Southeastern US communities embrace collaboration to save energy

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As communities strive for $5 million Georgetown University Energy Prize, they’re building partnerships, raising awareness and bringing positive change to their neighborhoods

MILWAUKEE – (May 27, 2016) – They say it takes smart connected cities and efficient buildings to make things happen. In the case of Chattanooga, Tennessee, it has taken a village of organizations, businesses, public officials and residents, all working collaboratively together, to make the smart city a national leader in energy efficiency.

That was the main takeaway from the third Georgetown University Energy Prize workshop recently held in Chattanooga and hosted by Johnson Controls, the prize’s strategic energy education partner. Workshop attendees – who came from Chattanooga as well as Huntsville, Alabama; Knoxville, Tennessee; Calhoun County, Arkansas; Winter Park, Florida; and Takoma Park, Maryland – shared their challenges and solutions in trying to make their communities more energy efficient and reduce carbon emissions.

Chattanooga, for example, has embraced a spirit of collaboration. Once considered the dirtiest city in America and now a model for urban renewal, Chattanooga has involved the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the regional power generator and distributor; EPB, the local utility provider; the mayor’s office, grassroots organizations like green spaces, businesses and residents – all committed to making Chattanooga a better place to live, work and play.

“Once again, we’re noticing that all of the communities involved in the Georgetown University Energy Prize are truly forming bonds and becoming unified,” said Lisa Brown, national director for local government, Johnson Controls Building Efficiency. “They’re interested in themes that we consistently hear when speaking with municipal leaders across the country – there’s a need for resiliency, renewable energy and communities to work closely with business constituents. It’s exciting to see this groundswell of activity.”

Michael Walton, executive director of green spaces, could not agree more. He noted that Chattanooga, known as “Gig City” because it has the fastest Internet service in the country available to city and rural areas equally, has always been open to new ideas and making connections.

Chattanooga is one of 50 communities competing for the $5 million prize, which will be awarded to one community in early 2017. Those 50 communities have collectively saved more than $58 million in energy costs over the past two years (January 2015-present). In that respect, all of the communities are winners, according to Christofer Nelson, the prize’s project director.

“They’re winners not only for the financial benefits they’re getting, but also for the economic development, community building, and partnerships across their communities as well as across the country that are being developed as a result of the prize,” said Nelson.

Gina Mathias, sustainability manager for the City of Takoma Park, said her community finalized a Sustainable Energy Action Plan in 2014, identifying 17 key strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. More recently, Takoma Park announced the winners of its Neighborhood Energy Challenge, a year-long competition to reduce energy use. The two winning teams each received $2,000 for sustainability-related projects in their neighborhoods.

“The Georgetown prize provides focus on residential and municipal energy efficiency programs,” said Mathias. “Those are already part of our sustainability energy action plan. The prize just gave us that focus to do it now, in these two years of the competition.”

For more information on how Chattanooga and other Southeastern U.S. communities are collaborating to save energy, please view the video at

Madison, Wisconsin will host the fourth workshop on June 7. The keynote speaker will be Clay Nesler, vice president, global energy and sustainability, Johnson Controls. For more details and to sign up for the workshop, go to

About Johnson Controls

Johnson Controls is a global diversified technology and industrial leader serving customers in more than 150 countries. Our 150,000 employees create quality products, services and solutions to optimize energy and operational efficiencies of buildings; lead-acid automotive batteries and advanced batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles; and seating components and systems for automobiles. Our commitment to sustainability dates back to our roots in 1885, with the invention of the first electric room thermostat. Through our growth strategies and by increasing market share we are committed to delivering value to shareholders and making our customers successful. In 2016, Corporate Responsibility Magazine recognized Johnson Controls as the #17 company in its annual "100 Best Corporate Citizens" list. For additional information, please visit or follow us @johnsoncontrols on Twitter.

About Johnson Controls’ Building Efficiency

Johnson Controls’ Building Efficiency has an unmatched portfolio of HVACR products and solutions to create more comfortable, safe and efficient buildings. Operating in more than 150 countries through a strong network of distribution channels, Building Efficiency’s breadth of offerings help building owners, operators, engineers and consultants impact the full lifecycle of a building. Its market leadership is established through trusted brands such as YORK®, Sabroe® and Metasys® as well as its smart building integration capabilities and energy financing solutions. For more information, visit or follow @JCI_BEnews.

About Georgetown University Energy Prize

The Georgetown University Energy Prize challenges towns, cities and counties to rethink their energy use and implement creative strategies to increase efficiency. Currently, a select group of communities are leading the way by bringing together their local governments, residents and utilities, and to demonstrate success in reducing energy consumption over a two-year period. For more information, visit

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