First-of-its-kind renewable energy program benefitting low-income customers

Xcel Energy has proposed a first-of-its-kind pilot program giving low-income customers more access to renewable energy.

In this innovative program, Xcel Energy will partner with Energy CENTS Coalition to help residents in St. Paul’s Railroad Island community subscribe to a local community solar garden. The proposal for the community solar garden was filed June 30 with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. Xcel Energy will also seek approval to expand the program’s offerings to help residents in this community save energy and lower their energy bills.

“We’re excited to work with Energy CENTS Coalition and roll out a locally driven, grass roots project that gives the community access to solar energy while finding ways to reduce their energy usage,” said Chris Clark, president, Xcel Energy-Minnesota. “This program has great potential to save energy and increase renewable energy for this community and beyond.”

“The Energy CENTS Coalition and our community partner, Dayton’s Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services, are proud to be a part of this project with Xcel Energy,” said Pam Marshall, executive director of Energy CENTS. “The combination of energy efficiency improvements and the solar garden direct significant resources to this community and will increase low-income customers’ access to more affordable and renewable energy.”

As part of this pilot program, Xcel Energy will work with Thor Construction to develop a 0.5 megawatt community solar garden for the Railroad Island community. This solar garden is unique in its approach to removing traditional barriers to the low income market. Through this program, subscriptions will be available without a long-term commitment or a check of a subscriber’s credit score, which are common requirements for most community solar gardens in Minnesota. Subscribers would also not be responsible for any up-front payments and can terminate the contract at any time.

“At THOR, we deliver SMART models for building, transforming and sustaining healthy communities. Those SMART models are defined as where Science Meets Art,” said Ravi Norman, CEO of THOR Companies. “We are proud to be a part of this cooperative model, led by Xcel Energy, that sees value in improving the social, environmental and economic impacts in our communities. We are looking forward to positively impacting the lives of the families in the Railroad Island community.”

Building the community solar garden will be the first step in offering Railroad Island residents a complete solution to help with their energy bills. Xcel Energy will also be working with the community through the company’s Partners in Energy offering to promote access to the community solar garden and energy conservation. Elements of this part of the program will include a free Home Energy Squad® visit for low income customers where experts identify and install low-cost efficiency measures and provide energy conservation tips. Pending approvals, this program is expected to launch in 2018.

Railroad Island, a community of about 2,200 people, was selected because many customers qualify for low income home energy assistance programs, live in older homes that use more energy, and experience a spike in electrical usage during the winter months. Xcel Energy will work with the community and Dayton’s Bluff Neighborhood Housing Service to promote the program to residents.

Xcel Energy plans to have nearly 10 percent of its electricity generated from solar, double its renewable energy production and reduce carbon emissions more than 60 percent by 2030.

For more information on community solar gardens, visit the Xcel Energy website.