Solar

IL Supreme Court Declines to Hear ComEd Appeal, Allowing Solar Programs to Expand to 570,000 Illinois Rural Co-Op and Municipal Electric Utility Customers

Contact: Paul Dailing, Pdailing@elpc.org, (312) 795-3701

Illinois Supreme Court Declines to Hear ComEd Appeal, Allowing Solar Programs to Expand to 570,000 Illinois Rural Co-Op and Municipal Electric Utility Customers

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

The Illinois Supreme Court denied Commonwealth Edison’s petition for leave to appeal the Appellate Court’s May 2019 decision, thereby ending the utility’s legal challenge to the expansion of solar programs throughout Illinois. ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner said:

“This was the last legal impediment to expanding new solar programs to 570,000 residential and business customers in areas served by municipal utilities and rural electric cooperatives,” Learner said. “Now all Illinoisans can gain the environmental and economic benefits of distributed solar generation, and low-income and community solar programs.”

ELPC attorneys represented a clean energy coalition that included the Natural Resources Defense Council and several Illinois solar companies in the litigation to defend the Illinois Power Agency’s and Illinois Commerce Commission’s approval of these new Illinois solar programs.

###

Illinois Passes Bill to Promote Renewable Energy Projects for Universities, Government Facilities

For Immediate Release

Contact: Judith Nemes, jnemes@elpc.org, 312-795-3706

Illinois General Assembly Passes Bill to Promote Renewable Energy Projects for Universities, Government Facilities

 Legislation will help reduce energy costs, move the state closer toward renewable energy goals

SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois House of Representatives passed a bill by a 108-8 vote to allow public universities and state agencies to enter into renewable energy contracts for up to 25 years. Senate Bill 211 is sponsored by Senator Scott Bennett (D – Champaign) and Representative Katie Stuart (D – Edwardsville). The bill now goes to Governor Pritzker for his signature.

Universities and state agencies will now be able to enter into cost-effective renewable energy resource contracts. The previous contract length limitation was too short, making it economically infeasible for universities to enter into solar power purchase agreements. Installing on-site renewable energy with a 25-year contract will reduce overall electric bills for state universities and agencies while increasing renewable development in the state.

The legislation was supported by the University of Illinois System, Southern Illinois University System and the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

“Illinois is at a clean energy crossroads,” State Sen. Scott Bennett said. “As a state, we have the potential to continue to grow our clean energy footprint. Senate Bill 211 will make it easier for Illinois to continue that upward trajectory of providing clean, reliable and affordable energy to all of our communities.”

“Senate Bill 211 will give state agencies and universities the ability to adopt on-site solar projects,” said State Rep. Katie Stuart. “Southern Illinois University Edwardsville has been a leader in campus conservation projects. With this legislation, SIUE will be able to move forward with renewable energy.  Not only will this legislation lead to more sustainable practices from our universities and state agencies, but it will also cut energy costs over time.”

“The University is proud to be a partner in sustainability efforts to reduce our carbon footprint,” said Sean D. Reeder, Assistant Vice President, Office of Capital Programs & Utility Services, University of Illinois System. “Thanks to the legislation’s sponsors, Sen. Bennett and Rep. Stuart, for their tireless work on this issue. We look forward to expanding our renewable power portfolio following these new changes.”

“The Southern Illinois University System is pleased to have worked with our sister university system, the University of Illinois, and all our public universities to provide this important opportunity to realize greater energy savings through sustainable means like wind and solar,” said SIU System President Kevin Dorsey. “Our efforts could not have been accomplished without support from our partners including Rep. Katie Stuart and Sen. Scott Bennett in the state legislature, Governor Pritzker’s Administration with the Department of Central Management Services, and groups like the Environmental Law & Policy Center.  We came together to make a good idea even better as the bill was developed by the General Assembly.”

“Illinois is making great strides accelerating renewable energy development. Senate Bill 211 gives state universities and agencies new tools to lead on solar and wind energy,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director at the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “This legislation supports a healthier environment, lower energy costs, and job creation throughout Illinois.”

###

Illinois Solar for All Program launch

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                            

Contacts:
Little Village Environmental Justice Organization: Juliana Pino, (312) 344-3143, JPino@lvejo.org
Environmental Law & Policy Center: Judith Nemes, (312) 795-3706, JNemes@elpc.org
Blacks in Green: Naomi Davis, (773) 678-9541, NaomiDavis@blacksingreen.org
Illinois People’s Action:  Dawn Dannenbring, (309) 531-4433, ILPeoplesAction12@gmail.com

 Illinois Solar for All Program Launches to Bring Affordable Renewable Energy to Low-income Households and Environmental Justice Communities across the State

Solar projects will tap job training programs to boost opportunities for new trainees

Today, the Illinois Solar for All Program officially opens for business to promote new solar projects serving low-income and environmental justice communities throughout Illinois. An important element of the program focuses on solar developers coordinating with job training programs to expand the workforce in the renewable energy industry to include individuals who are or were foster children or persons with a record who are transitioning.

The program was created as part of the Future Energy Jobs Act, which was passed by the Illinois legislature in December 2016 to increase solar energy jobs and renewable development projects across Illinois, among other objectives. Funding for the first two years of the program is set at $30 million per year, which will be used to purchase Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) from new low-income solar projects.

The Illinois Power Agency was tasked with implementing the program and it has hired Chicago-based Elevate Energy as the program administrator. The Illinois Solar for All Program has a number of sub-programs for low-income and environmental justice communities, including ones for rooftop solar, community solar projects, and solar projects for non-profits and public facilities located in and serving those communities.

“Illinois Solar for All brings unprecedented opportunities for communities on the frontlines of environmental harms and climate change consequences to lead just transition through adoption of renewable energy and its associated economic justice and cleaner air benefits,” said Juliana Pino, policy director at the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization. “Dozens of members of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition and Illinois Solar for All Working Group—from private solar companies to community leaders—worked diligently to create and support the program. Now, importantly, lower electric bills and career opportunities for persons with a record and foster care alumni will be prioritized where they are needed most.”

“The Environmental Law & Policy Center is proud to help establish one of the most comprehensive statewide programs in the country that drives solar development to low-income and environmental justice communities,” said MeLena Hessel, policy advocate at the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

“Jobs with strong wages and future growth are essential to stabilization in my community. Illinois Solar for All job training and hiring requirements create an important win for those too often left out of emerging economies,” said Naomi Davis, founder of Blacks in Green. “The quality of the job training is first class, and some graduates are even experiencing multiple offers from solar vendors. I’m so pleased the hard work of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition has produced a program with such dynamic, built-in connections between employers, trainers, and candidates. This structure ensures that economic opportunities flow more equitably in the clean energy pipeline.”

“Illinois Solar for All programs give hope and dignity to the least among us,” said Rev. Tony Pierce, Board President of Illinois People’s Action, and his church is a member of the Peoria job training program preparing persons with a record for careers in the industry. “Our communities have long been left out of the Green Energy Economy and these programs begin to address those disparities.”

Training sessions will be scheduled for approved solar developers to walk them through the details of the project submission process.

###

 

Check out more of ELPC’s work with Solar development and Clean Energy here.

Howard Learner on the State of Solar in the Midwest

ELPC’s President and Executive Director, Howard Learner, joined SEIA’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Abigail Ross Hopper, November 14 at the Solar Power Midwest conference to discuss key trends facing the solar industry in the Midwest. There was a discussion on the state of distributed and utility-scale solar since the passage of critical energy legislation in Illinois and Michigan, how recent electoral outcomes factor into regional opportunities and challenges to solar, and how effective strategic partnerships can make solar a more dominant player in the Midwest energy landscape.

Howard closed the conversation with a call of optimism for the future of clean energy saying “We can blow through the 7GW of solar we have in the Midwest if we get the implementation right and seize the opportunities presented.”

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.)

READ FULL STORY

 

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.”

READ FULL STORY

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.”

###

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.

###

 

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.

ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 25 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now