MREA: Working Toward the Clean Energy Economy of the Future

By Peter Murphy, Solar Program Director for Midwest Renewable Energy Association 

For 30 years, the mission of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) has been to “promote renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable living through education and demonstration.” The MREA was incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit shortly after the first Energy Fair in 1990. Since then, the MREA has grown steadily and now manages one of the country’s top solar training/programs and coordinates partnerships like Grow Solar and Rise Up Midwest! throughout the Midwest to expand the renewable energy market.

In a Grow Solar program, people learn about solar together with their neighbors, local business owners, and community leaders. Solar is contagious: a short burst of market activity can lead to an increase in solar deployment for years to come. 

MREA has been hosting Solar Group Buy programs (Grow Solar) throughout the midwest since 2013, connecting communities with resources to use their collective buying power to save on the total cost of going solar. The purpose of these programs is to increase public education about solar which allows property owners to make informed decisions about their energy future. To date, MREA has facilitated 40 programs, reaching over 8,000 individuals and resulting in over 13 megawatts of solar on more than 1,700 properties. Grow Solar St. Louis and Grow Solar Metro East, being two of the most successful programs to date, have seen an incredible 500 kW of contracted solar in the 2020 year alone.

The MREA’s competitive request for proposals process ensures a competitive price and the simplicity of working with a single installer. Most participants receive a price per watt lower than what is otherwise available from this solar installer. The more properties that participate, the lower the price for all. These programs are often the catalyst that inspires people, who wouldn’t otherwise go solar.

In April 2020, in response to the COVID-19 recession, MREA launched a new initiative: Rise Up Midwest!, which focuses on growing “Main Street” energy investment, grid modernization, and the local clean energy job market. The energy efficiency and distributed energy industries, like solar installations, have the capacity to rapidly expand services resulting in increased local investment, business growth, energy resiliency as well as employment opportunities across the region. By providing a detailed justification of need, developing widespread stakeholder and public support, and advancing regional programs and policies that work, the MREA, alongside our partners, can create conditions for immediate and market enabling action.

To learn more visit: www.midwestrenew.org, www.growsolar.org, and www.riseupmidwest.org