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Supreme Court Stays Clean Power Plan

Supreme Court

Credit: NCinDC, Flickr

On February 9, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) in a 5-4 decision.  The court’s decision does not overturn the CPP, nor decide the legal merits of the challenges brought against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for issuing the CPP. Rather, the court’s decision stalls the implementation of the CPP while lawsuits challenging the legality of the plan are adjudicated by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.


Lawsuits challenging the CPP in the D.C. Circuit were brought by 29 states, including 10 states within MEEA’s territory. These lawsuits assert, in general, that the EPA overstepped its authority under the Clean Air Act in issuing the Clean Power Plan. The D.C. Circuit will hold a hearing on the merits of the CPP on June 2, 2016, and is likely to issue its decision on the legality of the CPP as early as the fall of this year. If the D.C. Circuit upholds the CPP on the merits, the states challenging the CPP are widely expected to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court. In that scenario, the stay on the CPP would terminate either once the Supreme Court denies the states’ petition (known as a petition for a writ of certiorari), or, if the writ is granted, once the Supreme Court decides the case on the merits.

Looking Forward

While the stay on the CPP is in place, the EPA will not be able to enforce any deadlines or requirements associated with the CPP. If the stay is terminated, however, the EPA will regain the authority to enforce the deadlines or requirements contained in the CPP. A number of states in the Midwest have initiated internal and public stakeholder processes to assess viable pathways for compliance with the Clean Power Plan.

MEEA will continue to work with state energy offices, air regulators, utilities, businesses and advocates throughout the Midwest to advance robust energy efficiency policies that will save ratepayers money, create in-state jobs, improve air quality, and pave a path to least-cost compliance with the carbon emission targets contained in the CPP.

What is Intelligent Efficiency?

As MEEA continues its efforts to make valuable contributions to the national conversation on intelligent efficiency, it’s important to step back and take a moment to define this somewhat nebulous concept. ACEEE has done a great job of helping energy efficiency stakeholders understand what this term means through several research reports, web outlets and two high-quality conferences on the subject. Their 2013 report, Intelligent Efficiency: Opportunities, Barriers, and Solutions, defines intelligent efficiency as:

“…the deployment of affordable next-generation sensor, control, and communication technologies that help us gather, manage, interpret, communicate, and act upon disparate and often large volumes of data to improve device, process, facility, or organization performance and achieve new levels of energy efficiency.”

It’s a bit of a mouthful, but it gives us a useful framework. MEEA gets a lot of questions about this from our stakeholders, and we’ve realized that it isn’t always obvious what makes efficiency “intelligent.”

Here are a few lessons MEEA has learned that might help clear things up:

The system is greater than the sum of its parts

A central idea behind the concept of intelligent efficiency is that savings can be accounted for at the system level. This is contrary to more traditional energy efficiency approaches that rely on discreet measures and deemed savings. An intelligent efficiency system may have many contributing components, such as sensors, software, dashboards, algorithms and controls, all working in tandem to bring about deep energy savings.

The opposite of intelligent efficiency isn’t dumb efficiency

Calling this new wave of developments “intelligent” doesn’t mean traditional efficiency efforts or measures have less value – rather, intelligence means those efforts or measures are “adaptive, anticipatory and networked” (Elliot, Molina, & Trombley, 2012).

Intelligent efficiency doesn’t mean Artificial Intelligence

For most of these solutions, humans are still the critical element, as they simply enable users to make better, faster decisions and improve upon inevitable behavioral inconsistencies. A recent paper from the Information Technology Industry Council predicts that these systems “will encourage a significantly greater number of uses and users, facilitate a more collaborative engagement of consumers and producers, and amplify learning and productivity” (Laitner, McDonnell, & Keller, 2015).

The savings potential is worth your attention

ACEEE estimated the annual energy cost savings potential for the commercial and manufacturing sectors from intelligent efficiency to be $50 billion (2013). In the industry-heavy Midwest, the potential for savings is massive.

Efficiency as a concept hasn’t changed…

Stephen Lacey of Greentech Media says “at its core, energy efficiency is still about the nuts and bolts of changing equipment and improving the physical components of a facility. Information is not a panacea and is not a substitute for the physical integration of new systems. But it is becoming the glue binding the holistic, system-wide approach that is starting to define the intelligent efficiency business” (2013).

… But, intelligence could change the way we do it

By predicting the weather, enabling communication across production lines, providing real-time savings measurement and verification, preventing savings degradation, enabling system self-diagnosis and prioritizing maintenance needs, dematerializing infrastructure systems, enabling energy managers to collect and analyze large amounts of complex data, and enabling access to a host of non-energy benefits heretofore unavailable to traditional efficiency approaches, intelligent efficiency has the potential to maximize, expand and dramatically improve existing efficiency efforts.

So how do you tell if something is intelligent efficiency or not? For MEEA, whether or not a solution fits into these parameters is less important than its potential to improve how we do energy efficiency in the Midwest. For many consumers and energy managers, the non-energy benefits of smart, networked devices and systems are already changing the economics of efficiency opportunities. For utilities and program administrators, we are already experiencing a wave of new products, solutions and platforms that can be employed as exciting, new program measures or as useful tools that enhance the delivery and management of programs.

Whatever the technology, if it helps us collect and act on big data, enhance device and process efficiency, enable system-wide performance improvements, or adapt to changing conditions, we’ll call it intelligent, and we’ll encourage all our stakeholders to take a closer look.

Further reading

Elliott, N., Molina, M. & Trombley, D. (2012). A Defining Framework for Intelligent Efficiency. American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Research Report E125. Link to report.

Lacey, S. (2013). Intelligent Efficiency: Innovations Reshaping the Energy Efficiency Market. Greentech Media Special Report. Link to report.

Laitner, J.A., McDonnell, M.T., & Keller, R.M. (2015). ICT-Enabled Intelligent Efficiency: Shifting from Device-Specific Approaches to System Optima. Digital Energy and Sustainability Solutions Campaign, Information Technology Industry Council. Link to report.

(2015). Opportunities for Home Energy Management Systems (HEMS) in Advancing Residential Energy Efficiency Programs. Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships, Research Report. Link to report.

Rogers, E.A., Elliott, R.N., Kwatra, S., Trombley, D. & Nadadur, V. (2013). Intelligent Efficiency: Opportunities, Barriers, and Solutions. American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Research Report E13J. Link to report.

2015 ACEEE Intelligent Efficiency Conference

Earlier MEEA Unplugged post on intelligent efficiency efforts

DOE Announces State Energy Program Funding

The US Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) recently announced a funding opportunity for state governments through a competitive awards application process. The FOA, or Funding Opportunity Announcement, is designed for State Energy Programs (SEP) and has an enactment period of up to 24 months. The submission deadline is March 31, 2016. 

The FOA will award competitive projects in three areas of interest, including:

  1. State Energy Planning
  2. Innovative Opportunities for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Practices* – This area has five Topics of Interest sub-categories:
    1. Working with Utilities to Advance State Energy Reduction and/or Renewable Energy Generation Goals
    2. Enabling Financing Mechanisms for Public or Private Sector Clean Energy Investment
    3. Deploying Energy Performance Benchmarking and Disclosure
    4. Standardizing Evaluation, Measurement & Verification (EM&V) Processes
    5. Partnering with Local Governments
  3. Technical Assistance to Advance SEP Formula Grant Clean Energy Activities

*Some stipulations do exist for funds awarded under Area of Interest 2 – Innovative Opportunities for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Practices. The funding will likely not be awarded to projects that 1) implement specific project-level energy efficiency retrofits or upgrades or 2) directly capitalize financing programs. However, potential applicants under Area of Interest 2 are encouraged to design and develop programs that could lead to the implementation of retrofits using non-award funds. In addition, applicants with projects that develop the framework for financing programs are also urged to apply under this Area of Interest. Lastly, projects submitted under Area of Interest 2, sub-category “Partnering with Local Governments,” are only for open to States that have not received a SEP competitive award in the last four years (FY12-FY15).

We highlight this grant opportunity due to the large impact the grants can have in your communities, as well as the state’s overall energy savings and ability to meet the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

This funding opportunity is set aside for application by state governments, individually or jointly. It is anticipated that DOE will award up to $5.25 million in total funding for up to 20 projects chosen for this FOA (subject to FY2016 Congressional appropriations). Each area of interest has different funding and project maximums. MEEA recommends that state entities who are interested in applying first review the FOA document to confirm the specific grant opportunities.

Suggestions for State Government Applicants

We foresee this funding as an ideal opportunity for state governments to implement a number of energy savings strategies, assessments or program developments at the state or local governmental level

Some ideas MEEA has developed and suggest for inclusion in your FOA response include:

  • Readying Partners and Projects for a Clean Energy Incentive Program – Partner with local governments and other private sector entities on educational activities surrounding energy efficiency and the Clean Energy Incentive Program. The focus of this program could be towards engaging utility implementers and community-based groups. Employing such a program would ensure that the demand for efficiency does exist, should a state want to participate in the EPA’s Clean Energy Incentive Program.
  • Coordinating a Municipal Street Lighting Upgrade Program – A potential state-wide effort to synchronize the conversion of existing, municipally-owned street lights to LED fixtures with dimming controls, yielding significant energy savings and safer citizens. This type of project has the potential to be coordinated with utility-owned street lighting projects for increased bulk purchasing and/or additional savings.
  • Establishing State-wide Evaluation, Measurement and Verification (EM&V) Practices – Developing a process to review energy efficiency projects will be vitally important for using energy efficiency to comply with the Clean Power Plan, regardless of the approach a state takes for compliance. Educating policymakers, evaluators, resource planners and others on the EPA’s final EM&V guidance and requirements (expected later this year) would be the first step. This approach should also include developing a process to review current practices, as well as creating a plan to align your state’s EM&V protocols with the EPA’s requirements, while incorporating best practices.
  • Implementing a Public Building Energy Benchmarking Procedure – Creating a baseline of measured energy consumption in public facilities allows for accurate planning and energy billing confirmation. In addition, an established baseline for existing buildings assists state and local governments to track each building’s energy savings and emission reductions that have occurred or may occur in the future. Some Midwest states and cities have enacted these programs to great success – using them to confirm savings achieved by ESCOs or ESPs, and often see returns on their investment within the first year of implementation.

Resources for Potential Applicants

DOE webinars are planned for January 26 and January 27 to review relevant information on the grant application, suggested areas of interest, focus areas for topic(s), and will include time for questions/answers. Click here for more information about the webinars and important FOA dates. The full application submission deadline is March 31, 2016 at 5pm ET.

MEEA has the experience and the expertise to assist your state in developing or expanding existing programs which are applicable to these awards. Contact Julia Friedman (Clean Energy/EM&V), Rose Jordan (Streetlighting), or Steve Kismohr (Energy Data/Benchmarking) at MEEA to explore this FOA further.

Good luck to all the Midwestern states who apply!


2016 Inspiring Efficiency Award Winners

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This year’s Inspiring Efficiency Award nominees were some of the most impressive candidates we’ve seen in our 12 years honoring the leaders and innovators in the energy efficiency community. Congratulations to all the nominees, and thank you for dedication and vision.

There is a such an interest in each year’s winners that we’ve decided to announce the Education, Impact, Innovation and Marketing winners before the ceremony. We hope that you’ll join us at the dinner to celebrate their accomplishment and learn who will receive the 2016 Leadership and Chairman’s awards. Without further ado, 2016 Inspiring Efficiency Award winners are:

Education: Alliant Energy and Columbia Water & Light

Impact: ComEd: Small Business Energy Savings and MidAmerican Energy Company

Innovation: AEP Ohio – Bid4efficiency Program

Marketing: Consumers Energy/Smart Energy Challenge

Leadership and Chairman’s Awards: Revealed at the Inspiring Efficiency Awards Dinner & Gala


Awards Dinner & Gala

Thursday, February 25 | 7:00 – 9:00 PM
Chicago Hilton & Towers

Join us for the Inspiring Efficiency Awards Dinner and Gala, where we’ll reveal the winners of the 2016 Leadership and Chairman’s awards. Purchase tickets or an entire table, and help us honor all the 2016 IEA nominees.


12th Annual Inspiring Efficiency Awards – Leadership

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The Inspiring Leadership in Energy Efficiency Award is presented to the organization or individual who has served as a strong leader in support of energy efficiency in their city, state, region, company or community. Candidates may include state and local political leaders, regulatory officials, legislators, state agency directors, corporations or other policymakers who have been exceptional in their support of energy efficiency.

Congratulations to all this year’s nominees:

  • Brad Casemier – Owens Corning
  • Tahseena Kahn – Energy Managers, Inc.
  • Rob Kelter – Environmental Law & Policy Center
  • Rick Sites- Ohio Hospital Association
  • Smart Utility Systems
  • Janet Streff – Minnesota Dept. of Commerce Office of Energy
  • Craig Sieben – Sieben Energy Associates

We’ll be announcing the winner of this award at the Inspiring Efficiency Awards Dinner and Gala during the Midwest Energy Solutions Conference, February 25th at the Chicago Hilton and Towers. Help us honor all the IEA nominees by purchasing your tickets here.



Illinois: New Year, New Energy Code

Credit: Diego Delso, Wikimedia Commons

Credit: Diego Delso, Wikimedia Commons

You may not have noticed, but on January 1, 2016, the 2015 Illinois Energy Conservation Code became law, based on the approval from the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules at the December hearing. This updated code is an amended version of the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) (the latest national model code) and provides minimum energy standards for all new residential and commercial buildings. The Illinois Capital Development Board, in conjunction with the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, updates the code every three years, as Illinois is one of the states in the Midwest with a legislative requirement to update their energy code to the latest national model code, within a year of its release. The previous version of the Illinois Energy Conservation Code was based on the 2012 IECC and was adopted on January 11, 2013.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “That’s great that the State of Illinois has an updated Building Energy Code, but what does it mean for building efficiency and what changes were made?”

Efficiency Improvements

When comparing 2015 to the 2012 Illinois Energy Conservation Code, there were minimal efficiency improvements to the Residential Section (Chapter 11 in IECC) and moderate efficiency improvements to the Commercial Section (Chapter 5 in IECC/ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2013) when compared to the improvements in efficiency in the 2013 update. Although we do not know the exact efficiency improvement to the residential section of the Illinois Code (because Illinois is implementing an amended version of the 2015 IECC), according to the Department of Energy (DOE) final determinations, the Residential Section of the unamended 2015 IECC is approximately 1% more efficient (site energy savings) than the 2012 IECC.

The Commercial section in the Illinois Code is roughly equivalent to the national model code, so, according to the DOE final determinations, the Commercial Section is approximately 7.6% more efficient than the previous national model code.

The improvement in efficiency for all new buildings will result in reduced energy use and lower costs for the tenant or homeowner.

Changes from 2012 IECC

Residential Section

The residential section of the 2015 Illinois Energy Conservation Code experienced relatively few changes when compared to the 2012 version, but as with any update, there are minor improvements which make it easier to read and use. The two major changes made to the residential section of the code are:

  1. New Compliance Option – The Energy Rating Index (ERI) has been added to the code as an alternative performance compliance option for builders to meet the code requirements. The ERI is based on a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is a zero energy home and 100 is a home based on the 2006 IECC. In order to comply with the code, a home must, at a minimum, achieve an ERI score of 55, the mandatory code requirements, and the 2009 IECC insulation and fenestration requirements.
  2. Basement Insulation Option – In the basement, residential builders now have the option to install either (1) R-10 continuous or R-13 cavity (10/13) ten feet below grade, or six inches above the floor, or (2) install R-15 continuous or R-19 cavity (15/19)  a minimum of four feet below grade.

Commercial Section – ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2013

As indicated by the improvement in efficiency, there are significant changes to the Commercial Section of the 2015 Illinois Energy Conservation Code when compared to the 2012 version. Although there is not enough time (or space) to discuss all the 110 changes in detail, DOE identified eight major changes which positively impact energy use. In general, these improvements require a more efficient building envelope, increased efficiency requirements on mechanical equipment, and improved lighting, daylighting and controls. A description of all changes can be found in the DOE Standard 90.1-2013 Determination of Energy Savings: Qualitative Analysis.

The eight major changes that contribute to the improved efficiency of a building are below:

  1. Addendum 90.1-2010bb – This change requires increased insulation values for opaque wall assemblies in most climate zones. More efficient windows are also required.
  2. Addendum 90.1-2010m – This change adds lighting control requirements for interior and exterior lighting alterations.
  3. Addendum 90.1-2010u – This change now requires a minimum efficiency requirement for all fans. Each fan must now have a “Fan Efficiency Grade (FEG)” of 67 or higher.
  4. Addendum 90.1-2010aq – This change expands the requirements for fan speed control to other applications and requires improved economizer efficiency.
  5. Addendum 90.1-2010am – This change requires boilers comply with a specified turndown ratio to reduce energy use.
  6. Addendum 90.1-2010bq – This change adds new efficiency requirements for commercial refrigeration. These requirements apply to walk-in coolers and freezers, refrigerated display cases, condensers and compressor systems.
  7. Addendum 90.1-2010by – This change requires lighting controls be placed in additional spaces and reduces the light sensor timer.
  8. Addendum 90.1-2010co – This change requires a decrease of lighting power density (LPD) in most building types.

For additional information about the 2015 Illinois Energy Conservation Code, please contact Ian Blanding, Building Policy Associate at MEEA.

For training opportunities, technical resources or code interpretation requests, please review the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Energy Conservation Code website.

12th Annual Inspiring Efficiency Awards – Education

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The Inspiring Efficiency through Education Award will be presented to the organization that has developed and implemented a campaign, program, or strategy to increase knowledge and action on energy efficiency. Applicants should describe how their campaign, program or strategy is an example for the region.

Thank you to all of this year’s Education category applicants:

  • Alliant Energy Advisor
  • ComEd Power of Retirement Campaign
  • Consumers Energy Industrial Energy Management Program
  • Crown Battery Manufacturing
  • Minnesota Energy Resources Engage Direct
  • Nicor Gas Marketing & Outreach Center
  • Columbia Gas of Ohio – Don’t Lose Your Cool
  • Lincoln Electric System — Energy Detective
  • Columbia Water & Light Marketing Contest
  • NTC Corporate Trickle Up! Program
  • USGBC West Michigan Chapter Battle of the Buildings
  • Veritatis Advisors
  • We Energies Education and Awareness Program
  • Xcel Energy — Find Efficiency Everywhere
  • Xcel Energy – This is How

This year, MEEA will be announcing the winner of the Inspiring Efficiency through Education Award in advance in late January, so check back soon!  Then join us in honoring all the nominees at the Inspiring Efficiency Awards Dinner and Gala during the Midwest Energy Solutions Conference, February 25th at the Chicago Hilton and Towers. Purchase your tickets here.

12th Annual Inspiring Efficiency Awards – Impact

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The Inspiring Efficiency Impact Award is presented to the organization that has made a significant contribution to market transformation either through the implementation of a specific program or through a policy change. The applicant will need to clearly demonstrate the measurable and significant impact that the program or policy has had on reducing energy consumption, altering public behaviors/practices, and/or increasing the market penetration of energy-efficient products and technologies in the Midwest. This award covers the residential, commercial, institutional, agricultural and industrial sectors.

Thanks to all this year’s applicants in the Impact category:

  •  Ameren Illinois Energy Efficiency Programs
  • City of Urbana Energy Star Challenge
  • ComEd BILD Program
  • ComEd Small Business Energy Savings (SBES) Program
  • Consumers Energy Agriculture Program
  • DTE New Construction and Major Renovations Projects
  • DTE Veterans Health Administration Partnership
  • Focus on Energy
  • Focus on Energy Large Energy Users Program
  • Kansas City Power & Light Clean Charge Network
  • Metropolitan Mayors Caucus Public Sector Energy Efficiency Program
  • MidAmerican Energy Industrial Partners Program
  • NTC Corporate Trickle Up! Program
  • Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas Natural Gas Savings Programs – Commercial and Industrial Program
  • Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas Government Affairs Team
  • Super Savers

This year, MEEA will be announcing the winner of the Inspiring Efficiency Impact Award in advance. The winner will be revealed in late January, so check back soon!  Then join us in honoring all the nominees at the Inspiring Efficiency Awards Dinner and Gala during the Midwest Energy Solutions Conference, February 25th at the Chicago Hilton and Towers. Purchase your tickets here.

12th Annual Inspiring Efficiency Awards – Innovation

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The Inspiring Efficiency through Innovation Award is presented to the nominee that has developed and implemented a new and innovative program or policy in the Midwest. While the concept of the program or policy may have been implemented elsewhere, the applicant will need to clearly detail why the program or policy and its impact is unique to the region and new to the marketplace.

Thanks to all this year’s applicants in the Innovation category:

  •  AEP Ohio Bid4Efficiency Program
  • Ameren Illinois Home Efficiency Standard & Income Qualified Programs
  • Ameren Illinois Online Lighting Tool
  • ComEd Energy Efficiency Team & the Environmental Law and Policy Center – Million Thermostats
  • ComED Retro-Commissioning Building Tune-Up Program
  • ComED Very Large Customer Outreach
  • Metropolitan Mayors Caucus Public Sector Energy Efficiency Program
  • NTC Corporate Trickle Up! Program
  • Solutions for Energy Efficient Logistics (SEEL) Business Energy Consultation

This year, MEEA will be announcing the winner of the Inspiring Efficiency through Innovation Award in advance. The winner will be revealed in late January, so check back soon!  Then join us in honoring all the nominees at the Inspiring Efficiency Awards Dinner and Gala during the Midwest Energy Solutions Conference, February 25th at the Chicago Hilton and Towers. Purchase your tickets here.

Midwest Governments Lead the Way in Georgetown University Energy Prize


The Georgetown University Energy Prize (GUEP), currently in its second round, includes a total of 50 cities and counties competing to “change the way America uses energy.” Each city or county has already developed a long-term energy efficiency plan. Now they are implementing their plan’s initial effectiveness/sustainability over a two-year period. The competition provides a unique platform bringing together residents, government leaders and utilities into competing communities – united in the goal of improving their energy efficiency.

Each community entered into the competition is required to report quarterly results, and entrants will need to balance CO2e and financial savings in order to win the $5,000,000 prize.

Scores are posted on the public dashboard and are based on the Georgetown University Energy Prize’s “Overall Energy Score,” (OES) which calculates each community’s reduction in overall energy use, combined with a set of other factors. Recently, the data from second quarter of 2015 was posted.

Summary of the Current Data

The top 20 energy savers from Q1 and Q2 include four Midwest cities!

  • Leading the Midwest is Holland, MI which ranks nationally at #4 with an overall energy score of -20 (negative equates to savings). As you might expect with a #4 ranking, Holland has received some publicity.
  • Right behind Holland is Fargo, ND which is ranked #5 with an overall energy Score of -14
  • Columbia, MO is currently tied with Dubuque, IA – both with an Overall Energy Score of -8

Urbana, IL and Oberlin, OH complete the governmental organizations which have reduced their overall score of city wide energy use (reporting scores of -2 and -1 respectively). Other Midwest jurisdictions that have entered the competition include: Madison, WI;  Duluth, MN; Houghton County, MI; Farmington Hills and Farmington, MI; Athens County, OH; Monroe County, IN; and Bates County, MO.

Semifinalist_Map_v8_web_front_3Statistical Considerations

As with typical building energy benchmarking tools, the OES adjusts for population, weather, as well as the energy used in producing and distributing the energy. The dashboard presents the aggregated electric and natural gas energy consumption for each entity. GUEP notes that the initial results naturally hold certain seasonal advantages and disadvantages for communities in different parts of country, given the current data includes only January through June of 2015. When comparing energy consumption across the country, these seasonal variations will ultimately even-out (this is called weather normalizing).

The full competition lasts 48 months to include 24 months of baseline data and 24 months of measured competition data. Check back in the spring of 2016 for the adjusted numbers.

Congratulations to all the participating cities and counties!


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