Fargo Wins Nationwide Competition Aimed at Creating Innovative Solutions for Reducing Energy Consumption


Georgetown University Energy Prize

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Fargo Wins Nationwide Competition Aimed at Creating Innovative Solutions for Reducing Energy Consumption

Georgetown University Energy Prize brought together 50 communities that competed in a two-year competition to increase energy efficiency, reduce municipal and household energy budgets, and create replicable, nationwide models

Fargo, North Dakota (December 18, 2017) – The city of Fargo, North Dakota, was named the winner of the Georgetown University Energy Prize (GUEP), a two-year, nationwide competition that brought together 50 communities in rethinking the way America’s small- to medium-sized towns, cities, and counties use energy.

In the final round, 10 top performing cities and counties were evaluated on their energy-saving approach, performance, and prospects for nationwide replicability and scalability.

The city of Fort Collins, Colorado, won second place, and the cities of Takoma Park, Maryland, and Bellingham, Washington, tied for third place. The cities of Chula Vista, California and Walla Walla, Washington performed best overall in terms of the absolute reduction of energy use.

Community-based initiatives are rising to the forefront of our national conversation about sustainability,” said Energy Prize executive director Uwe Brandes. “The communities that have participated in this competition have invented and implemented new approaches to reduce energy consumption and on that journey they have saved money and provided new leadership models for other communities to act.”

Over the last month a panel of judges representing academia and industry evaluated each community’s approach to innovative, replicable, and scalable energy efficiency programs. The 10 finalist communities were scored in weighted categories, including innovation; potential for replication; likely future performance; equitable access, community and stakeholder engagement; education; and overall quality and success. The winner was selected based on a combination of energy performance scores and the creation and advancement of new best practices over the course of the two-year energy-saving period.

“Fargo built an extraordinary program that brought together the community through partnerships, leveraged local assets, and utilized a strong benchmarking system,” said Brandes, who led the final stage of the Energy Prize and is faculty director of the master’s program in Urban and Regional Planning at Georgetown. “Fargo’s effort, which brought together the city, North Dakota State University and two local energy utilities, provides innovative, replicable, and scalable approaches to energy efficiency that could be deployed in communities nationwide.”

As a city in an oil-rich state, Fargo had only a little existing infrastructure around energy efficiency when the competition began. In two years, Fargo reduced overall energy consumption by over 172 million BTUs, to earn a ranking of fourth among the 50 semifinalists in Overall Energy Score.

Fargo developed a community partnership, eFargo, which mobilized efforts through a dedicated web portal. eFargo assembled a collection of energy-use data on a granular level, allowing the community to access and interpret both aggregated data and data by specific sector, including the energy performance of individual schools. A community engagement strategy, which included digital gamification, helped empower and educate residents.

Fargo’s notable accomplishments include:

  • Building codes - In 2015, Fargo adopted and is actively enforcing the International Energy Conservation Code, which mandates higher energy-efficiency requirements for new buildings.  
  • Waste-a-Watt games and the K-12 Energy Challenge - Designed by local school children, the “Waste-a-Watt” character empowered students and schools to become community “heroes” in recognizing and reducing energy waste. A gaming app helped track energy conservation measures implemented across the city. Through grants and the leadership of North Dakota Department of Commerce, the program is being replicated and scaled for other school districts across the state by efargo.
  • Community block development funds - The city provided financial assistance to low-to-moderate income homeowners to preserve existing housing stock in the City’s older neighborhoods.
  • “Passive Houses” - In an effort to address urban sprawl, energy efficiency and affordable housing, students at North Dakota State researched, designed and converted the site for three standard single family unit homes for four high-performance, affordable homes.
  • Replicable and scalable engagement initiatives - Fargo engaged in outreach to churches and faith-based communities and engaged institutions of higher education and local utilities.
  • Advocacy and strategic planning to ensure the future performance of Fargo’s sustainability plans - Local experts in the energy production and distribution fields formed C.L.E.A.N. (the Citizens’ Local Energy Action Network) to advocate for renewable energy and evolving technologies in transportation.

Fargo will receive a prize package that includes in-kind support toward the goal of obtaining $5 million in financing for an energy efficiency dream project, as well as workshops and education opportunities for the winning community.

“The Energy Prize competition has been an amazing catalyst and quite a change-maker for our community,” said Malini Srivastava, assistant professor of architecture at North Dakota State University and efargo Project Lead. “I look forward to seeing how Fargo can continue to build on our efforts and hope that other communities are inspired by what we achieved from humble beginnings.”

The communities in Fort Collins, Bellingham and Takoma Park also made significant achievements throughout  the competition, building on existing efforts and launching new initiatives. Judges noted Fort Collins’ ambitious long-term goals, focus on adult education outreach, and overall breadth of programming through its Lose-a-Watt campaign. Bellingham led with creative and inclusive programming to engage harder-to-reach sectors of the population, including renters and multi-family units, and developed a Green Power program to generate new capacity through renewable resources. Takoma Park achieved a high level of residential participation with its Neighborhood Energy Challenge - a competition that engaged all 18 of Takoma Park’s neighborhoods and resulted in 22 percent of all housing units (single and multi-family) completing an energy assessment.

The Energy Prize released the complete set of data and calculations which document the overall energy reduction achieved by each of the cities that completed the competition. This comprehensive data is available on its website www.guep.org. Leading up to the final stage of the competition, communities were ranked by overall energy score, which quantified each community’s energy-saving performance during the 2015 and 2016 competition years. The score measured the percentage by which a community reduced energy against its 2013 and 2014 use. The overall energy score comprised 10 percent of the final qualitative evaluation. The 10 finalist communities ranked by overall energy score follow:

  1. Chula Vista, California (-9.5450)
  2. Walla Walla, Washington  (-9.1141)
  3. Takoma Park, Maryland  (-7.8790)
  4. Fargo, North Dakota  (-6.8472)
  5. Fort Collins, Colorado  (-6.0757)
  6. Berkeley, California  (-4.7207)
  7. Oberlin, Ohio  (-4.5536)
  8. Bellingham, Washington  (-4.4243)
  9. Montpelier, Vermont  (-4.2793)
  10. Bellevue, Washington  (-4.2333)

Since 2014, 50 cities and counties across the U.S. have worked to reduce their energy consumption through engagement in the competition. At the end of 2016, these communities had collectively saved 11.5 trillion BTUs of energy, reducing their carbon emissions by an estimated 2.76 million metric tons—the equivalent of taking one car off the road for every 30 minutes of the competition—and saving nearly $100 million from municipal and household energy budgets.
“Two cities, Chula Vista and Walla Walla, achieved tremendous overall energy savings during the competition and should be commended for their performance success as well as their long-standing community efforts to advance energy savings and sustainability goals,” said Brandes, who prior to joining Georgetown was Senior Vice President of the Urban Land Institute. “We hope that by making the competition data available more communities can embrace a practice of accounting for community energy use in a transparent manner.”

“The evaluation panel was thoroughly impressed with the deeply thoughtful and creative approach so many communities took throughout the competition,” said Brandes. “Each realized substantial savings and brought greater attention to this important issue, proving that small- and medium-sized communities across the United States are in the position to design and promote innovative strategies and further national and international conversations about energy use.”

“Their ingenuity and effective performance show us what is possible and will serve as valuable models for other communities seeking to innovate their practices. They have a lot of lessons to teach us all,” said Brandes.


About Georgetown University Energy Prize

The Georgetown University Energy Prize aimed to rethink America’s energy use by harnessing the ingenuity and community spirit of towns and cities all across America. From 2013 - 2017, the Prize has challenged small- to medium-sized towns, cities, and counties to rethink their energy use, and implement creative strategies to increase efficiency. Throughout the competition, local governments, residents, utilities, and other community leaders worked together to demonstrate success in sustainably reducing energy consumption. For more information, visit www.guep.org.