The Story of CEE

The Story of CEE

Started in 1991 by seven utilities and advocacy groups, CEE was established as an organization of, by, and for energy efficiency program administrators. CEE founders recognized both the potential to influence national markets when working together and the difficulty of doing so solely in their own regions. Another key element was including a specification of efficiency that many program administrators could use when adopting an initiative. Dissimilarities among members actually proved to be a strength as the various demands and conditions of members, along with feedback from manufacturers, relevant stakeholders, and service providers, honed CEE work. By uniting efforts through a purposeful, independent nonprofit, administrators could create common understanding, identify program-ready technologies, and work with manufacturers to encourage efficient technologies.

CEE has shown steady growth. State after state and province after province now look to energy efficiency, primarily through ratepayer funded programs, to address resource acquisition, reduction of greenhouse gases, and system reliability. The energy efficiency program industry has evolved as a result. From seven founding members in three states, CEE has grown to encompass nearly 70% of the industry in North America. By adopting CEE initiatives, members now lead significant US and Canadian efforts to influence markets. Federal efficiency policy supports state efficiency endeavors and encourages voluntary efforts, especially through ENERGY STAR®. In addition to government, CEE considers the business environment, specifically the research and development perspectives of various industries and their market information. Over time, CEE has developed strategic relationships with industries that operate in markets where there is perceived value in efficient products.

The CEE role is not to develop or implement programs delivered at the local level, but to provide binational initiatives as foundational to local programs thereby influencing national players—manufacturers, trade associations, standard setting organizations, and government agencies—to maximize the collective impact in the market. Energy efficiency is the heart and soul of CEE; load management and demand flexibility can work hand-in-hand to broaden our impact, particularly with regard to grid balancing at a time of greater penetration of clean but intermittent renewables. CEE also supports crosscutting program opportunities in emerging technology, behavior change, and program evaluation.

By joining forces at CEE, individual electric and gas efficiency program administrators support strategic initiatives that influence North American markets. They can partner not only with each other but also with industry, trade associations, and government agencies. Working together, members leverage the resource of their ratepayer funding, exchange information on successful practices, determine consensus performance goals across a range of products for local promotion, and, by doing so, achieve greater energy efficiency for the public good.

Three characteristics mark the success CEE initiatives have at ramping up efforts to meet growing demands for efficiency.


Performance claims and savings benefits are scrutinized through a variety of lenses before any assumptions are made. For program administrators to reach national markets, CEE initiatives and specifications must be based on solid research, meet program administrator needs, and identify program-ready products and services. Many program administrators are able to voluntarily adopt CEE initiatives, which in turn creates a critical mass of market influence.


As CEE initiatives are made available, program administrators in the United States and Canada adopt common definitions and market understanding into their programs. Manufacturers and service providers have a clear understanding of expectations for efficiency and can react with confidence.


CEE members also leverage market entities to ensure success. Brand platforms, such as ENERGY STAR®, provide an avenue for programs to reach consumers. Trade associations inform their members about efficiency program needs. Each opportunity involves different market players, and these entities are incorporated when they can contribute to initiative success.

As efficiency administrators are called upon to achieve higher savings targets and broader social goals, their CEE membership is there to support them. CEE acts exclusively on behalf of efficiency programs; our only goal is to support member work.

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