Madison was recently named one of 50 semifinalists selected from across the nation to compete for the Georgetown University Energy Prize, which will award $5 million to the city that leads the pack in energy efficiency.

This is the first year of the competition which is open to cities with a population of 250,000 or less, Madison Engineering Facilities and Sustainability Manager, Jeanne Hoffman, said. Georgetown is interested in the reduction of energy use in two major building groups: residential buildings and city buildings.

In the summer of 2014, the City of Madison submitted a letter of intent to express its interest in applying for the prize, Hoffman said. After being accepted, she said the city had to submit a lengthy work plan detailing how they hope to accomplish energy use reduction by mid-November. The plan the submitted was more than 100 pages, Hoffman said.

“We have two years to implement our work plan and submit our data to Georgetown on a quarterly basis,” Hoffman said. “Georgetown will look at the data and the city that obtains the greatest reduction in energy will win the first place prize.”

Hoffman said the city will be looking at energy reduction programs on a variety of levels. One of the biggest targets the city hopes to reach is the rental market. She said rentals make up about 50 percent of the Madison community, whereas the statewide average is closer to 30 percent, she said.

Hoffman said programs offered through Madison Gas and Electric, Focus on Energy and the city provide incentive for building owners of rental properties to look more seriously at upgrading their buildings to be more energy efficient.

Madison Gas and Electric works closely with the city on many aspects of energy efficiency and sustainability, MGE corporate communications manager, Steve Shultz, said. MGE also has various resources for individuals to take control of their energy use, Shultz said.

Though Madison is still in the early stages of implementing its work plan, Hoffman said the city will be rolling out ideas over the next few months for some of its energy saving programs and begin marketing tactics. The city hopes to work creatively and partner with community organizations that are already mission-driven and seek reduction in energy use, such as the Sierra Club, she said.

In order to help implement their programs, the city has been working with Elevate Energy, a non-profit company in Chicago that has experience and success in energy efficiency work, Hoffman said. She said one of Elevate’s major tasks will be to create a student incentive to save energy.

Hoffman said she believes there are many students in the community who rent apartments and are trying to figure out a way to tackle the question of how much they should pay for utilities.

“There certainly is a reason for students to be interested in this,” Hoffman said.