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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

12/18/2017 4:00 p.m.

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

The City of Fargo, North Dakota has been 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.

Over a two-year period, Fargo reduced overall energy consumption by over 172 million British Thermal Units (BTUs), to earn a ranking of fourth among the 50 semifinalists’ overall energy scores. In the final round, 10 top-performing cities and counties were evaluated by a panel of judges representing academia and industry. 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. Fargo was selected as the winner 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.

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.”

“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.”

Fargo developed efargo, a community partnership 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 and physical games, helped empower and educate residents.

“The Energy Prize competition has been a catalyst and change-maker for our community,” said Malini Srivastava, assistant professor of architecture at North Dakota State University and efargo Project Lead. “Ultimately it was ‘people power,’ the pulling-together of community efforts and active partnerships that have resulted in savings. I look forward to seeing how Fargo can continue to build on these efforts and hope that other communities are inspired by what we achieved from humble beginnings.”

Mayor Tim Mahoney remarked, “In Fargo, we pride ourselves on expertly mining efficiencies. This honor is both an acknowledgement of past successes and a challenge to do even better in the future. Our area researchers, youth, utility companies, citizens and private industry combined their efforts to make today possible. I am convinced that the Georgetown University Energy Prize award will serve as a catalyst in the Fargo metro area’s quest to attain real, sustainable energy savings and major carbon reductions. This is a huge day for Fargo and again places us on the national stage in recognition of our innovative concepts, the fusion of our community partners’ contributions and the ability to work together for the greater good.”

The efargo Team (

  • efargo PROJECT TEAM (NDSU and City of Fargo):
    • Project Champions: Mayor Tim Mahoney (City of Fargo), Mike Williams (community member)
  • Project Lead: Malini Srivastava (ALA - NDSU)
  • Municipal Project Lead: Dan Mahli (now at City of Moorhead)
  • Technology Lead: Peter Atwood (now at Boston College of Architecture)
  • NDSU faculty and staff collaborators include:
    • Faculty collaborator: Mike Christenson (ALA – NDSU)
    • efargo Fellows: Troy Raisanen and Dylan Neururer
  • Since Fall 2014, NDSU students have worked with Srivastava to research, design and implement eFargo. A total of 25 undergraduate and graduate research assistants have helped research, design and implement eFargo strategies. They include Amber Grindeland, Mackenzie Lyseng, Ian Schimke, Nick Braaksma, Dylan Neururer, Gretta Berens, Peter Mueller, Alex Jansen, Noah Thompson, Ben Dalton, Noor Abdelhamid, Josh Highley, Aaron Warner, Samantha Marihart, Amy Mueller, Ryan Gapp, Sarah Watson, Rachel Marsh, Mitchell Nagel, Cari Roberts, Ryan Gram, Rachel Grider, Amy McDonald, Taylor Schuman and Nate Wallestad.
    • Other NDSU faculty contributors include Dr. Huojun Yang, Dr. Anne Denton and Dr. Rajesh Kavasseri.
  • City of Fargo interns also joined the team during summer breaks. They include Paige Vance, Kristina Kaupa and Kristina Heggedal.
  • Utility Partners
    • Xcel Energy: Mark Nisbet
    • Cass County Electric Cooperative: Marshal Albright

Information about the GUEP:
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

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.

Fargo’s notable accomplishments include:

  • “Waste-a-Watt” Games and Challenges - Designed by the efargo team and 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 the North Dakota Department of Commerce, the program is being replicated and scaled for other school districts across the state by efargo.
  • “Passive Houses” - In an effort to address urban sprawl, energy efficiency and affordable housing, students at North Dakota State University researched, designed and converted the site for three standard single family unit homes for four high-performance, affordable homes.
  • Replicable and scalable community engagement initiatives - Fargo engaged in outreach at schools, libraries, public events (markets and malls), churches and faith-based communities and engaged institutions of higher education and local utilities.
  • Community block development funds - The City provided financial assistance to low- income homeowners for weatherization and to preserve existing housing stock in the City’s older neighborhoods.
  • Advocacy initiated by community members - 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.
  • Building codes - Fargo adopted and is actively enforcing the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code.

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 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 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)
  6. Oberlin, Ohio (-4.5536)
  7. Bellingham, Washington (-4.4243)
  8. Montpelier, Vermont (-4.2793)
  9. Bellevue, Washington (-4.2333)

GUEP Judges:

  • Jim Barrett, executive director, National Energy and Water Trust
  • Robert M. Groves, provost, Georgetown University
  • Jennifer Layke, global director of the Energy Program, World Resources Institute
  • Paasha Mahdavi, assistant professor, Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy
  • Brian McCabe, associate professor, Sociology, Georgetown University
  • Clay Nesler, vice president of Global Energy and Sustainability, Johnson Controls
  • Bill Novelli, professor of the practice and founder, Global Social Enterprise Initiative Georgetown University McDonough School of Business
  • Christopher Pyke, research officer, U.S. Green Building Council
  • Tim Warren, Richard D. Vorisek professor of chemistry, and co-chair, Georgetown Environment Initiative, Georgetown University