From weatherizing windows to upgrading commercial refrigeration units, there is a lot of great energy-efficiency work happening in Michigan’s businesses and homes. The trouble is, many people don’t know it.

The first Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards (GEEA) are a way to recognize that work and inspire the energy-efficiency leaders of the future.

In his 2012 special message on energy, Gov. Rick Snyder said, “Energy efficiency doesn’t mean doing less; it means doing as much or more, but using less energy to get it done. Energy efficiency is the best example of a no-regrets policy Michigan can have.”

The GEEA is an opportunity for Michigan to acknowledge and pay tribute to organizations and individuals who are quietly accomplishing some exceptional energy-efficiency work.

“We hope bringing visibility to these energy-efficiency leaders and celebrating their successes will encourage others to do the same,” says Selma Tucker, director of marketing and communications for Michigan Saves.

Michigan Saves is chairing the awards steering committee, assembling an impressive array of stakeholders representing utilities, nonprofits, contractors and municipalities invested in energy efficiency. In addition to coordinating the behind-the-scenes details, the steering committee will vet nominations and recommend finalists. The winners, however, are chosen by the governor.

There are eight award categories:

  • Contractor of the Year
  • Innovator of the Year
  • Best Projects: Residential
  • Best Projects: Commercial (Private)
  • Best Projects: Public
  • Best Projects: Industrial/Manufacturing
  • Best Projects: Agriculture
  • Best Communication or Education Program

The categories highlight the diversity of what can be achieved in the realm of energy efficiency.

Impacts of the awards have the potential to be equally diverse and widespread. A 2013 Michigan Public Service Commission and Michigan Energy Office report says 30 percent of energy currently used in the state could be eliminated by utilizing more energy-efficient sources. Increased energy-efficiency initiatives also build jobs and the economy, while moving the state toward responsible energy sustainability, which is a goal of the Michigan Agency for Energy, an event sponsor.

“The Michigan Agency for Energy is honored to sponsor the first Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards,” says Valerie Brader, the agency’s executive director. “These awards signify the innovative efforts undertaken by Michiganders when it comes to reducing energy waste in the state and are just one step in implementing an adaptable ‘no-regrets’ energy policy – one built on affordability, reliability and environmental protection.”

In addition to the Michigan Agency for Energy, CLEAResult, Consumers Energy, DTE Energy, Dow and the Michigan Municipal Electric Association are not only award sponsors, but examples of organizations taking action to make their operations, constituents and customers energy efficient.

A number of organizations came together on the GEEA steering committee to make the awards possible, including:

The awards are slated to be an annual event, and those interested in energy matters are encouraged to take part.

“The best way to get involved is by doing your own project,” says Tucker. “Other ways include submitting a nomination next year or getting inspired by reading the case studies we release, which will be posted to the Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards website following the awards in September.”

Through the efforts of dedicated and visionary leaders, Michigan has emerged as a leader in innovative, effective practices. It’s high time we celebrate those successes — if only for one day — then get right back to making an impact on energy efficiency in our state.