A Community-Oriented Approach to Changing Energy Behaviors

Picture for CNEC

In a morning full of excitement, dancing, awards, and tasty food, participants in the Chicago Neighborhood Energy Challenge (CNEC) came together to celebrate their achievements in energy reduction over the last six months. The Challenge was a pilot competition to reduce energy usage among multifamily and senior living properties in the Humboldt Park and Logan Square neighborhoods.

“The Chicago Neighborhood Energy Challenge is an example of how bringing the community together can be a powerful way to address real-world challenges,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “This groundbreaking program engaged and empowered Chicago residents to address energy usage in their homes, showing them how simple actions can result in real, tangible savings for their families and the environment.”

Delta Institute partnered with Enterprise Community Partners, Affordable Community Energy and the City of Chicago on the Challenge. The team led monthly resident trainings and activities that gave participants easy-to-use, practical solutions to achieving the program’s goal of a 5-10% reduction in energy and water consumption, which program leaders knew from studying past programs nationwide, was not an easy task.

Having achieved a 20 percent average reduction in electric, gas and water use for families and property owners, the participants showed that Chicagoans are up to the task. By the end of the six-month pilot period, buildings had achieved energy savings of more than 5% in electricity, nearly 10% in gas, and more than 45% in water usage, resulting in a total of $54,000 in overall savings, with each family seeing savings of up to nearly $110 on their energy bills. Beyond these savings, the Challenge awarded top performing buildings and individuals for their energy reductions. The top performing building received $25,000 to be reinvested in the building, and the total awards amounted to $40,000 in reinvestment funds as well as gift cards for top performing participants.

In addition to the financial incentives, residents gave personal testimonies noting the importance of preserving our planet for their children and grandchildren. The residents, living in housing managed by the Hispanic Housing Development Corporation, touched on the fact that these efforts are key in sustaining their affordable housing.

Beyond the energy impacts, this program was a great way to unite the community. Vanessa Roanhorse, a senior manager at Delta Institute, said, “So many participants told me that this was the first time they had ever talked with some of their neighbors. The Challenge not only helped the property managers engage their tenants, the tenants engaged each other and built stronger communities as a result.” Alderman Rey Colón was thrilled with these results, and while congratulating the participants he remarked, “Only a community like ours could make energy savings this much fun!”

Hipolito “Paul” Roldan, Hispanic Housing Development Corporation President hailed the program as a pioneering success, and sees this as the start of a worldwide movement in consumer level reduction as a bigger part of climate change mitigation. He said, “We are now committed to ensuring we continue these new activities and behaviors, and sharing what we have learned with other residents and family members.”


For more information about this program read the City of Chicago’s press release, Enterprise Community Partner’s website, Affordable Community Energy, or visit the Hispanic Housing Development Corporation’s website here

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