Green America: Growing the Green Economy for People and the Planet
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Visiting a local solar array with some community solar interns.

Cooperative Energy Futures
Minneapolis, MN

Cooperative Energy Futures (CEF), a member-owned cooperative founded in 2009, helps Minneapolis neighbors work together to make energy efficiency and clean energy accessible, easy, social, and fun. We help communities make the biggest positive environmental impact possible by working together to lower energy bills, generate energy revenue, improve home comfort, and create a healthier community and planet.

We reduce CEF’s footprint through office sharing and home offices, managing our operations online, and reaching our members primarily by bicycle and public transit. Our primary green leadership is the services we render, which help community members take action to save energy and create clean energy.

Through our home energy workshops we visit local homes and provide direct training in how to reduce electricity, natural gas, and water waste. We encourage residents to invite their friends and neighbors to make each workshop social. At workshops, we offer basic home energy materials including high-efficiency light-bulbs, rope and tube caulk, low-flow water fixtures, and window kits at bulk prices and teach participants to make energy upgrades themselves. Low prices ($10 workshops and $1-$10 for products) and energy-savings paybacks under 6 months make workshops relevant and accessible to renters and low-income families. We offer workshops in English and Spanish. We are growing the workshop model by helping community leaders host weatherization block parties where we train groups of neighbors in basic home weatherization techniques.

workshop weatherization

Changing lights at a home-energy workshop.

Helping volunteers learn weatherization in a church.

CEF’s second service is bulk buying. Groups of homeowners and renters contract for installation of home energy upgrades as a group, reducing costs, creating quality control of contractors, and simplifying an overwhelming process for residents. We began this model with group contracting for insulation and air sealing, organizing neighbors to hire qualified insulation contractors as a group. In summer 2012, we expanded this model in partnership with contractor Applied Energy Innovations with a solar electric panel bulk-buying program called Minneapolis Grow Solar, which has driven down the cost of solar by 21-29%. After available rebates and tax credits, this program enables Minneapolis residents and businesses to become net energy producers for as low as $3,000-$10,000.

We are currently developing a business model for cooperative ownership of clean energy in which local businesses or other institutions buy electricity from solar arrays located on their properties owned by networks of community members. This model would allow renters, owners whose property is not suited for clean energy, and those who can’t afford a full solar array to join together to operate and sell solar power to community institutions.

Cooperative Energy Futures envisions a future where teams of people in every community are working to produce, manage, and wisely use the energy that they need to thrive. In this future, energy use has plummeted though collective effort, energy pricing reflects actual cost and is available real-time to inform our energy use decisions, and communities can generate energy together through a smart and stable grid. Communities have power over the energy systems that sustain their homes, lifestyles, and their economy. It is a cooperative energy future.

Building Worker

Engaging neighbors at a National Night Out Block Party.

Tabling for insulation and solar bulk buying.