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Kentucky Hosts First Efficiency Stakeholder Meeting

In February 2011, the Kentucky Department for Energy Development and Independence (DEDI) contracted MEEA to manage a two and half year stakeholder process under a cooperative agreement with US Department of Energy.  MEEA’s role is to bring together stakeholders from all sectors to assess efforts by KY’s local utilities, industry and businesses to save energy costs through efficiency, and to devise ways to expand and enhance these efforts.

The first phase of the stakeholder process included ten months of one-on-one meetings followed by a series of statewide collaborative stakeholder meetings. The ultimate goal of this process is to devise an action plan that identifies specific ways to capitalize on existing opportunities for expanding efficiency in Kentucky, to break down current barriers, and to identify new programs and policies to support efficiency.

On December 2nd, DEDI hosted the first of three stakeholder meetings in Frankfort.  In MEEA’s role as coordinator of the process, we compiled a few threshold findings on the elements of a successful stakeholder process.

First, recognize the importance of demonstrating your understanding of the targeted state.   At the very beginning of this process, MEEA secured a local vendor who was a known commodity with the majority of the key stakeholders in Kentucky and had long-standing contacts with utilities and governmental entities, as well as local environmental and consumer contacts in the State. This helped MEEA secure meetings with the right people, as well as garner legitimacy early in the process.

Second, if possible, organize the stakeholder process so that there is time to develop working relationships with stakeholders prior to embarking on collaborative meetings.  One of the greatest advantages of the Kentucky project is that MEEA will be running its stakeholder efforts over a two and half year period.  We were able to spend the better part of the project’s first year meeting individually with the key players and building relationships with them.  This helped us develop a nuanced understanding of the barriers and opportunities for efficiency in the State.

Third, structure one-on-one meetings as “listening sessions” and use the issues identified to frame any resulting action plan.  We recognized early on in the process that the key to moving the efficiency conversation forward in Kentucky was encouraging stakeholders to tell us where the opportunities and barriers to efficiency lie.  We then used these opportunities and barriers as central themes in the collaborative stakeholder meetings.  This approach demonstrated to stakeholders that we listened to their recommendations, that their opinions matter to this process, and that we truly intended to work together to address the issues that they identified.

Fourth, share best practices and lessons learned from other states, but be realistic about what can be applied to the realities of the targeted state.  Kentucky is unique and complex. Its utilities encompass several different business models (investor-owned, cooperative, natural gas, municipal), it has a diverse energy consumer base, and distinct regional dynamics affecting both the volume of energy consumed, and how it is consumed. A number of other states have interesting models for efficiency programs and policies, the elements of which may work in certain regions in Kentucky.  However, when looking at models we have come to see the importance of consistently evaluating Kentucky’s unique energy profile, and refraining from attempting to shoehorn other states’ programs wholesale into this State.

These findings represent our review of the program in MEEA’s first year, and we will continue to track our experiences throughout the process. MEEA will also complete a case study when the project is finished.  If you have any questions about the Kentucky project, contact Samantha Williams at swilliams@mwalliance.org.