Native American community plugs in to tailored energy-efficiency resources
A Native American community in northern Wisconsin now has better access to resources to make their homes more energy efficient and warmer thanks to a pilot program offered by Xcel Energy.
After months of planning with Focus on Energy, along with approval from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, Xcel Energy and Focus on Energy staff developed a program that allows community members of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Bayfield County to have easier access to various energy-saving measures.
Focus on Energy is Wisconsin utilities’ statewide energy-efficiency and renewable-resource program, funded by the state’s investor-owned and municipal electric utilities and cooperatives. Its programs are available to customers of those participating utilities and cooperatives.
“Developing a program that provides the tools and structure necessary to work within the Red Cliff community was a key piece to creating long-term success,” said Xcel Energy’s Lori Drilling, manager of Energy Efficiency and Key Accounts.
Investing in skills that have a lasting impact
Although the program started with the idea of providing free energy assessments in businesses located on the reservation, it culminated in the training of several Red Cliff Band tribal members to become Building Performance Institute-certified (BPI) to conduct residential assessments.
Not only are they now certified technicians, but they also have all the equipment they need to perform the assessments, such as blower-door testing equipment and infrared cameras – all provided by Xcel Energy. The commercial offering for businesses consists of free energy assessments and incentives, while the residential offering consists of weatherization and HVAC-equipment incentives.
Built for the community
While Focus on Energy has worked with other tribal communities in Wisconsin, this program was more hands on and allowed for the development and implementation of a customized plan, according to Courtney Wojcik, Energy Portfolio manager with Focus on Energy.
“We worked with Xcel Energy and the Red Cliff Band to build a program based on exactly what was needed,” Wojcik said. “Resources vary among tribes, so we knew having a specific custom program would be most effective.”
The program also includes enhanced financial incentives for Red Cliff business and residential customers that install energy-efficient equipment – up to 100% of the project costs – another first-of-its kind offer, she said.
Xcel Energy already has received commission approval to continue the program with the Red Cliff Band tribe in 2023 and will look at ways to expand the effort to other tribal communities in the future.