Four small towns in northeast Iowa are battling to see which communities can reduce their energy use the most over the course of one year. Carole Yates is Program Manager at the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Energy & Environmental Education. She’s helping coordinate the competition involving the towns of Readlyn, Fairbank, Hudson and Dike.

“I think the communities are going to have fun with this. It’s a friendly competition,” Yates said. “We also hope, of course, that it helps reduce energy use and helps to lower people’s utility bills.” All four towns are serviced by municipally owned electric utilities and their local schools compete in the same athletic conference. Readlyn and Fairbank are cooperating to compete against both Hudson and Dike.

In addition to bragging rights, the winning towns will receive a prize. Yates said it’s still not determined what that prize will be. “It’ll be something significant and very visible for the communities,” she said. “The utility managers met and we talked about a couple of possibilities. If (the town’s) library, for example, needs upgrading to more energy-efficient lighting, that might be a possibility.”

The competition includes a research component. Yates said the project is designed to determine if establishing a friendly competitive atmosphere can enhance energy efficiency. The competition started on January 1 and will run through the end of 2012.

The town’s local utilities, Green Iowa AmeriCorps and the Iowa Policy Project are partners in the project dubbed “Get Energized, Iowa!