Place-Based Power: Communities and Utilities

NPC17 attendee
APA member
List Price
Group viewing

You'll learn about:

  • Understand the strategies and barriers of current efforts by cities and local governments to lead on climate change and energy planning and the simultaneous approaches to energy efficiency and renewable energy by utilities in the United States

  • Delve into the evidence that low-income households—and as such, sometimes entire communities —face  several distinct barriers to existing approaches

  • Explore a new framework in which utilities, cities, and partners work together to connect local communities to renewable energy, efficiency, and energy self-sufficiency while meeting city-level climate goals and breaking down utility program silos


Cities are increasingly leading efforts to reduce energy use, help residents and businesses save money on energy costs, and meet broader economic and sustainability goals. Many leading municipalities have developed climate action plans with aggressive targets and sophisticated strategies for reducing energy use by sector. Meanwhile, utilities across the country are working to adapt to a changing energy landscape. The industry is responding to increasingly erratic weather wrought by climate change, demand for renewables and distributed generation by customers, increasing efficiency mandates, and threats to their business model.

However, as both municipalities and utilities work to address these issues, we struggle to adequately serve low-income populations, who increasingly feel the largest energy burden as they tend to live in more energy-intensive homes and pay a higher proportion of their income for utilities. Increasing numbers of households in the United States are low-income, are underserved by utility energy efficiency programs, and face barriers to distributed generation and innovative rate design. Moreover, poverty is increasing. Low-income households tend to live clustered in communities, many of which suffer from disinvestment across the housing, transportation, and community development sectors. This presentation will delve deep into these geographically-related challenges and provide strategies and case studies for how utilities and municipalities can work together to implement local community-based approaches when addressing energy and climate resiliency. 

About the Speakers

Jennifer Edwards
Jenny is the Director of the Innovation Exchange at the Center for Energy and Environment, a Minneapolis-based non-profit that runs energy efficiency programs, financing, community planning and policy, and conducts research. Among many roles at CEE, Jenny conducts research and analytic work to support CEE’s policy and program activities, and directs the organization’s community engagement and peer-to-peer technical outreach activities. Jenny has been involved in energy analysis and planning work at the local, utility, and federal level for over 15 years. She has previously worked at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, UC Berkeley, and the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota. She holds a B.A. in physics from UC Berkeley and a Master’s in City Planning from MIT.

Belinda Wordlaw
Belinda (Lindy) Wordlaw is a certified planner with a wealth of experience, working with municipal groups since 1999, first at the municipal level in both development and neighborhood planning, and now for a nonprofit agency that focuses on urban sustainability. Since 2004 she has worked to integrate sustainable energy use into mainstream planning processes. In retrospect, it seems obvious: governments need to plan for the future energy use of their communities, just as they consider water use, land use, transportation, and other factors. But Lindy was on the leading edge of educating local leaders about the importance of energy planning, using persistence and diplomacy to build consensus and set the stage for long term sustainability. Starting in 2004, she led the Kane County Energy Solutions project, which predicted growth in Kane County’s energy demand (based on projected population growth and land use changes) and recommended strategies for mitigation. Recent projects have included the Decatur Sustainability Plan, an Oak Park River Forest Baseline Metric Study, the Kane County 2040 Energy Plan, a regional energy analysis for the seven-county planning area of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), and a project that provided energy and emissions profiles to all 276 municipalities in the Chicago metropolitan region. Lindy is currently the Senior Manager of Public Sector Programs at Elevate Energy and oversees energy retrofit work, benchmarking implementation and consultation, and energy/sustainability planning work for buildings and units of local government. She was recently appointed to serve as an adjunct lecturer at the University of Illinois (Chicago) to teach an energy planning and policy graduate course in Fall 2014.