Promoting a long-term solution to unaffordable utility bills is not easy. In the past, efforts to provide energy efficiency services in Knoxville were not always well-coordinated, and funding for energy efficiency programs could not keep pace with the needs of so many struggling families. Energy education materials lacked a consistent message and often failed to effectively reach those most in need of information. To address these issues, the City formed the Smarter Cities Partnership, bringing together 20+ local partners to address these persistent challenges by coordinating local resources and seeking new funding to support energy efficiency. Through this unified vision and collaborative leadership, local partners designed and attracted an unprecedented amount of funding for KEEM, which offers free energy upgrades to lower-income families and provides robust energy efficiency education workshops to the entire community.
Since 2015, the Knoxville Extreme Energy Makeover Program (KEEM) has provided energy efficiency upgrades to more than 1,250 lower-income families and has educated more than 1,700 residents on habits that save energy and reduce utility costs. For each participating home, KEEM aims to reduce electricity use by 25% annually, which amounts to annual total CO2 emissions reductions of 3,883.4 tonnes. KEEM has already exceeded its initial carbon reduction goals, with participants averaging 31% in expected annual electricity savings per home—equivalent to approximately $450 savings per year for each family. KEEM prioritizes citizen engagement and empowerment, and has used innovative community outreach methods to reach, teach, and serve thousands of residents. For example, recognizing the importance of building community resilience, KEEM partnered with a local community organization to support green career training for at-risk young adults, who provided grassroots neighborhood outreach and education and helped recruit participants.
KEEM's work is a long-term investment in the Knoxville community. By investing in homes, creating jobs, supporting local businesses, teaching life-long habits, and improving energy efficiency, KEEM creates lasting and meaningful economic, environmental, and social impacts. Families experience greater financial stability, local emissions of carbon and air pollutants decrease, and residents are empowered to take control of their utility costs. By 2018, partners also hope to have quantitative data illustrating the positive impact of KEEM on residents' health. KEEM’s many benefits have inspired on-going investment in energy efficiency—initial program funding from the regional utility has already leveraged millions of dollars in additional, sustainable local support for lower-income energy programs.