The Knoxville Extreme Energy Makeover (KEEM) program was honored with a 2017 Southface Fulcrum Award at the 19th annual Greenprints Conference held in Atlanta, March 7 – 8.
KEEM launched in August 2015 as a project of the Smarter Cities Partnership, a group of 20-plus community groups committed to finding long-term solutions for low-income residents burdened with high utility bills due to aging housing.
“Each year, our community spends millions of dollars to provide financial assistance to families struggling to pay their utility bills,” said Erin Gill, director of the City of Knoxville’s Office of Sustainability, who submitted the KEEM program for consideration. “KEEM helps families make those bills more affordable long-term by improving the energy efficiency of the home.”
Piggybacking on the Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee’s existing Weatherization Assistance Program, KEEM provides no-cost, whole-home, direct-install energy efficiency retrofit services for income-eligible residents. To date, KEEM has helped more than 900 families and expects that total to increase to more than 1,270 by the time the program ends in September 2017.
KEEM also provides regular Savings in the House workshops, which are open to all residents and promote no- and low-cost energy-saving habits, like turning off lights and adjusting the thermostat by a few degrees.
“Families who’ve had KEEM makeovers are seeing significant savings on their electric bill,” said CAC Executive Director Barbara Kelly. “Not being hit with a higher-than-expected bill when the weather’s really hot or really cold makes families more financially secure and less likely to miss rent payments, go hungry or become homeless.”
Jurors named KEEM one of the three “exemplary” projects (out of 10 total submissions) and commended the program especially for its intent to be replicated in other communities and cities.
“We believe KEEM is a model that other communities can replicate to empower their residents to take control of their utility bills,” Gill says.
The jury was also impressed with the partnerships the project is built upon. KEEM is funded by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which selected Knoxville to receive $15 million in funding through the TVA Smart Communities: Extreme Energy Makeovers project. The Knoxville-Knox County CAC manages the program.
Additional KEEM partners include the City of Knoxville, Knoxville Utilities Board, and Alliance to Save Energy. This “KEEM Team” works with myriad other partners in the community to make the program a success, including the Knoxville Chamber, East Tennessee Foundation, Knoxville Community Development Corporation, SEEED, and many others.
The other two projects honored are both based in Atlanta:
- Pro-park nonprofit organization Park Pride’s project combined greenspace and sewer system improvements to improve economic and environmental situations.
- Project Tap In began as a water-quality project of 15 10th-graders at the New School Atlanta and, with the help of several area organizations, grew into a community-wide outreach effort with a central database.
Now in its second year, Southface Fulcrum Awards program recognizes efforts that “demonstrate excellence in pursuing Southface’s vision: a regenerative economy, responsible resources use and social equity through a healthy built environment for all.”
Learn more at www.southface.org.
For more information about KEEM visit keemteam.com.