Xcel Energy’s low income solar project gets approval

In late January, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved Xcel Energy’s pilot program to provide solar energy to low income customers.

  • The Customer Access Joint Pilot Program will combine energy efficiency upgrades with community solar garden subscriptions for Low Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP)-eligible customers in the Railroad Island neighborhood on the East Side of Saint Paul.
  • The model, developed by Xcel and Energy CENTS Coalition, and including project partners Dayton’s Bluff Neighborhood Housing Association, Center for Energy and Environment, and THOR Construction, is truly first-of-its-kind in the way it combines energy efficiency and solar, includes trusted community partners, allows Xcel Energy to own the community solar garden, and is dedicated to serve LIHEAP-eligible residents..
  • Fresh Energy pushed for the pilot to be part of a larger strategy to serve low income customers and applauds the leadership of Xcel and its project partners in moving forward.

Xcel and Energy CENTS Coalition have titled the pilot “Rehabilitation and Efficiency: Neighborhood Energy Works,” or “RENEWs,” and intend to serve more than 400 customers, including 160 community solar garden subscriptions. Energy CENTS Coalition will provide energy efficiency services and community solar garden subscriber management, and THOR Construction will construct the community solar garden. Xcel is guaranteeing no net cost to participants—instead, using a “Net Bill Credit,” which is the applicable bill credit rate minus the estimated cost of the RENEWs program, that will show up on a customer’s bill.

Moving forward, Xcel will be required to report on a number of items, including the impact of energy efficiency measures installed, non-energy benefits to the neighborhood, and project queue number.

Fresh Energy and Xcel also reached an agreement to add an additional project to the RENEWs model. Fresh Energy anticipates working with Xcel and its project partners in the coming months to establish potential project locations and timelines, and Xcel indicated that it would include an update to the Commission in its first compliance filing within 30 days of the Commission’s Order.

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