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In 2000, several folks from the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) had a new idea about community energy and formed the Community Energy Cooperative. Following widespread blackouts in the Chicago area, the Cooperative aimed to utilize community collaboration to reduce energy demand.


With CNT, Community Energy Cooperative created Energy-Smart Pricing Plan, an innovative initiative that let residential customers pay hourly, market-based electricity prices. This program was unique at its time, and was so successful that the state of Illinois enacted a law in 2006 that required the state’s major utilities to offer an hourly electricity pricing option to residential customers.


As our energy expertise grew, we changed our name to CNT Energy. Our hourly pricing programs were now available to households across Illinois. We also launched Energy Savers, a one-stop shop that helped multifamily building owners retrofit existing buildings to save energy and money.


At 10 years old, CNT Energy was still growing. We continued our energy efficiency retrofit work through Energy Impact Illinois. We also were starting to expand into other areas such as energy planning, water efficiency, and lead abatement work.


We officially become Elevate Energy, with a goal of smarter energy use for all. Our staff was growing, so we moved to a new office (LEED certified, like our previous CNT headquarters). We extended our building retrofit programs to include nonprofits, and we started working in solar and water conservation. Our work was also taking us to new markets across the country!


In 2017 the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) went into effect as Illinois law, creating new energy opportunities across the state. As a result, our energy efficiency programs grew, specifically for low-income housing, public housing, and nonprofits. FEJA also lead to our Clean Energy Jobs Accelerator, training diverse individuals for careers in the clean energy economy. Illinois Solar for All launched in 2019, bringing equitable solar access to low-income communities across the state.


As part the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, Elevate helped design and advocate legislation for the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, which was passed as Illinois law in 2021. We launched a new statewide lead testing and training program LeadCare Illinois as the administrator. Our work also continued to expand in Wisconsin, Michigan, Missouri, Oregon, and Washington.


We’ve been working with sustainable, resilient communities now for over 20 years. Our work continues to expand beyond energy efficiency to water, solar, electrification, environmental health, and workforce development. New partnerships have taken our work across the country, and even international. As Elevate looks toward the future, we are using our years of experience to identify solutions that help create safe and healthy housing for all communities.


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