Community Effort Brings Energy Efficiency to Fairfield, Iowa

Fairfield residents at weatherization workshopAMES, Iowa — The city of Fairfield is leading the pack on energy efficiency and “going green.” Scott Timm, a community economic development specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, has been spearheading this citywide energy movement since 2009.

Timm was the director of an environmentally focused school in Costa Rica before taking the position in Fairfield. He explained that the first few years of the plan were focused on educating Fairfield residents on ways to reduce their energy consumption and costs. “We did a lot of work that was really focused on helping people learn how to do things centered around sustainability,” said Timm. “The first few years were focused on a wide range of topics - from organic gardening to raising bees.”

Focus on Energy

“We turned our focus to energy in 2012, when we were selected by Alliant Energy for the Hometown Rewards efficiency program,” said Timm. The two-year program encourages all members of the community to create and embrace energy management options and opportunities. Working with Alliant Energy, the city set energy saving goals and put in place its Go Green Plan. The plan is based around identifying the city’s energy consumption, implementing new energy saving strategies and measuring the results of the plan.

“Through the program, we have 10 goals and 37 strategies,” said Timm. “A third party measures our energy use and participation goals.” If Fairfield reaches its goals, it will receive a cash reward, which will be used for an energy efficiency project.

youth installs insulation around basement windowThe program offers monthly workshops for people to learn about specific energy efficiency topics. Timm explained that the workshops give people hands-on experience with energy efficiency and information on loans and rebates related to home and business energy efficiency. Fairfield residents also are eligible for Jefferson County’s Energy Rewards Loan Program for their homes and businesses. The program helps make energy products and projects more affordable.  

Timm explains that the town “has met 80 percent of its goals, and fully expects to complete all goals by the end of August.” To reach these goals, citizens have cut down on electricity by turning off lights and unplugging unused electronics. They also have invested in energy-efficient upgrades, such as compact fluorescent bulbs, new insulation and appliances. Fairfield’s goal of a 4 percent residential energy reduction has been shattered with an 8.5 percent decrease. Commercially, the city’s goal was to decrease energy consumption by 4 percent as well, which has now reached 8 percent. To date, Timm says 4,390 people have participated in Fairfield’s energy saving plan, and the city is only a few hundred people away from reaching its goal of 50 percent of town participation.

Wide Support to Go Green

preparing to weatherize windowWith the program ending in August, and the goals projected to be met, Timm explained Fairfield’s plans for the cash reward: “Our prize will be putting up solar panels at the library,” said Timm. This installation will be a lasting impression on the community, and will save Fairfield energy money each year. A kiosk in the library will provide energy consumption information, and a monitor will display real time savings from the solar panels.

The Go Green Program is supported by local businesses, private contributors, the city of Fairfield and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Timm explained: “Having the opportunity to work with ISU Extension and Outreach and the city allows me to bring in experts, to teach classes and to help people learn.”

Fairfield is an example of how a community can come together and make a change. “A lot of what we have done has encouraged people to look at their homes, their behaviors, their appliances and insulation, as well as heating and cooling,” said Timm. “It shows them what their savings could be if they work toward sustainability.”


Photo caption: During a workshop for students, Scott Timm instructed youth in how to weatherize homes.