solar possible

Environmental Initiative (EI) announced today the 2020 recipients of their annual awards celebrating partnerships at the nexus of a healthy environment, a prosperous economy, and an equitable society. The Great Plains Institute (GPI) is thrilled to share that our Solar Possible and Cities Charging Ahead! projects swept the Energy and Climate category!

The winning project, Solar Possible was built on the idea that collaborative solar purchasing could reduce administrative costs, support peer learning, enable timely action, and reduce costs through bulk pricing. The goal was to create a request for proposal process to make it easier for decision-makers to understand bids and remove roadblocks to installation.

“What sets Solar Possible apart is the joint request for proposals and master contract models allowing local governments to view solar as a viable energy option and to assist local governments that wouldn’t otherwise have the staff capacity to evaluate proposals and find the best solution for their needs”, says Jenna Greene, communities program assistant at the Great Plains Institute.

Engaging cities and school districts in both rural and metro areas added to a collaborative cohort process and allowed for one-on-one support throughout the process. The Solar Possible team hosted in-person and online meetings to provide education about solar technology, contract terms, and financing options, with the goal of empowering each participant to make an informed decision in response to vendor proposals.

Convened by GPI, Clean Energy Resource Teams, and the Minnesota Department of Administration’s Office of Enterprise Sustainability, Solar Possible concluded last fall but the State of Minnesota continues to administer the master contract available to local governments to encourage continued advancement of solar projects.

Taking home the honorable mention, Cities Charging Ahead! (CCA) was created to help cities focus on best practices and actions to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) across Minnesota.

cities charging ahead

When CCA was launched in January 2018, 28 cities ranging in size from 761 residents to 113,900 signed up to participate. Over 18 months, CCA helped facilitate charging station installation in 11 cities and 12 have added EVs to their city fleets.

“The dedication and engagement of CCA participants was what made this project so successful,” Diana McKeown, director of Metro Clean Energy Resource Team (CERTs) said. “CCA was one of the most rewarding projects I’ve worked on in my 27-year career.”

In a recent survey, over 30 cities indicated interest in the next phase of CCA, slated to begin in summer 2020.

The Carolyn Foundation and Energy Foundation provided funding for CCA in partnership with Xcel Energy.

The success of these projects shows the importance of local governments in the energy transition. The Communities Program at GPI continues its work to encourage solar and EV additions to energy infrastructure, city fleets, connecting cities through peer-to-peer networks, and educating city leaders in available technologies and best practices.

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