said. “There is opportunity for other markets to leverage this data.”

For instance, panelists discussed the opportunity for cities to do outreach to building owners to help facilitate upgrades and use existing utility incentive programs.

Tools like the DOE Standard Energy Efficiency Data Platform create consistency, making the data easier to share and more actionable. Ultimately, these tools will enable cities to learn best practices from one another and improve long-term efficiency planning.

“There are three main purposes of benchmarking laws,” Duer-Balkind said in his presentation. “One, to help owners and managers understand their energy use and compare to peers. Two, help policymakers and DSM program administrators with analysis, planning and program design. And then, finally, to drive market transformation.”

For more information on the ACEEE MT National Symposium, visit their website.


BOC Success Story: Duluth Public Schools

In April 2014, Dave Spooner, Supervisor of Maintenance & Construction at Duluth Public School District, enrolled six building operators in the Building Operator Certification (BOC) class in Cloquet, MN. As a supervisor, Dave was interested in the BOC program because it helps empower the employee and gets them thinking critically about energy use in buildings.

“The BOC program provided our employees some good knowledge and perspective on how they can utilize the new technology we have to provide a better service to our users and yet save energy,” Dave said.Dave at Denfield 2

Upon graduating from the BOC training, these professionals recommended reducing the unnecessary run-time of 37 air handling units and 50 exterior building lights in five schools within the district.

These free (and relatively minor) adjustments result in an annual energy savings of $4,800 or 130,000 kWh.

Click here to read the full case study


Upcoming Webinar – Benchmarking Data Cleansing: A Rite of Passage along the Benchmarking Journey

A growing number of local and state governments are collecting annual building energy benchmarking data from thousands of public and private building owners – through voluntary, ordinance, and/or executive order driven programs. In the Midwest, the cities of Minneapolis, MN and Chicago, IL have each passed these types of ordinances, while Columbus, OH and Kansas City, MO are currently managing voluntary versions – both adopting the same moniker “Mayor’s Energy Challenge.” Many Midwest states, including Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri, use energy data to track the energy consumption of state owned and operated buildings.

State programs vary in their public reporting obligations. But within each of these municipal programs, annual public reporting by the city is essential gauging the progress of the initiative toward the city’s energy and/or greenhouse gas emission (GHG) reduction goals. Data cleansing is a critical step prior to analysis and interpretation of data, because it eliminates erroneous data that may skew results leading to inaccurate conclusions and/or future program decisions.

The U.S. Department of Energy is hosting a webinar on April 30 from 1-2:30pm CDT specifically on this topic of data cleansing. The event will train data analysts, energy planners, and community officials on the principles used for identifying potential problems associated with data produced by benchmarking programs. During this event, a proven methodology for cleaning the data prior to analysis will be demonstrated. Intended audience includes cities, communities, schools, and states that have already implemented an internal or community-wide building benchmarking programs. The webinar is especially for those entities that are working to better understand energy use trends, and those who are interested in employing this information into targeted and effective energy efficiency programs.

Speakers for the webinar include Mr. Shankar Earni, Program Manager at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s (LBNL) Building Technologies and Urban Systems Division, and Ms. Mona Khalil, Policy Advisor at the U.S. Department of Energy. To register for the April 30th webinar: Benchmarking Data Cleansing: A Rite of Passage along the Benchmarking Journey, link to

For more information on building energy benchmarking, contact MEEA’s Sr. Technical Manager, Steve Kismohr at 312.784.7257 or

US DOE Spotlights MEEA Research Team

Since 2009, MEEA has participated in the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Building America research program as a member of the Partnership for Advanced Residential Retrofit (PARR). Alongside team lead Gas Technology Institute and other members such as Elevate Energy, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center and Future Energy Enterprises, MEEA has been spotlighted by the Building America program in their latest newsletter.

PARR logoPARR’s central goal is to increase the quality and uptake of residential retrofits by demonstrating innovative, scalable and cost-effective solutions that enable market transformation. By bringing together regional leaders in building science research and energy efficiency program design and implementation, PARR leverages over 100 years of combined experience in residential building energy efficiency, encompassing critical roles in weatherization training, Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® program coordination, multifamily building research and heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems research.

Some of PARR’s major accomplishments that MEEA led or contributed to include:

  • An innovative study on the impact of installation practices and equipment degradation on the performance of natural gas furnaces
  • The development of a novel methodology for assessing the cost effectiveness of retrofit measure packages and determining an optimal measure mix
  • A comprehensive survey of whole-home programs in Midwestern climates


House of Representatives Passes Energy Efficiency Bill S.535

On April 21, 2015, the House of Representatives passed S.535, which establishes three separate programs to bolster energy efficiency measures in commercial, residential and/or mixed use buildings. This follows the Senate’s unanimous passage of this bill on March 27, 2015.  The President is expected to sign the bill into law in the coming weeks.

Title I of the bill establishes a Better Buildings program recognizing separate leasehold commercial spaces that contain high-performance energy efficiency measures.  The new program will create a Tenant Star designation to promote energy efficiency in separate spaces leased by tenants or otherwise occupied within commercial buildings.  The Tenant Star designation will recognize tenants in commercial buildings that voluntarily achieve high energy efficiency levels and may include design and construction-based recognition for commercial building owners.

Title II establishes grid-enabled water heaters for use in utility districts with demand response and thermal storage programs.

Title III establishes a benchmarking and disclosure requirement for leasing buildings, including single and multi-tenant commercial, single and multi-family residential, and mixed use buildings.  This provision requires a study to determine the criteria and policy language needed to make the benchmarking program most effective, and creates a database for the purpose of storing and making available public energy-related information on targeted buildings.

Taken together, these programs will go a long way in increasing opportunities for energy efficiency in primarily commercial buildings.  Once signed into law, these federal provisions will complement existing MEEA efforts throughout our thirteen-state territory.  MEEA is actively working across the Midwest to establish and implement state and local benchmarking policies.  For instance, in Minnesota, MEEA is working with public and private stakeholders to establish data access and privacy policies to facilitate the benchmarking of buildings with rented space.  In 10 states around the region, MEEA’s Building Operator Certification (BOC) program trains commercial building operators on energy efficiency building systems and operations.  Improving the efficiency of our existing buildings will produce monetary savings for building owners and occupants, improve health and comfort for building tenants, increase productivity, and stimulate economic development and job creation for the region.

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