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Fargo bags $5 million prize for energy saving in national competition

Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney, North Dakota State University assistant professor of architecture Malini Srivastava, Cass County Electric Cooperative CEO Marshal Albright and Uwe Brandes, executive director of the Georgetown University Energy Prize, are shown here Monday, Dec. 18, after Fargo was named the winner of a $5 million prize in a two-year, nationwide energy savings competition. Kim Hyatt / Forum News Service

FARGO — The city of Fargo has won a $5 million prize after two years of competing against 50 communities across the country in finding creative, effective ways to conserve energy and increase sustainability.

During the competition, it's estimated Fargo saved $2 million in gas and electric costs, according to Uwe Brandes, executive director of the Georgetown University Energy Prize, who came here to present the award on Monday, Dec. 18.

"Fargo built an extraordinary program that brought together the community through partnerships, leveraged local assets and a strong benchmarking system," Brandes said.

In 2014 the city signed on with the North Dakota Department of Commerce, North Dakota State University, Xcel Energy and Cass County Electric Cooperative to form a partnership called eFargo.

The collaboration led to the creation of a website that provided tips, data and games, featuring the evil character Waste-A-Watt, that showed students in Fargo and West Fargo school districts and their families how to save energy and lower utility bills.

With homes accounting for 85 percent of Fargo's energy use, Mayor Tim Mahoney said, Monday's recognition was made possible by the efforts of students, who brought home tips such as shutting off lights and using LED bulbs. The Waste-A-Watt game is being replicated for other school districts across the state.

Other energy-saving strategies involved the city providing financial assistance to low-income homeowners for weatherization and switching traffic lights to LED bulbs.

"In Fargo, we pride ourselves on expertly mining efficiencies. Today is an acknowledgement of that," Mahoney said. "I am convinced that the Georgetown University Energy Prize award will serve as a catalyst in the Fargo metro area's quest to attain real, sustainable energy savings and major carbon reductions."

Project leader and NDSU professor Malini Srivastava said the $5 million prize will be used to finance new sustainable energy projects in the community. She hopes to leverage the money to work toward a net-zero carbon future for the Fargo-Moorhead area.

"It's a cause for celebration," Srivastava said. "We're now the national leader. It gives us a responsibility to imagine an even better future with much greater savings."

Kim Hyatt

Kim Hyatt is a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and a 2014 graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth. She started her newspaper career at the Owatonna People’s Press covering arts and education. In 2016, she received Minnesota Newspaper Association's Dave Pyle New Journalist Award and later that year she joined The Forum newsroom.

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