It all started in 2013 with a simple proposition:

Bend should lead the way to a low-carbon, clean energy future.

If we want to leave a healthy climate for our kids and grandkids, we’ve got to start somewhere. Why not right here at home? After all, Central Oregon has abundant sunlight, a strong environmental ethic and an innovative, can-do approach to solving problems.

But in 2013, our community lacked a grassroots campaign focused on energy use.  So we set out to create one.

The result was The Bend Energy Challenge, Bend’s team in the Georgetown University Energy Prize, a national competition to reduce energy use and win a $5 million prize. We launched with this opportunity in mind: Energy efficiency and conservation are zero-emissions “fuels” that can help our community and country meet growing energy needs, often at a lower cost than other fuels.

We asked the community to flex its “Energy Hero” muscles. And flex we did! We turned off lights, changed our thermostat settings, unplugged appliances, and washed clothes in cold water. We completed energy assessments of our homes, added insulation and replaced old furnaces with super-efficient heat pumps. We installed LED light bulbs and converted to rooftop solar. And we adopted a new policy framework and fossil fuel reduction goals that will shape Bend’s energy use into the future.

Much work remains. We’ll continue to educate and advocate in Bend, We’re also going to expand our reach. From La Pine to Madras and Sisters to Prineville, we plan to engage citizens, businesses and elected officials in The Energy Challenge.

We believe Central Oregonians are up to the challenge of reducing energy use, going solar and doing their part to leave a healthy climate for future generations. Join us and stay in the loop with our newsletter and get updates on new resources, program expansions, and exclusive deals.

The Energy Challenge is a project of The Environmental Center.

How did Bend do in the $5 million Energy Prize Competition? 

Map of Georgetown University Energy Prize competing cities










In January 2015, we said “If we win, we win. And if we lose, we still win.” We were confident that our work would result in real reductions in energy use that paid off for Bend, in cost savings and reductions in climate pollution.

Although Bend did not win the competition, we ranked 17th among the 49 competing communities and were recognized as one of several high-performing communities” that are leading the way for other cities and counties across the country.

The competition data show that, while Bend’s total energy use went up, the energy use per household went down. Rapid growth, plus several new public facilities that came on line during the competition, drove the increase in total energy used. It was the actions of homeowners and renters, together with local home builders and remodelers, and energy efficiency and solar contractors, that really made the difference. Local governments also reduced energy use some and began paying more attention to how they can save energy over the medium- and long-term.
Read more about the outcome of the competition at

Our Team 

ani-kasch-webAni Kasch

LED Project Assistant
[email protected]
541-385-6908 x26

Ani has taught experiential environmental education, made maps, served coffee, instructed people of all ages in conservation and community living, pulled in 100-pound halibut, and collared endangered squirrels for a living. And now she is excited to continue spreading love for the world by encouraging use of LED lights! She fully supports bicycle travel in all ways, especially commuting. If she can’t get there by bike, she is much less likely to go! When not at the Environmental Center you can find her out on her mountain bike, getting vertical on rocks at Smith, pickling beets, and attempting to build a bench out of a broken down wooden pallet.

Lindsey Hardy

Program Director, The Energy Challenge
[email protected]
541-385-6908 x 11

Lindsey has her BA in Environmental Studies from Ithaca College. She thinks helping to save the planet makes for a pretty cool job and loves that she gets to help people realize that we can all make this world a better place.

She has worked as the Assistant Manager at a green living store in Ithaca, NY, served a year in AmeriCorps as the Solarize Pendleton Coordinator in Pendleton, OR, and most recently was the Outreach Director for a local solar company. She currently sits on the Board of Directors of Energy Trust of Oregon. In her spare time she likes to be outdoors running, riding bikes, hiking, skiing, or snowboarding. If she has to be inside, she doesn’t mind cooking, playing board games, and reading books.

Neil Baunsgard

Project Manager, LED Program
[email protected]g
(541) 385-6908 x 26

Neil joined the Environmental Center team in 2015 and studied Environmental Studies, Economics, and Energy Policy at Western Washington University. He has worked in corporate sustainability management and is very happy to be living close to both family and the outdoors in Bend. When he is not geeking out about LED lighting, you can find him trail running, XC skiing or climbing. He will be hard to miss, as he is often sporting colorful shorts or running tights

peter-dempseyPeter Dempsey

LED Lead Installer
[email protected]

Peter recently joined The Environmental after a spectrum of private sector jobs including sole proprietor of a motorcycle accessory company. Peter received a B.A. in Economics with a minor in History from UC Davis. He has also taught High School Social Studies which is one of his passions. He is a teacher at heart, which is one of the reason he loves the Environmental Center and the Education it provides. He has lived all over the country. But after living in San Francisco for 10 years, Peter and his wife, Patty, moved to Bend  to raise their two children in 1989. When he isn’t working he loves camping, fishing and enjoying all Central Oregon has to offer.