Summer Energy Academy at the University of Arkansas a Success

Representatives from seven cities in Arkansas recently participated in a two-day Energy Academy at the University of Arkansas where community leaders identified ways to reduce consumption and save energy costs in their respective cities and towns.

The Applied Sustainability Center at the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas hosted the academy on June 12-13 in Fayetteville.  The Center is an Institutional Member of the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association (AAEA). The program is part of a two-year grant the Center received from the Arkansas Community Foundation’s Sustainable Energy Initiative.

The communities selected as part of the inaugural program are Arkadelphia, Fayetteville, Gould, Harrison, North Little Rock, Searcy and Wynne.

“What was great about the group of cities that participated is that each one already had something innovative that they were doing,” said Michele Halsell, Director of the Applied Sustainability Center.  “By sharing practices already in place, there is a real potential to quickly accelerate the process by applying what they learned from each other.”

Each of the cities received a Sustainable Energy Scorecard that details the city’s energy usage, Halsell said.  The scorecard shows a five-year history of how much energy has been consumed by their entire community. The leaders from each community will take this information back home and examine where they can conserve energy and in what time frame they think it can be done.

City leaders will also participate in monthly webinars that introduce them to the advanced energy industry and energy savings options that may be useful in their own municipalities.

The academy in June was a two-day, intensive training where participants learned about ways to improve  energy efficiency, the availability of renewable energy sources in Arkansas, the connection between energy use and climate change, and how energy usage and  technologies can enhance their local economies, Halsell said.  The teams sent by each city included elected officials, a representative from the Chamber of Commerce, a major employer in the city, the local school district, faith leaders, utility representatives, and individuals in the banking and real estate industry.

“The participants in this summer’s academy have built a leadership and networking community,” said Halsell, “and we hope that they will become champions for sustainability practices at the state and federal level as well.”

Going forward, the community teams will develop an energy vision for their city with corresponding energy goals as part of a citywide strategic energy plan.  

Halsell said the Applied Sustainability Center (ASC) will monitor the steps that communities are taking to reach these goals to ensure they are effective.  The Center will also schedule education workshops in each of the individual communities to help the public and other stakeholders better understand the city’s energy plan.  They hope to share the successful results with other cities in the future.  By learning from other communities already taking innovative steps, they hope to accelerate the process for other Arkansas cities and communities globally.

The ASC will select eight more Arkansas cities to participate beginning in January, 2014.  If the program is successful, Halsell said they will seek additional funding to continue it.  

For more information on The Applied Sustainability Center or the Summer Energy Academy, please visit