Allamakee County Community Foundation supports energy district formation

Impassioned Allamakee County residents have convened to form the Allamakee County Energy District, a grassroots effort to facilitate energy planning and coaching for families, businesses and organizations; advocate for clean energy legislation; and promote clean energy programs, such as LED bulb exchanges, home assessments and education.  

Exploratory conversations among enthusiasts of clean, local energy began in April, after the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque hosted a Regional Roundtable gathering that included discussions about the work of energy districts in Northeast Iowa. The event was supported by a grant from the Nathan Cummings Foundation to unite communities in grassroots efforts to provide clean, local energy and spark localized energy opportunities. 

Founding board members include Dave Blocker, John Blake, Donald Ellingson, Brian Feuerhelm, Dean Sorensen, Jack Sweeney and Betty Steege. Steege is the coordinator of the Allamakee County Community Foundation, an affiliate of the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, and attended the April Regional Roundtable.

After officially organizing, the Allamakee County Energy District became eligible for a $3,000 matching grant through the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque to launch its efforts. The Allamakee County Community Foundation has stepped up to provide the required match.

“We view the mission of energy districts as a strong companion strategy to our mission of strengthening communities through wealth retention from growing endowments,” said M.J. Smith, director of affiliate foundations at the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque. 

“‘Green meets green,’ the energy district tagline, means that individuals, families, businesses and organizations can save money while also stewarding our natural resources,” Smith added. “Energy districts serve income-eligible seniors, veterans and disabled individuals first with energy assessment planning and coaching.” 

The Allamakee County Energy District is part of a larger trend, as energy districts have been forming throughout the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque’s service area. Energy districts have been established in Delaware, Clayton and Dubuque Counties, and formation is underway in Jackson County. 

The first energy district was incorporated in Winneshiek County in 2010, led by founder Andy Johnson. Johnson is now regarded as the father of the energy district movement and is a founding member of the Clean Energy Districts of Iowa, also started with funding from the Nathan Cummings Foundation.

“Communities are embracing our ‘green meets green’ philosophy,” said Johnson, who is helping facilitate the startup in Allamakee. “Everyone loves the win-win scenario of emitting less carbon, which is good for the planet, and saving money on a utility bill, which certainly benefits the local economy.” 

For a deeper look at the impact an energy district can make, browse the Geography of Change publication from the Winneshiek Energy District.

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