ENGIE collaborates with Microsoft and Solstice to accelerate access to community solar for under-resourced communities in Illinois
Projects will support lower cost energy for households, organizations and businesses often unable to participate in the benefits of the energy transition.
HOUSTON – ENGIE North America (ENGIE) is collaborating with Microsoft on the development of two community solar projects in Illinois that will serve historically excluded communities and significantly reduce electricity costs for them.
ENGIE will develop, construct, and operate two new community solar gardens, one in Lena, IL west of Rockford, and a second in downstate Illinois. Together, the projects are expected to have a capacity of 4.75 MW, enough to meet the annual electricity needs of more than 1,000 average Illinois households with clean, carbon emissions-free power.
ENGIE and Microsoft will work with leading community solar provider, Solstice, who engages directly with residents, businesses, and community organizations to enroll and manage community solar customers with local community gardens like the ones in Lena and downstate Illinois. Community solar enables households, small businesses and other organizations to benefit from renewable electricity without the need to install their own panels by effectively sharing local, centralized installations. Solstice’s partnership and community organizing model help provide access to renewables for the estimated 77% of Americans who do not have access to roof space or the financial means to install rooftop systems and expands access to traditionally excluded populations.
Traditional approaches to financing have limited the ability of many to install roof-top solar. Solstice has pioneered EnergyScore, a machine learning algorithm to qualify individuals more inclusively and accurately for green products. The focus for these two solar gardens will be on providing access to renewable power to traditionally under-resourced communities, not-for-profit organizations, and other economically disadvantaged groups.
Customers who subscribe to the solar garden program will not only be supporting the transition to a lower carbon future but will also benefit from reduced electricity costs. Because of Microsoft’s involvement in financing the development, customers subscribed to these two solar gardens can expect to see even greater savings than from the current Illinois Shines community solar program. Once fully subscribed, the two solar gardens could save Illinois subscribers around $450,000 in total, with some subscribers benefiting from up to 60% savings through participation.
“At a time when energy costs are rising and are a particular burden on lower income communities, the opportunity to access clean, renewable, locally produced power and reduce daily costs is an important part of accelerating the energy transition in a just way – widening the population who can benefit as we all work to decarbonize our economy” said Laura Caspari, Senior Vice President Power Marketing and Commercial Strategy, ENGIE North America. “This innovative collaboration with Microsoft to help grow access to lower cost renewables for residents and organizations across Illinois reflects our shared desire to widen the positive impact of the energy transition to an increasingly diverse set of communities.”
“As we at Microsoft work toward a more sustainable and equitable future, we are pleased to collaborate with ENGIE and Solstice to help facilitate access to lower cost community solar for communities who have previously been excluded from these opportunities,” shared Danielle Decatur, Microsoft Director of Environmental Justice.
In Illinois, community solar projects were enabled through the 2016 Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) and subsequent 2021 Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA). Power from the solar gardens is fed into the local grid and credited to customers through their existing utility bills with ComEd and Ameren. This new project model provides renewable volume above-and-beyond existing state programs. ENGIE is hopeful that in the future similar projects will bring economic benefit to under-resourced communities in Illinois while accelerating the state’s energy transition goals.
Construction of the two projects both in rural counties, will be led by ENGIE’s Chicago based team and is expected to commence later this year.
About the ENGIE Group
The ENGIE Group (made up of ENGIE S.A. and its subsidiaries and affiliates) is a global leader in low-carbon energy and services. With its 96,000 employees, its customers, partners and stakeholders, the Group is committed to accelerate the transition toward a carbon-neutral world, through reduced energy consumption and more environmentally-friendly solutions. Inspired by its purpose (“raison d’être”), ENGIE reconciles economic performance with a positive impact on people and the planet, building on its key businesses (gas, renewable energy, services) to offer competitive solutions to its customers. ENGIE S.A. (ENGI), is listed on the Paris and Brussels Stock Exchanges.
In North America, ENGIE companies have delivered integrated, innovative energy solutions to public and private organizations for nearly half a century. We employ approximately 3,000 people focused on enabling our customers to become more sustainable and achieve their decarbonization targets through expert project delivery and competitive solutions. For more information on ENGIE in North America, please visit our LinkedIn page or Twitter feed, https://www.engie-na.com/ and https://www.engie.com.
Solstice is dedicated to bringing affordable solar power to the 77% of Americans who cannot install a rooftop system. It connects residents and community organizations to nearby shared solar farms, creates financing innovations that expand access to underserved Americans (the EnergyScore), and provides frictionless subscriber management software for community solar projects. Solstice has partnered with municipalities, employers, and nonprofits across the country and won awards from the Department of Energy, Inc. Magazine, and Elle. Together with its partners, Solstice is building an equitable energy future for every American.
ENGIE North America: Michael Clingan, firstname.lastname@example.org