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  • Writer's pictureTiana Starks

Michigan Agency for Energy grant gives community solar shares to 50 low-income households

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

With help from the Michigan Agency for Energy (MAE), Cherryland Electric Cooperative today kicked off Michigan’s first pilot program to help low-income customers cut their energy bills through renewable energy and energy waste reduction efforts.

Part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Energy for Low Income Communities Accelerator program, Cherryland expects to help lower energy bills for 50 low-income households in the utility’s six-county electric service territory in Northern Michigan.

“Low-income households often pay a larger share of their income for energy,” said Anne Armstrong Cusack, MAE’s acting director. “This first-of-its-kind program in Michigan is focusing on cutting their bills through participation in renewable energy and energy waste reduction programs. Partnering with Cherryland and the Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency, (NMCAA), customers will save energy, lower their energy bills and experience improved comfort in their homes.”

Cherryland, working with the NMCAA, identified participants who were low-income, underwent weatherization upgrades to their homes, and completed a home energy assessment to identify low-cost and no-cost opportunities to save energy and money.

Beginning today, each participating member has nine panel shares in the Spartan Solar community solar array in Cadillac. Participants will receive a monthly bill credit of 10 cents per kilowatt hour for the output of their panel shares, or about $350 each year in solar bill credits. Customers could see a reduction of up to 33% on their electric bills.

Under the program, Cherryland buys electricity generated by the Cadillac solar array project through a power purchase agreement with Wolverine Power Cooperative. It is one of the only programs in the nation to pilot “virtual net metering,” combined with weatherization services for low-income households.

Funding for the pilot program comes from MAE, which provided an $80,000 grant, Cherryland, and the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) through NMCAA. At the end of the year, project partners will make recommendations for the expansion and future deployment of similar low-income clean energy programs.

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