On Tuesday June 21st, 2016, Community Power, community members, & coalition partners held a colorful "Solar Solstice" celebration in front of Xcel Energy Headquarters in downtown Minneapolis. Participants thanked Xcel for the progress they have made on approving community solar project applications, but also asked Xcel with vivid street theater to remove the bar to solar for everyone to participate. (You can take action, too! Call Xcel and/or sign the Energy Equity petition).
Coalition partners: MNIPL, MN350, ILSR, VoteClimate, Northfield Area Community Solar, North American Water Office, Young People's Action Coaltion, MPIRG, CTUL
The Solar Solstice celebration was Community Power's promised follow-up event to the Xcel Slow Walk demonstration seven months earlier, which highlighted Xcel's long months of delays to the community solar program.
#XCELSLOWWALK NOVEMBER 2015
This time, Community Power and partners gathered to celebrate the 350+ Minnesota community solar gardens have been approved (up from a mere 5 in November) thanks to Xcel’s responsiveness to developer and community concerns.
November 2015 June 2016
Despite this progress, the question remains:
Colorful “Credit Limbo” demonstrates the barriers to access
Significant barriers remain for Minnesotans who want access to reduce their energy costs through community solar gardens and other energy efficiency services. Community members illustrated this struggle visually through a game of “credit limbo.” The rules were simple: your credit score determines your ability to play.
The current design of the community solar garden program (and other energy services) leads financiers to enforce credit score requirements on prospective customers. Not only does this disincentivize Minnesotans to rapidly transition to a clean energy economy, but bars those customers who would benefit most from the energy and cost savings .
Demonstrators in the street theater highlighted through a tug of war with a Climate Chaos character that our global community needs everyone to be able to participate to survive.
A challenge to Xcel Energy to use its influence to eliminate barriers and move Minnesota towards Energy Equity.
Towards the end of the demonstration, participants invited Xcel Energy to continue its responsiveness to community concerns, by helping improve access to new solar gardens. Xcel could be the "hero," donning a cape marked with four key solutions, and using its powerful influence at the Public Utilities Commission to implement these solutions to eliminate barriers to energy equity in Minnesota:
Don’t Gut Fair Pay to Community Solar (Xcel has recommended lowering the compensation for community solar in comments to the PUC. This would effectively slash all financial benefit to solar subscribers, particularly low-income subscribers)
Boost Energy Affordability and Efficiency (endorsing an inclining block rate that would simultaneously protect customers most vulnerable to rate increases and fluctuations, AND incentivize energy efficiency measures)
Remove the Bar to Community Solar (endorsing “tariff-based” On-Bill Repayment, which streamlines billing and eliminates need for credit requirement to participate in solar)
Grow Solar Jobs for All (supporting workforce training centers that specifically build clean energy job skills for low-income and Minnesotans of color)