Minnesota Energy Star Challenge Aims for Efficiency, Savings

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Energy Star Challenge, announced Aug. 4, sets a lofty yet attainable goal for the state’s building owners: Certify 1,000 buildings through the Energy Star program over the next decade while also achieving 20 perfect energy savings over pre-program levels.

The challenge seeks to engage building owners all across the state to promote long-term sustainability. It was organized by the Great Plains Institute (GPI), a non-partisan non-profit organization that uses consensus-based strategies to discover and implement politically durable solutions to society’s most pressing energy and climate challenges; the U.S. Green Building Council – Minnesota; and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Energy Smart Program, an Energy Star partner that has benchmarked numerous buildings that have achieved the Energy Star rating. Financial support is being provided through a grant from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency as well as in-kind contributions from state utilities.

The challenge’s primary goal is to lessen environmental impacts that result from excessive energy use in the built environment, according to a statement published by the three organizing groups. Nearly 20 percent of the nation’s total carbon dioxide emissions come from commercial buildings. On average, buildings that are Energy Star certified use 35 percent less energy than comparable non-certified buildings, reducing air emissions as well as operating costs, according to the statement.

“Minnesota building owners are embracing energy efficiency and the cost savings that result, but there’s so much more to do,” said GPI President and CEO Rolf Nordstrom in a statement, noting that more than 600 commercial buildings in Minnesota are currently Energy Star certified. “In many cases, building energy efficiency investments can be made — and paid for with energy savings achieved — in a relatively short period of time, making those investments a win for the environment and a win for business owners’ pocket books.”

Through the challenge program, commercial building owners can receive free educational resources and technical assistance related to energy benchmarking as well as energy reduction strategies. Participating owners can also receive national recognition through the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and visibility on the program’s website and media and the USGBC’s Green Building Information Gateway. Certain qualified buildings may also be eligible for free technical assistance for upgrades or other measures, according to the organizers. All assistance will be given on a first-come, first-serve basis. Facilities that do not qualify for Energy Star certification may still be able to receive free or reduced services to help benchmark and identify energy savings projects. Buildings located in Minneapolis are not eligible to receive assistance through the Minnesota Energy Star Challenge.

“We look forward to offering our energy consultation and benchmarking services to Minnesota businesses that step up to the challenge,“ said Minnesota Chamber Director of Environment Sustainability Programs Jill Curran in a statement. “This certification is a great way for businesses to show the world that they are walking the energy-efficiency talk.”

All owners and managers of existing buildings located in Minnesota with eligible properties may participate in the program, which will run until January 2017 with recognition in April 2017. More information on the Minnesota Energy Star Challenge can be found at www.mnenergystarchallenge.com.

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