Back in 1995, among a mangrove swamp in Florida, the seeds of Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP) were beginning to be planted. Two friends, Sue Coakley and Dave Hewitt, decided to attend a national conference of utility commissioners (NARUC) a day early to do some canoeing in the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve. It was during this canoe ride that the idea of NEEP was born.
The energy efficiency landscape was very different in the 90s than it is today. Energy efficiency programs were at an early stage, utility restructuring was underway, and energy costs were relatively high. Regulators and utilities alike began to realize that efficiency could help them lower the demand for new, more expensive generation.
According to Dave, it was while paddling through the mangroves outside of Tampa that they formed the beginning ideas of NEEP. “Market transformation was around and people were working on it. We thought there was enough similarity in some of the Northeast states that we should be working jointly. To do this, we needed high level support from the utilities. That was the seed of NEEP,” said Hewitt.
The next day Sue and Dave pitched the idea during a conference session on market transformation and received great support. Within a year Sue had won funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a handful of utilities, drafted her first board of directors, and NEEP was incorporated.
As Sue was naming the organization, the same idea was being picked up in the Northwest. Today there are six regional energy efficiency organizations (REEOs) (link to REEO page) across the nation.
“NEEP and other early regional energy efficiency organizations were formed when it became clear that strategic multi-state collaboration among energy efficiency actors was needed to effectively advance efficiency and transform markets for the long term.We needed all hands rowing in the same direction: utilities, state and federal agencies, and very importantly, market actors,” Sue said.”
In the beginning NEEP was a start-up, working out of Sue’s house. At the time, NEEP’s programs were focused on ENERGY STAR products such as lighting and appliances since NEEP’s first grant from the EPA was created to fund a regional organization to help states and utilities partner with the EPA and build brand recognition for its new program, ENERGY STAR.
NEEP eventually moved from Sue’s house to Militia Drive in Lexington. While the organization was growing physically, it was also achieving its goal of encouraging adoption of ENERGY STAR incentives. Market transformation was beginning to happen when manufacturers had to be relevant to the high efficiency standards of ENERGY STAR products and, in 2004, a law was passed that established minimum efficiency standards for a range of products.
Another area NEEP assisted market transformation was in lighting. Back in 1998, the DesignLights Consortium (DLC) “Know How” lighting series was started. Over the years, the DLC grew until it became an international program. It grew so much that in 2017, NEEP spun it off as its own non-profit.
In the middle of enjoying rising popularity of the DLC, NEEP made the move to 91 Hartwell Avenue in Lexington, and then in 2017 moved next door to 81 Hartwell Avenue – NEEP’s current home.
Though NEEP has worked with its partners to encourage significant market transformation since its inception, it’s constantly pushing for more and more change.
“I’ve done this long enough to know that sometimes you might be the first one to do it or someone might beat you at it but we don’t have to be the market solution,” Sue said, “What we need is the solution to be broadly available in the market. Sometimes you have to start it, maybe other people can finish it better than you, doesn’t matter. The point is you get it done.”