Solar

Inside Climate News: Can Illinois Handle a 2000% Jump in Solar Capacity? We’re About to Find Out

Can Illinois handle a 2000% jump in solar capacity? We’re about to find out

October 30, 2018

By Dan Gearino

Illinois is about to learn what it takes to manage a nearly 20-fold increase in solar power.

A new state law requires utilities to dramatically increase their purchases of renewable energy, with a goal of getting at least 25 percent of the state’s electricity from clean energy by 2025, a large part of it from solar.

For a state starting with very little solar power now—less than 100 megawatts—becoming a Midwest solar leader will mean building an industry infrastructure almost from scratch, and doing it fast.

To ramp up by the deadline, the state needs two things: workers and projects.

People involved in the effort describe an atmosphere of almost chaotic progress. State officials and clean energy advocates want Illinois to be a model for how to expand clean energy in a way that provides targeted help to the local communities.

“The stakes are high,” said David Kolata, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board, a Chicago-based consumer advocacy group involved in the process. “I think we have a good plan and we have reasons to be optimistic in general, but there’s no question we’ll face some roadblocks and things we didn’t think of.”

Hundreds of people have enrolled in job-training programs across the state, organized by nonprofit groups as part of the law. Developers are submitting proposals for new solar projects. And some of the established developers are starting to complain that the process for selecting projects—designed to give a wide number of developers a chance—is flawed.

Catapulting Illinois to a Midwest Solar Leader

Illinois ranks 35th in the country in solar power right now, with 98 megawatts, less than 1 percent of its electricity generation. Development has been slow here in part because the state lacks the supportive policies from the government and utilities that have boosted solar elsewhere.

Five years from now, analysts expect to see nearly 2,000 megawatts of solar power in Illinois and the state in 17th place nationally, according to Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables and the Solar Energy Industries Association. No other state has Illinois’ combination of starting from so low and being on track to rise so high during that period.

“It’s going to catapult Illinois to the forefront of the solar market, and put our state on the path to the renewable future we need to limit the worst impacts of climate change,” said MeLena Hessel, policy advocate for the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

This boom in renewable energy stems from the state’s Future Energy Jobs Act, a 2016 law that provided subsidies for two nuclear power plants and also set the target to get 25 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2025, among other requirements. The renewable energy provisions were part of a legislative compromise to get enough votes to approve the nuclear power subsidies. (The law was upheld by a federal court in September.)

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Energy News Network: Michigan PURPA Rulings a ‘Mixed Bag’ for Independent Power Producers

Michigan PURPA Rulings a ‘Mixed Bag’ for Independent Power Producers

By Andy Balaskovitz

Independent power producers say recent rulings by Michigan regulators provide short-term development opportunities but also more uncertainty in the coming years as they negotiate contracts with a major utility.

On October 5, the Michigan Public Service Commission issued multiple orders related to the prices Consumers Energy pays to independent producers under federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) contracts.

One ruling allows for up to 150 megawatts worth of projects to qualify for PURPA contracts at rates that advocates say are more favorable for developers. The rates had been on hold for months as regulators settled questions around avoided costs and contract terms. Avoided costs are the rates paid by law to independent producers based on the price of the utility building the generation itself.

However, it’s unclear how long those terms will stay in place or how much opportunity there will be in the future. In the coming months, the MPSC may allow Consumers to restructure those rates and contract terms in ways that developers say would stifle PURPA contracts. While the most recent rulings apply to Consumers, DTE Energy’s avoided costs are also under consideration.

Clean energy advocates and independent power producers have been closely following the cases for more than two years as PURPA rules could determine the level of third-party solar development in the state. The debate over PURPA and solar development has played out in multiple states in recent years.

Margrethe Kearney, staff attorney with the Environmental Law and Policy Center, which intervened in Consumers’ rate cases, said the rulings effectively delay certainty over PURPA contracts by pushing them into Consumers’ IRP, which won’t be finalized for another six months.

“That undercurrent is a troubling,” Kearney said. “Do we really want a commission that isn’t making timely decisions and bouncing issues from one contested case to another?”
If the MPSC doesn’t agree with Consumers’ proposed avoided costs and contract terms, the company still has the ability to withdraw its IRP, while granting the utility’s request could harm developers, Kearney said.

“They’ve suggested that if any part of their plan is not approved, they could pull the whole thing,” Kearney said. “The change in the contract terms would strike a huge blow to independent power producers.”

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Lakeshore Public Radio: State Policies Making Indiana Clean Energy Businesses Less Competitive

September 25, 2018
Reports: State Policies Making Indiana Clean Energy Businesses Less Competitive
by Rebecca Thiele

 

Nearly 90 companies in Indiana play some role in renewable energy projects, which bring jobs to the state. But these businesses can’t be as successful without the policies to support them, according to a new report by the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

The ELPC says lately Indiana hasn’t been creating a good business environment for renewable energy. The state opted to phase out net metering last year and eliminated statewide energy efficiency standards in 2014. Chris Rohaly is the president of Green Alternatives Inc., a small solar installation company in Kokomo.

“I’m bidding against companies out of Ohio or Illinois and they — because of the strength of their home markets — are pretty well funded,” he says.

ELPC Clean Energy Business Specialist Tamara Dzubay co-authored the report. She says the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects two renewable energy jobs will grow substantially in the next eight years — but without the right policies, Indiana could miss out on the opportunity.

“Solar energy installation and wind turbine technician jobs cannot be outsourced, so many jobs are there to stay,” Dzubay says.

Among other things, the ELPC suggested developing a statewide energy plan and making it mandatory for utilities to get half of their energy from renewables by 2030.

LISTEN TO RADIO CLIP

NEW ELPC REPORT: Indiana Clean Energy Business Supply Chain Report Finds 89 Companies, Good for Hoosier Economy, Good for Environment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ELPC REPORT:  89 Indiana Clean Energy Businesses –

Good for Indiana’s Economy and Environment Together

 

INDIANAPOLIS – A report released today by the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) highlights 89 Indiana companies engaging in accelerating wind power and solar energy as manufacturers, developers, designers, contractors, installers and professional and other services, These companies are employing more than 10,000 Hoosiers across the state.

“Indiana wind power and solar energy development are good for business growth and the environment together,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of ELPC. “Renewable energy development creates manufacturing jobs, including for the tower cables and wires to the protective covers that shield blades from harsh weather, for skilled workers in places like Bremen and Elkhart, and for Indiana construction workers doing the installations.”

The report identified that clean energy supply chain companies are widespread. Wind power and solar energy businesses are located in all 9 congressional districts, in 40 of the 50 state senate districts, and in 56 of the 100 state house districts.

However, Indiana has recently taken major backward steps on its clean energy policies, such as eliminating retail net metering by July 2022 for distributed solar energy generation, and ending its mandatory energy efficiency resource standard that created jobs and saved people money on their utility bills.

“The report demonstrates that Indiana changed course and is moving its clean energy initiatives in the wrong direction,” said Learner. “State leaders must take strong targeted policy actions for Indiana to regain momentum and advance clean energy growth that will lower Hoosiers’ utility bills and reduce carbon pollution.”

Additional groups that participated in ELPC’s report included Citizen Action Coalition of Indiana, Hoosier Environmental Council, Indiana Distributed Energy Alliance and others. The report calls for Indiana to adopt new policies to support accelerated growth of renewables and energy efficiency to remain competitive in the growing clean energy economy. Some of those policies, addressed in the report, should include:

  • setting strong clean energy targets by adopting a mandatory renewable energy standard
  • developing a stronger Integrated Resource Planning Process (IRP);
  • providing stronger tools for clean energy financing by reinstating net metering;
  • enacting a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program;
  • requiring utilities to comply with the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA)

“Energy is an important part of the infrastructure that businesses look to when deciding where to open up shop,” said Janet McCabe, Senior Law Fellow at ELPC, former US EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, and assistant director for policy and implementation at Indiana University’s Environmental Resilience Institute. “We know many businesses have embraced sustainability and placed a priority on renewable energy. Indiana has the companies and workforce to bring more solar powered businesses here and to develop more wind energy across the state using parts manufactured by Hoosiers.”

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Press Release: Solar Industry and Illinois Farm Bureau Collaborate to Guarantee Tax Revenue for Rural Communities and Protect Farmland

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Solar Industry and Illinois Farm Bureau Collaborate to Guarantee Tax Revenue for Rural Communities and Protect Farmland

New law will protect farmland and help ensure $250-350 million in tax revenue for rural Illinois

Springfield, Illinois – August 13, 2018 – Governor Rauner has signed two bills that will help ensure solar development benefits farmers and rural communities in Illinois.  The state’s solar industry worked with the Illinois Farm Bureau, local authorities and other stakeholders to shape SB 486, which creates a standard tax assessment value for solar farms in Illinois, and SB 2591, which sets standards for the construction and deconstruction of solar farms on agricultural land. The Illinois House and Senate passed both bills unanimously and Governor Rauner signed the final piece of legislation on August 10th.

The solar property tax legislation (SB 486) sets a standard tax assessment value for large solar installations, creating certainty around the property tax revenue that solar farms will pay to local taxing bodies, helping to fund schools, roads and other critical services. Under the legislation, each megawatt (MW) of ground-mounted solar installed in Illinois will generate an average of $6,000-$8,000 per year in property tax revenue. The industry expects to install up to 2,000 MW of ground-mounted solar farms by 2021, which will create a total $250-$350 million in property tax revenue over a 25-year lifespan. Under Illinois’ funding formula, approximately 70% of this revenue will be dedicated to funding schools.

“Solar energy is a rapidly growing industry in Illinois, and it’s good not only for the environment but also for the economy,” said Illinois Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), sponsor of SB 486. “It is my hope that the revenue generated from this industry can benefit local schools and communities and encourage the continued growth of solar power in our state.”

“Solar businesses are ready and willing to create new jobs, clean energy and tax revenue to support Illinois communities. This bill provides a framework for us to move forward,” said Lesley McCain, executive director of the Illinois Solar Energy Association. “The solar industry was proud to work with the Farm Bureau, county tax assessors and school districts to develop smart solar legislation that benefits all Illinoisans.”

The solar industry worked in partnership with Environmental Law & Policy Center and other advocates to support smart solar policy in Illinois.

“ELPC has helped drive clean energy development in Illinois, and we are pleased that Governor Rauner has signed the solar energy legislation that the General Assembly passed this spring,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.  “The stage is set even better to accelerate solar energy development that is good for job creation and good for a cleaner energy future in Illinois.”

The farmland legislation (SB 2591) ensures that solar farms can coexist with agriculture in Illinois while providing long-term benefits to soil and water quality. SB 2591 requires that solar developers enter into an Agricultural Impact Mitigation Agreement (AIMA) with the Illinois Department of Agriculture prior to solar farm construction. The AIMA will set standards for solar construction and deconstruction and require financial assurances from developers that land will be restored to its prior use at the end of a solar farm’s life.

Governor Rauner signed SB 486 on August 10th and SB 2591 on June 29th. These bills will help Illinois reach its statewide goal of 25 percent renewable energy by 2025 while also driving economic development, new jobs and reducing pollution from electric generation.

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ELPC named the 2018 Regulatory Champion of the Year by Interstate Renewable Energy Council

 (San Francisco, CA) – During an awards ceremony at Intersolar North America, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) today honored its 2018 3iAward recipients, celebrating the nation’s best innovation, ingenuity and inspiration in renewable energy and energy efficiency. The winners are based on a prestigious annual national search.

“Today, we’re proud to recognize our 2018 IREC 3iAward recipients – among the nation’s most extraordinary people, projects and programs making a sustainable energy future a reality,” said IREC Board Chair Larry Shirley.

“Their work is setting new standards – creating solutions to today’s complex renewable energy and energy efficiency challenges – changing communities and our national energy landscape in the process,” added Ken Jurman, IREC board member and chair of the 3iAwards Committee.

“As we honor their achievements, IREC celebrates its 36th year,” Shirley said. “We are more proud than ever of our own history, leading transformative policies and practices that allow millions more Americans to benefit from clean renewable energy.”

Regulatory Champion of the Year
Environmental Law & Policy Center, Chicago IL

Where Midwest regulatory reform issues call for talented public interest environmental entrepreneurs, you’ll find the Environmental Law and Policy Center. Since 1993, ELPC has been improving the quality of life in Midwest communities, now with offices in nine states. Nowhere is ELPC’s handiwork more apparent than in the Illinois Future Energy Jobs bill and the Illinois Power Agency’s Long Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan, both of which will help usher in new wind and solar projects. ELPC has played a pivotal role advancing community solar and interconnection reform in Illinois, Iowa and most recently Minnesota, where consumers and communities experienced major backlogs, delays and costs to connect community solar projects to the grid. Along with IREC and Fresh Energy, ELPC successfully petitioned the Minnesota Public Utility Commission for more transparent, nationally consistent interconnection standards. New common-sense interconnection standards now lay the foundation for more Midwesterners to benefit from clean energy for years to come.

Solar Novus Today: National 3iAward Winners Announced by IREC at Intersolar North America

July 11, 2018

National 3iAward Winners Announced at Intersolar North America

During an awards ceremony at Intersolar North America, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) today honored its 2018 3iAward recipients, celebrating the nation’s best innovation, ingenuity and inspiration in renewable energy and energy efficiency. The winners are based on a prestigious annual national search.

“Today, we’re proud to recognize our 2018 IREC 3iAward recipients – among the nation’s most extraordinary people, projects and programs making a sustainable energy future a reality,” said IREC Board Chair Larry Shirley.

“Their work is setting new standards – creating solutions to today’s complex renewable energy and energy efficiency challenges – changing communities and our national energy landscape in the process,” added Ken Jurman, IREC board member and chair of the 3iAwards Committee.

Regulatory Champion of the Year

Environmental Law & Policy Center, Chicago IL

Where Midwest regulatory reform issues call for talented public interest environmental entrepreneurs, you’ll find the Environmental Law and Policy Center. Since 1993, ELPC has been improving the quality of life in Midwest communities, now with offices in nine states. Nowhere is ELPC’s handiwork more apparent than in the Illinois Future Energy Jobs bill and the Illinois Power Agency’s Long Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan, both of which will help usher in new wind and solar projects. ELPC has played a pivotal role advancing community solar and interconnection reform in Illinois, Iowa and most recently Minnesota, where consumers and communities experienced major backlogs, delays and costs to connect community solar projects to the grid. Along with IREC and Fresh Energy, ELPC successfully petitioned the Minnesota Public Utility Commission for more transparent, nationally consistent interconnection standards. New common sense interconnection standards now lay the foundation for more Midwesterners to benefit from clean energy for years to come.

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E&E News: What’s the future for the Midwest in a post-mandate world?

What’s the future for the Midwest in a post-mandate world?

by Jeffrey Tomich

An energy policy wave swept across the Midwest a decade ago as seven states adopted laws from 2006 to 2009 requiring utilities to add increasing amounts of wind and solar energy.

The aim of the clean energy mandates was clear — to slash greenhouse gases and other power plant emissions and generate new jobs and investment.

A decade later, most utilities in states with renewable portfolio standards are either meeting or on track to meet the targets. And some of them, like Minnesota-based Xcel Energy Inc., are announcing plans to blow past clean energy goals, often literally, by adding hundreds of megawatts of new wind capacity.

If there’s an exception, it’s Illinois, which is lagging its 25 percent RPS adopted a decade ago because of an unintended conflict with the state’s retail choice law that restricted funding for renewable energy procurement. But that’s changing quickly with adoption of the 2016 Future Energy Jobs Act, which revamped the RPS and specifically requires 4,300 megawatts of new solar and wind power.

Backers of the renewable energy laws — even some of the utilities subject to them — agree RPS policies played an important role in helping jump-start clean energy transitions in states that adopted them. And in the process, the blossoming of wind and solar energy, along with cheap natural gas and erosion in energy demand, has hastened the retirement of coal plants.

Nationally, about half of all growth in U.S. renewable electricity generation and capacity from 2000 to 2016 was tied to state RPS requirements in the 29 states that have them, according to the most recent annual report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. And compliance costs nationally have been modest, averaging 1.6 percent of retail electricity bills through 2015.

. . . .

Renewable energy advocates are reluctant to say RPS laws are no longer beneficial. The mandates provide policy certainty to developers and utilities alike. But in some markets especially, the presence of a renewable mandate isn’t the death knell for clean energy.

“Renewable portfolio standards in Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota are successful policies that have helped drive wind and solar energy investments in those markets,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center.

“But wind power is taking off in several states without an RPS,” such as Iowa, the Dakotas and Indiana, he said.

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Midwest Energy News: Illinois bills for solar on farmland await governor’s signature

by Kari Lyderson

A trio of bills awaiting the governor’s signature in Illinois is the latest development in preparing the state for an expected massive influx of solar energy development sparked by the state’s 2016 Future Energy Jobs Act.

The bills seek to standardize and codify requirements and expectations for large-scale ground-mounted solar installations being built on farmland and other rural parcels by solar developers leasing space from landowners.

A great increase in such developments is expected, as the energy law calls for the construction of 3,000 MW of solar and offers incentives in the form of Solar Renewable Energy Credits.

“There’s always concern when you have a new industry come in,” said Kevin Semlow, state legislation director for the Illinois Farm Bureau, which played a lead role in shaping two of the bills. “Our members just wanted that clarity so there’s a starting place when companies come out talking about signing leases. We’ve already seen that there have been numerous companies throughout the state asking for leases.”

Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Centerwhich helped shape all three bills, said the diverse array of groups participating in the discussions show the widespread support for solar in the state.

“When there were just a couple [large solar] projects here and there, they could be treated as one-offs,” Learner said “So the trio of solar energy bills passed in Illinois by a strong bipartisan majority reflects the growing progress of solar energy development…There’s now sufficient development growing and moving forward that it makes sense to flesh out the policy framework.”

READ FULL ARTICLE HERE

Three Big Wins for Solar Energy in Illinois

Three Big Wins for Solar Energy in Illinois

A trio of solar energy legislation in Illinois reflects the growing progress of solar development in Illinois and ELPC’s leadership work with diverse solar energy businesses, farm groups, conservation groups and municipalities to build out the policy framework.  Kudos to ELPC’s experienced Illinois legislative team led by Al Grosboll, David McEllis and Jonathan Feipel.

ELPC worked closely with the solar industry to successfully advance three important bills to support and encourage solar development.  All three bills passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly and now await the Governor’s signature.  Each bill, in its own unique way, is important to successful solar energy development in Illinois.

  • SB 3214 (Solar Pollinators)ELPC drafted this legislation after reviewing similar efforts in Minnesota and Maryland.  SB 3214 will lead to increased pollinator-friendly habitat on solar energy project sites in Illinois.  ELPC worked closely with the solar industry and conservation advocates to get buy-in; we also negotiated with the Illinois Farm Bureau to avoid confusion or opposition.  This legislation provides that if a solar company intends to present its project as “pollinator friendly,” then the solar company must meet a pollinator standard.  The University of Illinois Department of Entomology will prepare a scorecard to define a pollinator-friendly project.
  • SB 486 (Solar Project Uniform Assessments)Illinois does not have a statewide uniform standard for assessing the value of solar energy projects.  Currently, 102 county assessors determine solar project values, and each can reach a different result, creating uncertainty within the solar industry.  Solar developers, like other businesses, desire stability and certainty.  ELPC supported the solar industry’s efforts to negotiate a uniform standard to be used by the state’s county assessors.  This is similar to the legislative work ten years ago to establish a uniform statewide standard for assessing wind power projects.
  • SB 2591 (Solar Agricultural Impact Mitigation Act) The solar industry negotiated with the Illinois Farm Bureau to develop mitigation legislation to protect agricultural interests.  A comparable “AIM Act” is in place for wind power projects, and the Farm Bureau sought similar requirements for solar energy projects.  The initial draft legislation was problematic, but it was amended and is acceptable to the solar industry and to ELPC.  This bill is a good compromise that sets reasonable standards for solar energy projects.

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