September 16, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Scott Kleeb spent countless hours crisscrossing Nebraska as a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006 and U.S. Senate in 2008. He was the Democrat in a Nebraska election, so he lost both times. But, he says, he learned much in the process and learned much from the thousands of Nebraskans he met.

One comment in particular by a man in Scottsbluff reverberates to this day. “I was talking about cleaner energy sources and this old guy raises his hand,” Kleeb says. “The man says, ‘You’re wrong. What we need to do is focus on conservation.’”

A seed was planted and later, a business was born. Kleeb’s company, Energy Pioneers, which recently moved its headquarters from Kleeb’s hometown of Hastings, Neb., to Omaha, is dedicated to helping homeowners and the utilities that serve them significantly reduce consumption. The goal for homeowners: Reduce energy bills. The goal for utilities: “Make it so they don’t have to build more power plants,” Kleeb says.

The global goal for this longtime voice for cleaner air: “Fewer greenhouse gasses,” Kleeb says.

Of course, Kleeb’s business model is, in a broad sense, nothing new. OPS has had energy-saving incentives for years. Several companies provide energy evaluations for homes and then help homeowners remove their energy hogs.

But Energy Pioneers takes a holistic, one-stop-shopping, (sorry for the following business cliché) “turnkey” approach to the process. That’s why they’re growing so briskly, with satellite offices now from Oklahoma to Chicago. (The company has 60 employees with a plan to reach 100 employees in the near future).

Here’s how it works:

Energy Pioneers inspectors come into your home and conduct a free assessment of your energy efficiency. During a follow-up consultation, homeowners are given a detailed breakdown of deficiencies, solutions, and the cost of the overhaul.

Homeowners can hire outside contractors, or, the company can set up the work for the homeowner.

The kicker comes next: After establishing a financing program in conjunction with the local utility, Energy Pioneers can help homeowners set up financing through area banks that they can pay off in installments as part of their monthly utility bill. Thanks to the energy savings (which Energy Pioneers guarantees), the homeowners pays less per month even though they are paying off the cost of the home upgrades. Another cliché alert: “Yes,” Kleeb says. “It’s a win, win.”

Or win, win, win. The utilities are adding a sustainable energy program to their portfolio. And, in the long run, the utilities could be making some very tangible reductions in our carbon footprint. Specifically, by reducing the amount of electricity utilities produce, Energy Pioneers can help utilities handle growing usage demands by increasing efficiency. With enough eco-friendly homes, that next 300 megawatt power plant may not need to be built.

“People want to be greener, those who run the utilities want to be part of a progressive-thinking utility,” he says. “We make it seamless for everyone involved. We really believe we’ve reached the point where we’ve taken out all the reasons a homeowner could give for not making their home more energy efficient.”