Program to educate homeowners

Workshops will teach local homeowners about energy efficiency.

Alex Holmquist

Homeowners near the University of Minnesota may soon be able to lower their utility bills through increased energy conservation. The University District Alliance has been accepted as part of the Community Energy Services program, designed to help homeowners become more energy efficient. The program is administered by the Center for Energy and Environment in partnership with CenterPoint Energy and Xcel Energy and is funded by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. The program offers free workshops to educate homeowners about how to save energy and money. For $30, residents are also offered the opportunity to have two energy professionals from CEE come to their home and install energy-saving items such as setback thermostats, low-flow showerheads and gasket seals. Additionally, residents will receive personalized energy use inventory from the last year and feedback throughout the next year to demonstrate the savings generated fromparticipation in the program. Because the program is designed for owner-occupied units, rental properties in University neighborhoods are not eligible to participate. âÄúWe were definitely interested in having rental properties be part of this, because that is most of our housing stock,âÄù said Jan Morlock, director of community relations at the University. Morlock said the Alliance and CEE staff have discussed creating an additional program in the future to include rental properties around the University. Erica Schulte, CEE community relations manager, said a program for rental properties may be created if the current program is successful and if there is a proven need for such a program in the area. Katie Fournier, chairwoman of the AllianceâÄôs housing committee, said the program will be beneficial for homeowners in the University district because it focuses on implementation rather than focusing solely on education. âÄúThis program has got a sort of hand-holding aspect built into it,âÄù Fournier said. âÄúThey really help people both understand and deal with whatever barriers or obstacles are preventing them from following through.âÄù Fournier said this focus will encourage homeowners to stick with the program and help create a sustainable community around the University. The alliance aims to have at least 150 homeowners participate in the program, which is roughly 10 percent of the eligible population, Morlock said. âÄúIf we can reduce energy usage by even some small amount, then weâÄôll have accomplished something,âÄù Morlock said, âÄúand people will be saving money.âÄù The program has also been implemented in several other Minneapolis neighborhoods such as Hawthorne, Logan Park and Longfellow and has served more than 500 homeowners. The dates for workshops in the University District have not yet been scheduled, but Schulte said she expects they will begin at the end of May or beginning of June.