Program Makes Solar-Generated Energy Affordable

  • The Bay State Banner
  • By Hannah Goetz
Hannah Goetz

Alicia Alleyne, a 48-year-old working mother, has been frustrated by both climate change and her lack of access to the green technology that can help fight it.

Getting by on a limited income, Alleyne and her family rent a Mattapan apartment and have few options to buy or lease solar panels or use other renewable power sources. But as natives of Barbados, both she and her husband know the threat that global warming poses to island nations and coastal communities like Boston.

On the web Households can apply to JOE-4-SUN online at: “It’s totally bad down there,” said Alleyne of climate-change devastation in the Windward Islands, which she left 14 years ago to move to the Hub to join her husband. “The temperatures have increased and the storms have gotten worse.” So when Alleyne learned of a new initiative to provide both access to renewable power and savings on electricity bills, she jumped at the chance.

“I would definitely use solar because it’s much better and more efficient, but I’m renting — it’s not my house,” said Alleyne, a certified nursing assistant, whose husband, Jeffrey, works at Logan Airport. The Alleyne family got help in the past from energy programs run by Citizens Energy Corporation, a Boston-based non-profit founded in 1979 by former U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II. She recently became one of the first subscribers to JOE-4-SUN, which connects income-eligible families to large ground-mounted solar arrays built in rural or suburban areas of the state.

The Alleyne household, which includes a teenage daughter, will now save $300 on their annual electric bill and reduce their carbon footprint through the Citizens Energy program, the largest Low-Income Community Shared Solar initiative in Massachusetts. Close to 2,000 Bay State families who sign up this fall will benefit from the guaranteed electricity savings program.

“I am grateful for the help, a little bit along the way goes really far,” said Alleyne.

JOE-4-SUN works by providing green energy credits produced by five utility-scale solar farms to households already receiving discount rates from the Eversource or National Grid utilities. Families receive the benefit for at least 12 months atop their utility discounts. Over the course of its 20-year lifespan, the groundbreaking program will save 35,000 Massachusetts families in need upwards of $10 million — while also empowering them to take part in the renewable energy revolution. All without requiring rooftop panels or leasing agreements.

“We are proud to bring the promise of the renewable energy revolution to those in need,” said Kennedy, at the program’s launch in August. “There are too many people in Washington that don’t even think that global warming is real. They are climate change deniers. But it’s no joke when the temperature rises to over 100 degrees. People suffer and people die. And we can do something about that by using renewable power to reduce our carbon footprint. At the same time, we can make this new technology available to those in need by lowering their electric costs.”

Also at the August launch event, Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who sponsored the legislation that paved the way for JOE-4-SUN, said the program “is a natural extension of the work that Joe Kennedy has been doing for over 40 years.” Building on a legacy of philanthropy and innovation, JOE-4-SUN aims to address energy needs at a critical time of transition in the U.S. energy economy, said DeLeo.

“I really appreciate all of Citizens Energy’s programs,” said Alleyne. “When I heard about JOE-4-SUN, I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I will definitely sign up.’”