Citizens Energy Corporation
The unique Citizens Transmission project model, designed by Citizens Energy Chairman Joseph P. Kennedy II, dedicates 50% of the profits generated from high-voltage power lines into charitable energy assistance programmes helping low-income residents in the project areas.
In 2005, Citizens, together with San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) began developing the “Sunrise Powerlink,” a USD 1.8 billion, 120-mile, 500 kV power line connecting San Diego County to large sources of locked-in renewable energy from Imperial County. The goal was to develop and finance lines that carry green power from wind, solar, and geothermal sources and use the profits to enable low-income families to reap the benefits of clean energy at no cost in an area where temperatures can soar to 48 degrees Celsius and pose significant health impacts on families who cannot afford air-conditioning.
Citizens ultimately invested USD 100 million in the line for the rights to 50% of the transmission capacity in Imperial County. Citizens turned that capacity over to the regional grid operator and earns a federally regulated rate-of-return on its investment. Since the line became operational in 2012, Citizens has provided over 500 free residential solar-rooftop installations through the Citizens Solar Homes Programme. The programme cuts each low-income household’s electricity costs by up to 50% per year, freeing up income for other basic necessities like food and medicines in California’s poorest county. The rooftop solar systems are funded through a 20-year pre-paid lease, ensuring that the homeowners will have no financial obligations, like maintenance and equipment replacement, during the entire lease.