Former Congressman Joe Kennedy

Former Congressman Joe Kennedy III (top right) and Michael Kennedy (top center) join the Citizens Energy JOE-4-SUN team (l to r), Hannah Goetz, Ricky Bellegarde, Christopher Garcia, Naimah Toon-Rashid and Emily Byrne to celebrate the program’s national award.

Former U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III today announced that Citizens Energy has won a national award for a low-income community solar project built on a blighted Superfund site in Ashland, Mass.

The first-ever “Sunny Awards” contest sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy recognizes best practices in community solar projects that promote equitable access and ensure benefits go to subscribers and their communities. Tess McKenna, the JOE-4-SUN Program Manager, accepted the award on behalf of Citizens Energy at the National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) conference in San Diego.

The victory comes with a total prize of $12,000, which Citizens Energy will use to deepen the benefits for subscribers to its JOE-4-SUN low-income community solar program. The Ashland project was chosen out of 31 finalists and nearly 200 entries.

“We’re fighting against the clock to stop climate change,” said Kennedy. “And we all have a part to play in that fight. Citizens Energy is trying to open the doors on not only the clean energy benefits of solar, but also the cost savings that families really need right now. We’re very proud of the recognition our JOE-4-SUN program has received, and we’re humbled to share our prize with the community we serve. I hope this will inspire others to join the movement.”

Kennedy serves as Managing Director at Citizens Energy Corporation, a Boston-based energy nonprofit founded by his father, Joseph P. Kennedy II, in 1979 to make life’s basic needs more affordable. Over the past decade, the innovative nonprofit has been dedicated to making the renewable revolution accessible to families in need.

Working with the utilities Eversource and National Grid, Citizens Energy’s innovative JOE-4-SUN program provides a 50% discount on electricity credits generated at six utility-scale solar farms in Massachusetts. JOE-4-SUN also provides a significant energy discount to working families in New York. The current program serves about 2,500 families each year, and will save households $13 million over its 20-year lifespan.

Citizens Energy won the Sunny Award for Equitable Community Solar for its JOE-4-SUN project in Ashland. The six-megawatt array, which was developed and financed by Citizens Energy, is built on an EPA superfund site and provides annual savings of about $400 to each of its nearly 600 subscribers. The project was built in close cooperation with the town and the community impacted by decades of chemical waste dumped on the site, which was cleaned and capped before it was transformed into a productive asset.

“We are thrilled to see the Superfund site renewed with the installation of solar for green, sustainable energy,” said Peter Matchak, the Ashland Town Planner.

The Bay State nonprofit will receive a $10,000 Sunny Awards Grand Prize and an additional $2,000 for its other two projects selected as finalists in the same nationwide contest — a JOE-4-SUN low-income community solar project in Falmouth, Mass., and the Citizens Imperial Solar Array in Imperial Valley, California. The high-desert array in the Golden State is the largest low-income community solar project in the nation.

“Citizens has always been about helping people,” said Kristina Perez, Director of Charitable Programs at the clean energy nonprofit. “With JOE-4-SUN, we can provide meaningful energy savings to struggling households while also protecting the environment. The prize money is a great bonus because it is yet another way we can give back to our community.”

Citizens Energy plans to apply the prize money to the electric bills of JOE-4-SUN subscribers to expand their savings this winter.

Announced last July by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Sunny Awards initiative was designed to highlight industry best practices that will provide a blueprint to help stakeholders achieve NCSP targets established in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The partnership is one of 21 priority programs included in the Justice40 Pilot Program—a Biden Administration initiative with the goal of delivering 40 percent of the overall benefits of climate and clean energy investments to disadvantaged communities. NCSP aims to power the equivalent of five million households with community solar by 2025, generating $1 billion in electricity bill savings.

Citizens Energy has built over $550 million in renewable generation and transmission assets over the last decade, most recently completing several battery storage and microgrid projects. Since its founding over 40 years ago, Citizens Energy has channeled over $600 million in benefits from its energy ventures to help low-income families across the U.S. and in countries where the company does business.