2020 State Leadership in Clean Energy Awards


The Clean Energy States Alliance is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2020 State Leadership in Clean Energy Awards, recognizing six state and municipal programs and projects that demonstrate creativity and leadership in advancing renewable energy. The six winners were chosen by an independent panel of judges, and are featured in a report and webinar series.

The 2020 awards were given to the following organizations:

  • California Energy Commission (CEC) for its Renewable Energy for Agriculture Program (REAP). The REAP program gives grants for renewable energy systems in agricultural operations. Along with greenhouse gas emission reduction, REAP projects reduce energy costs, improve air quality, and promote energy and environmental equity by serving disadvantaged communities and low-income areas. The total new system capacity installed from the 45 REAP-funded projects will be nearly 6.6 megawatts. Based on average retail electricity rates, this is expected to yield over $1.6 million in cost savings for grant recipients each year. Over the lifespan of the installed equipment, the greenhouse gas reduction will be more than 128,300 metric tons of CO2 or CO2 equivalent, which, according to the US EPA greenhouse gas calculator, is the equivalent of taking 27,000 cars of the road for a year. According to the judges: "Tackling greenhouse gas emissions in sectors beyond electricity and transportation is critical, and California's focus on its agricultural sector offers major opportunities for environmental and economic benefits by transitioning to clean energy systems."
  • Energy Trust of Oregon for its Inclusive Innovation Project. The Inclusive Innovation Project is making solar affordable and accessible for customers with lower incomes, rural customers, and communities of color. It has focused on capacity building support, community engagement, and partnership development. By building relationships with community-based organizations across the state and by providing stipends to enable them to participate in working group meetings, the project gained valuable feedback from a wide range of stakeholders. Energy Trust created a system for learning, teaching and experimentation that is improving its programs by making them more responsive to different customer groups. The Inclusive Innovation project has resulted in 54 new low-income projects in the pipeline at residential, commercial and multifamily housing sites. Empowered community representatives are providing meaningful feedback to Energy Trust staff, leading to modified solar programs that are more equitable and effective. According to the judges: "Energy Trust has developed a model for genuinely engaging frontline, low-income communities, and diverse customers, helping to enhance public engagement and empower local decision making. It is a best practice for how to increase low-income access to solar.”
  • Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources for the Mass Solar Loan Program. The Mass Solar Loan program has offered special incentives and fostered partnerships with local banks and credit unions to increase access to financing for solar PV ownership. It gives special attention to creating a robust solar lending market for low-income customers. Since December 2015, over 5,400 loans have been closed, totaling $173 million in loan value and 46 MW of residential solar PV across the state. More than half of the projects have benefitted low- and moderate-income residents, reducing their energy costs. The loan program has offered three incentive types to expand access and reduce financing costs: interest rate buy-downs, income-based principal reductions, and a loan loss reserve for lenders. The program has fostered a durable market for residential solar lending even as program incentives phase out over time. According to the judges: "This innovative program has been highly effective in driving direct ownership of solar with its financing and capacity-building approaches. The program has been a significant driver for low-income solar ownership and can be a model for other states.”
  • Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy for its Michigan Solar Communities – Low- to Moderate-Income Access Program. The Low- to Moderate- Income Access program uses a community solar model to enable customers to access solar, obtain weatherization services, and save on their electric bills. The program represents a close partnership between two local electric utilities (Cherryland Electric Cooperative and the Village of L’Anse Electric Utility), state government, and weatherization and community action entities. Since the start of the program in 2018, over 100 households have signed up to participate in two Michigan community solar projects, with the Cherryland’s 50 subscribers each receiving bill credits averaging about $350 per year, and the L’Anse project subscribers earning about $275 in solar bill credits each year. Through these pilot projects, Michigan is gaining valuable data on program participants’ energy use while program managers are learning how to better address low-income energy challenges. According to the judges: "This program exemplifies how partnerships between state government and local electric utilities can use community solar to increase low-income access to solar. It would be easily replicable by states even with limited resources."
  • New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) for its Offshore Wind Program. NYSERDA is coordinating offshore wind opportunities in New York State and is supporting the development of 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2035 to power over six million homes. It has focused on key aspects of developing offshore wind, including supply chain and workforce development; technology research and development; pre-development research on environmental impacts, transmission and grid development; and stakeholder engagement. NYSERDA’s Offshore Wind Program offers an unprecedented opportunity to realize the state’s clean energy and public health goals. The first two projects alone will generate more than $3.2 billion in new economic activity while delivering approximately $700 million of avoided health impact benefits by displacing fossil-fuels. By 2035, offshore wind has the potential to bring billions of dollars in private investment, including major upgrades to infrastructure, 10,000 jobs, and contribute approximately 30 percent of the state’s electricity load. According to the judges: "NYSERDA's comprehensive offshore wind development efforts are helping to build regional momentum with other states and to create a robust new industry that will drive investments, create jobs, partner with important marine and fisheries resources, and result in cleaner air and public health benefits."
  • Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) for Energy StorageShares. Energy StorageShares is an innovative first-of-a-kind program that enables eligible commercial customers to make an up-front investment to receive a monthly on-bill credit for a 10-year term. SMUD bundles the investments with its own capital and installs battery storage in a high-value location that provides significant grid benefits. The bill credit reflects the savings the customer would have received from an on-site battery that would have reduced demand charges. The program provides guaranteed savings to the customer without impacting their business operations, creating maintenance obligations, or requiring physical space at their business for a battery system. The economies of scale significantly reduce the cost of battery energy storage, as it is much less expensive to install a few large battery systems. The program benefits all SMUD customers by using battery storage to address the locational needs of the electrical grid. According to the judges: "SMUD has developed a new business model to drive economies of scale for energy storage with a shared-storage program that aligns commercial customer and grid benefits. It locates energy storage systems where they are most needed while saving customers money.” 

“There is tremendous clean energy leadership and creativity taking place at the state level,” said CESA Executive Director Warren Leon. “The 2020 State Leadership in Clean Energy Award winners are tackling major clean energy challenges, including bringing the benefits of clean energy to low- and moderate-income communities, paving the way for large-scale offshore wind development, reducing emissions in the agricultural sector, and developing new business models for emerging technologies like energy storage.”

CESA would like to thank the judges who donated their time to participate in this awards process: Ellen Anderson, senior energy researcher and former executive director, University of Minnesota's Energy Transition Lab; Lori Bird, director of World Resource Institute’s U.S. Energy Program; Mark Bolinger, research scientist in the Electricity Markets and Policy Department at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Cameron Brooks, founder and president of E9 Energy Insight; and Meredith Hatfield, executive director of the New England Conference of Public Utilities Commissioners. The participation of the judges and the selection of these awardees are not intended to represent the views of the judges’ organizations or any of their respective members.

CESA hosted a WEBINAR SERIES highlighting the 2020 award winners:

Photos of the award winners are available here.