Energy Efficiency for Rural Communities

Period of Performance: 01/01/2012 - 12/31/2012


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Ames, IA 50010
Principal Investigator
Firm POC


Rural communities, comprised of both residential and commercial buildings, are struggling to maintain their populations and the vitality of their downtown districts and schools. They are spending significant dollars on energy bills and wasting as much as 25% of that energy. Buildings accounted for 81% ($294 billion) of total dollars spent on U.S. electricity in 2008 and consumed more than 50% of the natural gas. A community-based energy efficiency program that involves community leaders and residents in energy conservation and efficiency efforts can reduce waste and save money to improve the bottom lines for private citizens, companies, non-profits and local government. Operations and management best practices can save 5% to 20% on energy bills without investing significant capital. Depending on building size and use, this can represent savings of hundreds to hundreds-of-thousands of dollars annually for each building. The School for Energy Efficiency (SEE) program was developed by CLASS 5, Inc. and is distributed in Iowa by Krell Energy Efficiency, LLC (KEE). School districts enrolled in SEE for four or more years have reduced their energy use by an average of over 20% through behavioral and operational changes. KEE will do the research in Phase I to show feasibility that the set of strategies (the CLASS 5 Process) that have a successful track record for energy reduction in large school systems can be restructured and re-priced to be successful for buildings that make up rural communities. We will work with two rural pilot communities: Manning in southwest Iowa and Charles City in northeast Iowa. We will evaluate the CLASS 5 Process used in SEE within our pilot communities and show the feasibility of: 1) energy reduction within a highly heterogeneous set of community buildings; 2) implementing the CLASS 5 process as a community-wide, sustainable energy efficiency program; 3) partnering with energy providers in the communities; and 4) developing a financial and pricing model that will provide a positive ROI on dollars invested by the community. Within each community, a set of buildings will be selected from a variety of sectors. An energy survey and detailed analysis of the energy consumption of each building will be completed. The average energy usage and energy cost per square foot are required to ascertain feasibility of developing a cost-effective energy efficiency program for the communities. In order to gain a better understanding of factors and issues in each of the communities, the relationships among institutional areas, and the potential for purposeful and united action on the part of the community, we will conduct interviews and small group discussions with community members and decision makers. Insights from the energy surveys of buildings and the community interviews will direct the development of a pricing model. Our goal will be to provide an ROI that allows community stakeholders to purchase the energy efficiency program. We will also gain insight into how future implementation of the program would proceed and how it could build community cohesion and pride.