Friday, June 26, 2015

St. Paul Public Housing Agency joins Community Solar on behalf of Economic Justice

Community Solar has value far beyond that which is reducible strictly to finance because it provides is a powerful tool for an overall democratization of energyCommunity solar allows individuals and organizations to mutually benefit from the advantages of solar energy — no fuel cost, no moving parts, no emissions — without having the solar built on their own property. The power from CSG’s go onto goes onto Xcel’s distribution grid, and CSG subscribers are credited at a solar-friendly rate that results in savings of 5 percent or more on their utility bills. When community solar uses innovative and flexible financial tools such as on-bill repayment, pay-as-you-go, and revolving loan funding, solar energy dramatically more affordable and accessible to a greater number of people.

With Community Solar, we finally have an opportunity to put an end to this alienating perception of solar energy as a niche market for a few. Having a successful example of a community solar garden will tell a new story of renewable energy as a pathway out of energy poverty and prosperity circulating through the local economy. 

The Saint Paul Public Housing Agency has signed on to become an anchor tenant of nearby community solar gardens to provide cost stability for their tenants. 

At the June 23rd hearing on community solar, Louise Seeba told the PUC the message that low-income individuals should not be left out of clean energy."This program is literally the only way that public housing can go solar. Our tenants should not be shut out of being part of green energy." 

The power from CSG’s that goes onto Xcel’s distribution grid, is credited to CSG subscribers at a solar-friendly rate that results in savings of 5 percent or more on their utility bills. 

The Saint Paul Public Housing Agency has 2500 residents in 16 high-rise housing units. So far, it is the only public housing to go solar. Seeba explained how they had to jump through lots of hoops and then the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approved their community solar involvement.

Solar energy is attractive because it has no fuel costs and is a hedge against fuel price spikes. When natural gas or fuel prices inevitably spike again, utilities pass through the costs directly onto their customer base. This will leave the low-income very vulnerable once the fracking boom goes bust unless there is an alternative source of power such as CSGs ready to snap over to. 

Jon Gutzmann, executive director of Saint Paul Public Housing Agency stated “With two-to-four percent increases every other year, our utility costs have been increasing at a faster rate than our revenue. Community solar provides us with cost stability and certainty for 25 years — without having to find space or capital for on-site solar.” 

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