Monday, April 23, 2012
Earth Day 1970 sounded an alarm. It launched the modern environmental movement, bringing cleaner air that’s healthier to breathe, cleaner water that’s safer to drink and enjoy for recreation, and fewer dangerous toxics in our communities. Today, the growing green economy is helping to drive the Midwest’s and our nation’s economic recovery. Energy efficient equipment and appliances, wind and solar energy development, cleaner more fuel efficient cars and modern high-performance rail development are good for job creation, good for economic growth and good for the environment.
Nonetheless, some defensive polluters and politicized critics are hauling out the old, false myth that we must choose between job creation and environmental progress. That wasn’t true 42 years ago, and it isn’t true today. Nor do most people believe in that canard. Let’s look at the facts and progress of innovative clean technologies in the Midwest.
Energy Efficiency Improvements are creating jobs, saving people and businesses money on their utility bills, and reducing pollution. Johnson Controls, Honeywell, Shaw Group and Sieben Energy Associates are among the many energy efficiency businesses employing thousands of skilled workers retrofitting schools, hospitals, homes and commercial, industrial and governmental buildings. Saving energy saves consumers money and keeps money in the Midwest regional economy. Less pollution means better public health and cleaner lakes and rivers for all. Why would anyone argue that it’s somehow smart to waste energy and money?
Wind and Solar Energy Development create manufacturing and technical jobs, rural economic development and pollution-free energy. The Environmental Law & Policy Center’s Wind and Solar Supply Chain reports show that :
- Illinois is home to more than 300 wind, solar and geothermal supply chain businesses and 18,000 related jobs
- Iowa is home to more than 80 wind supply chain businesses and 2,300 manufacturing jobs, alone.
- Michigan is home to more than 241 wind and solar supply chain businesses and 10,000 related jobs.
- Ohio is home to more than 169 wind and solar supply chain businesses and 9,000 related jobs.
- Wisconsin is home to more than 250 wind and solar supply chain businesses and 12,000 related jobs.
Chicago is home to the headquarters of 13 major wind power companies, making “the Windy City” a global wind industry hub. Old-line manufacturing companies including Brad Foote Gear Works (Cicero, IL), Dowding Industries – Astraeus Wind Energy (Eaton Rapids, MI), A. Lucas & Sons Steel (Peoria, IL), S&C Electric (Chicago, IL), Timken (Canton, OH) and Broadwind – Tower Tech (Manitowoc, WI) are re-tooling to supply growing markets for clean energy equipment. Iowa is the nation’s #2 state for installed wind power, and Illinois was the nation’s #2 state for new wind power development in 2011. Wind power is the fastest growing global energy source. Midwest politicians must get the policy framework right to keep advancing our region’s clean energy economy leadership.
Cleaner, More Efficient Cars and Trucks save us money at the gas pump, cutback air pollution, improve national security by making our country less dependent on foreign oil, and keep money in the Midwest states’ economies rather than drain dollars to the Middle East, Venezuela and oil-producing states. The Obama Administration’s leadership in stabilizing and modernizing the American auto industry is a true success story, which is especially important for the Midwest with its high percentage of auto-related manufacturing jobs. Look at just Illinois: Ford is now adding 1,100 new jobs at its Chicago assembly plant, Chrysler is adding 1,800 new jobs at its Belvedere plant, and Mitsubishi Motors is investing at its Normal plant and promoting electric vehicles. Automakers and parts suppliers in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana are reviving, and there are new advanced battery manufacturers, especially in Michigan.
The federal clean car standards will increase fuel economy to a fleet-wide average of 35 mpg in 2016 and 54.5 mpg by 2025. That will save trillions of dollars for America’s economy, create jobs for Americans building the cleaner cars for the future, and reduce greenhouse gas pollution. This is a smart solution.
High-Speed Rail Development is on track across Illinois with leadership from Democratic Governor Quinn and across Michigan with leadership from Republican Governor Snyder. High-performance rail improves mobility, creates jobs and spurs economic growth, and reduces pollution. Supply chain businesses across the Midwest will be manufacturing equipment for high-speed rail projects. Wisconsin Governor Walker’s decision to reject $810 million of federal high-speed rail funds and Ohio Governor Kasich’s decision to reject $400 million are missed opportunities, which we hope can be reversed in the future.
Modern, fast, comfortable and convenient trains connecting Chicago to Milwaukee, Detroit and St. Louis and to Cleveland, Des Moines, Indianapolis, Madison, Minneapolis-St. Paul and other Midwestern cities is an important third transportation option to highway congestion with higher gas prices and rising airfares with fewer flights. This is a sensible solution for our future.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ recent report shows that 3.1 million people hold jobs in green goods and services. Close to 500,000 jobs are in manufacturing, 370,000 in construction and 349,000 in professional, scientific and technical services. That’s progress.
We will soon be overwhelmed by 30-second political attack ads from all sides. Let’s separate sound solutions from the sound bites. We are achieving job creation, economic growth and better environmental quality together. That’s what the public wants and it’s happening.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Supporters of wind and solar energy see Iowa as a leading candidate to usher in an era of clean, sustainable energy that creates economic growth and energy independence.
The Gazette in Cedar Rapids examines this potential and speaks with the Environmental Law & Policy Center’s Steve Falck.
” One way to help would be for the state to lead in the use of solar and wind energy, said Steve Falck, a former northeast Iowa legislator who’s now with the Iowa Environmental Law and Policy Center. “
Read the story.
Thursday, April 5, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 5, 2012
Broad Support for Homegrown Clean Energy Shown in National Letter
110 Groups Join Call for Farm Bill Energy Renewal
WASHINGTON, D.C. – More than 100 diverse groups representing agriculture, energy, rural development and conservation called on Congress today to renew and fund core energy programs in the Farm Bill that push forward clean, homegrown energy. These programs advance energy efficiency, wind, solar, new energy crops, biomass energy and biobased products.
In a joint letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, signers noted, “These important and growing industries all benefit agriculture and forestry and are poised to make huge contributions to our economic, environmental and national security in the coming years, provided that we maintain stable policies that support clean energy.”
The energy programs are administered by the USDA and have made a number of accomplishments since the first Energy Title was created in the 2002 Farm Bill:
* The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) has supported nearly 8,000 energy efficiency and renewable energy projects across the nation in varying agricultural sectors.
* The Biomass Crop Assistance Program has assisted farmers in developing homegrown energy crops that support farms and supply needed energy sources
* Biofuel advancements have accelerated through support from the Biorefinery Assistance Program.
“This letter arrives at the Agriculture Committees as rising gasoline prices remind America that our long-term energy challenges to our nation’s well-being require long-term commitment,” said Andy Olsen, ELPC Senior Policy Advocate. “Polls show the American people believe the Farm Bill should support clean energy and we know Congress can pass a Farm Bill that reflects the will of the American people.”
Download the Letter
The Environmental Law & Policy Center is the Midwest’s leading environmental legal advocacy and eco-business innovation organization
Thursday, June 3, 2010
ELPC advocated for the Illinois Homeowners Solar Rights Act (HB 5429) that requires homeowners associations to adopt acceptable design standards for solar systems in buildings up to three stories tall. The Act passed the General Assembly in May, which is good news for the environment and for families like the Goldmans whose homeowners association had prevented them from installing solar panels on their home.
Watch the story on CBS 2
Thursday, April 22, 2010
New major interstate transmission lines in the Midwest/Great Plains are a double-edged sword: On the one hand, they can provide additional needed delivery capacity for wind power and other new renewable energy development; on the other hand, they can provide enabling delivery capacity and lifelines of support for the continued operation of old Midwest highly-polluting coal plants (for example, to sell to higher-priced East Coast power markets).
The importance of new transmission capacity to support wind power development is relatively clear. There is a less obvious and equally important goal of relating transmission advocacy to spur the retirement of old, highly-polluting coal plants in the Midwest/Great Plains states. There is a very important set of strategic leverage points because of the structure of the Midwest/Great Plains power market in 2010 – 2020.
ELPC hosted a Midwest Transmission Strategy meeting in Chicago in April 2010. The meeting brought together Midwest environmental, clean energy and consumer leaders to develop strategies to address delivery capacity issues for wind power and other renewables as well as important cost-allocation issues for new transmission. Below are links to some of the resources shared at that conference.
Midwest Transmission Strategy Meeting
Presentations and Materials (April 2010)
Using Regional Energy Markets to Reduce Energy Demand and Costs
Webinar and Materials (September 28, 2010)
Transmission 102 Training (September 30, 2010)
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
ELPC hosted a special webinar on November 18th highlighting the potentialfor a solar power boom in the Midwest. Featured speakers included ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner, Staff Attorney Brad Klein and Policy Advocate Madeleine Weil.
Click here to hear the podcast.
Click here to download PDF slides from the webinar.
Price shifts, market changes and supportive policies are coming together in ways that can help solar power accelerate fast around the region. The economics of solar power are becoming more favorable due to a confluence of factors:
- Solar photovoltaic (PV) module prices have fallen sharply due to excess supply in the global market.
- Federal and state policies are working to support solar power. The federal economic stimulus legislation and other initiatives are providing new incentives and support for solar energy development. In the states, for example, Illinois has created a “solar carve out” in the state’s strong renewable energy standard that will provide a procurement market for 700-750 megawatts of solar power by 2015.
- Large-scale solar developments are going forward on former industrial sites where there is unobstructed sunlight and low-cost access to the electrical grid. In some cases, brownfield redevelopment, recovery bonds and other tax credits and subsidies are available.
- In the current economic downturn, there are skilled workers looking for “green jobs” installing solar systems.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
By: Howard A. Learner
Executive Director, Environmental Law & Policy Center
The confluence of multiple economic and policy factors creates a huge strategic opportunity to advance solar power installations in the Midwest. This window of opportunity will likely be open for about two years while solar photovoltaic (PV) module prices are very low due to excess global supply. Soon after, hoped-for technology curve improvements will reduce module costs and key policy drivers, such as Illinois’ solar procurement legislation, will kick in. Here are the combined factors that are driving today’s solar PV opportunities:
Þ Solar PV module prices have come down to $3 per watt, or less, due to the excess supply in global markets. For several years, solar-friendly policies in Germany, Spain and other countries drove new global manufacturing plant investments to ramp up supply for the expected markets. Germany and Spain shifted their subsidy policies – designed to catalyze markets, not support mature markets – just as ramped up manufacturing came on line. The current excess supply has driven down solar PV panel prices to the lowest level in years.
Þ Solar will find a niche supplying peak power in Midwest electricity markets. Solar is available at peak times when regional power market prices are highest. As the Midwest power market has transformed from vertically-integrated utilities to a wholesale market dominated more by merchant generators and power auction-type processes, prices for generation are increasingly reflect time-of-day and time-of-year. In short, solar energy matches well at pricey peak demand times.
Þ Fairly lush federal subsidies for solar energy through the Investment Tax Credit, loan guarantees and various other tax credits and grants are making a difference. Recent federal energy legislation and the economic stimulus package provide significant price support and investment value for solar projects.
Þ Federal and state policy support for solar energy is making a difference. For example, the Illinois RPS “solar carve-out” in the state’s renewable energy procurement standard will drive a new market for 700 MW – 750 MW of solar power supply in 2015. Net metering standards and interconnection standards in several Midwest states are creating more favorable pricing for distributed solar-generated power. Expanding net metering policies to cover larger projects will boost solar even more.
Þ Solar development is finding a sweet spot with 10 MW – 20 MW projects on former industrial sites with nearby substations. These projects are large enough to achieve economies of scale on module purchases and installation costs. Locating systems on older industrial sites provides ready low-cost access to transmission substations in open areas with little blockages to sunlight. In some cases, brownfield redevelopment, recovery bonds and other tax credits and subsidies are available. In addition to SunPower’s 10 MW solar project on the old U.S. Steel site on the South Side of Chicago, there are at least three more developers seeking to move forward with 10 MW – 20 MW solar projects in Illinois. These solar projects are big enough to obtain economies of scale, but small enough to fit onto the transmission grid as well as provide grid support when needed most.
Þ Skilled electrical and other workers are available in the current economic downturn for solar installation “green jobs.” With the 10 MW – 20 MW projects, there is enough volume to bring down the per panel installation costs and, thereby, improve the overall economic robustness of projects. Moreover, in some cases, various federal and state job creation grants, subsidies and credits are available, as are federal job training programs directed to new “green jobs.” Because of the excess worldwide manufacturing capacity, the solar green jobs opportunities are predominantly installation jobs, rather than new manufacturing jobs in the Midwest. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is (re-) training new skilled solar installers at facilities in Illinois, Indiana and other states.
Þ Solar intensity in the Midwest is better than that of both Germany and Japan, the world’s largest solar markets. All right, Illinois and Nebraska are not the same as Arizona and Nevada, but there are some good solar sites here.
Þ New state policies can provide continued support for solar expansion as module prices increase after about two years when there is less excess supply. The Environmental Law & Policy Center and our colleagues are advocating a new ramp-up in 2010 – 2014 prior to the 700 MW – 750 MW Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) solar carve out now set to begin in Illinois in 2015. We are working on feed-in tariff models in Michigan and with colleagues in Iowa to improve the state’s net metering policies. As Wisconsin considers boosting its RPS in 2010, there may also be opportunities to include solar provisions. We have a two-year window of opportunity to gain solar policy improvements as the unusually low module prices, combined with federal economic stimulus incentives, can drive significant new development.
Solar PV is primed for take-off in the Midwest, and especially in Illinois. Let’s seize these strategic opportunities and move forward with solar power development that creates new jobs, spurs economic growth and helps to solve our global warming pollution problems.
Howard A. Learner is the executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Midwest’s leading environmental and economic development advocacy organization. www.elpc.org and www.globalwarmingsolutions.org
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Illinois can look forward to a cleaner energy future thanks to a bill signed into law by Governor Quinn on Sunday. Senate Bill 2150 increases the number of utility companies who will meet renewable energy goals and creates specific goals for solar energy in Illinois.
“Renewable energy is creating jobs and income in Illinois while protecting public health and our environment for future generations,” said Barry Machett, Co-Legislative Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “This bill brings more companies on board to develop the clean energy of the future and ensures we will have a diverse, sustainable supply of energy to meet our state’s needs.”
Read ELPC’s press release
Monday, October 6, 2008
Argus Leader reporter Thom Gabrukiewicz pointed to rising energy concerns around, “biofuels, wind, coal, solar technology and the prospect of the first new oil refinery to be built in the United States in more than 30 years” as attracting national and regional groups like ELPC to work in the state.
“South Dakota has a tremendous opportunity to create clean energy on its farms and ranches that is good for the environment,” said Howard Learner, president and executive director with the Environmental Law & Policy Center, which has an office in Sioux Falls. “We’re here to help make a difference in South Dakota.”
Learner said the attention his group is placing on South Dakota is not fleeting. “We’re not dropping in for a year, then dropping out,” he said. “We’re here for the long term.”
Read the full article.