ISEA Policy Blog

Welcome to the ISEA Policy Blog. Catch up on the latest issues related to the adoption of solar and small wind energy in Illinois. We welcome your feedback and referral of newsworthy developments. 

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  • 26 Aug 2016 12:10 PM | Taylor Gendel (Administrator)
    ISEA hosted a policy webinar Thursday August 25th, 2016.

    The subject was "Utility Rate Design- Understanding the Changing Impact on Solar" and featured guest expert Kelly Crandall of EQ Research. Watch below to learn more about how rate design impacts solar's affordability.



    ISEA monthly policy webinars are intended to provide the Illinois solar industry with up to date information on current policy activities, as well as educate ISEA business members on opportunities that have the potential increase your business.


    The ISEA policy committee, comprised of Illinois industry leaders, as well as guest experts, share their knowledge and experience with attendees.



    **Recordings of previous ISEA policy webinars are made available to ISEA business members. In order to view webinars, log into your ISEA account and then click here.
  • 25 May 2016 12:19 PM | Taylor Gendel (Administrator)

    The Illinois Solar Energy Association (ISEA), the state’s leading voice for solar energy businesses and customers for more than 40 years, contends that while fixing the state’s broken renewable portfolio standard (RPS) is crucial to ensuring Illinois does not lose much needed new solar jobs and investments to other Midwestern states, other pieces of ComEd/Exelon’s recently introduced energy bill would significantly hamper solar growth in the state.


    Lesley McCain, ISEA’s Executive Director maintains that the confusing, complicated demand charges, that ComEd and Exelon propose in the “Next Generation Power Plan”, will harm rooftop solar’s growth. These nationally unprecedented charges mean that consumers will not only be charged for the amount of energy they use, but they will also incur an additional charge based on their highest period of usage in the month. 


    To avoid paying high demand charges Illinois consumers will need to closely monitor their electric use each and every month and limit using numerous appliances simultaneously. Solar owners and energy efficient customers are likely to see their electric bills unfairly increase as demand charges penalize customers who use little energy based on infrequent usage spikes.


    In addition, ComEd and Exelon are also proposing to greatly reduce net metering the current stable method that reimburses solar owners for the excess power they generate.


    Currently solar owners receive credit on their power bills for the surplus energy they produce at the same rate that they are charged for it.  This excess electricity is then delivered to other customers on the electric grid who pay that same retail rate.  This net metering structure helps customers recoup the cost of installing solar systems. The proposed legislation will reduce the amount that solar homeowners are reimbursed for the electricity that they produce from the retail rate to the lower wholesale rate. This proposed change will extend the solar payback period and reduce the return on investment.


    McCain states that “In order to benefit from the burgeoning clean energy economy, Illinois needs a package of clean energy policies that work together.  We cannot have one policy that encourages growth and others meant to suppress it.  These mixed signals will keep Illinois from enjoying the economic benefits that other states economies are already benefitting from”.


    For a brief audio policy update on the benefits of net metering to the grid, click here.

  • 11 May 2016 11:05 AM | Taylor Gendel (Administrator)

    ISEA's 2016 Solar Lobby Day was a success!


    ISEA hosted a joint Clean Energy Reception at Maldaner’s Restaurant  the evening before Solar Lobby Day with the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Respiratory Health Association. Over 60 clean energy advocates, business owners, legislators and their staff all enjoyed the opportunity to network and tour the impressive solar installation on Maldaner’s roof!


    Above: Donovan Griffith- Illinois EPA, Michelle Knox- WindSolarUSA, Rep. Tom Morrison, and Lesley McCain- ISEA Executive Director enjoying the rooftop installation at Maldaner's Restaurant in Springfield.




    Thank you to the 44 Clean Energy Advocates that attended ISEA’s 4th Annual Solar Lobby Day!


    Paul and Cindy from Magitek Energy Solutions, Inc. meet with Rep. Tryon



    ISEA Executive Director Lesley McCain (above) and Lisa Albrecht (below) speak at a Solar Lobby Day press briefing.




    This group of enthusiastic business owners and solar supporters met with a total of 36 legislators and educated them on the economic benefits that the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill will bring to the state!



  • 21 Apr 2016 5:44 PM | Taylor Gendel (Administrator)

    How to Choose a Qualified Solar Installer


    by Mike Nicolosi, Rethink Electric


    As more Americans are switching to sun powered energy for their home, the solar energy installation industry is growing to keep pace.  How are you supposed to differentiate the quality installer from the deceptive contractor?

     

    Although there is no sign of rampant abuse in the industry, a few bad apples can spoil bushel! The BBB only receives a few hundred complaints about solar in the US each year.  Which is a very small percentage of installers.  In every industry there will be contractors that do shoddy craftsmanship to get the work done faster and cheaper for a fatter bottom line. The most important tool homeowners can utilize to protect themselves is education.  As with any home improvement, the more you know about what is being done, the more you can watch for warning signs.  Below is some initial information to help get you started.


    Qualifications:


    Each state has its own requirements for solar installers. 


    In Illinois there is only one requirement to install solar. A solar installation company either needs to have a Distributed Generation Certification through the Illinois Commerce Commission or be working with a subcontractor who has this certification


    In addition a certified electrician is required to pull permits for the work. This can also be the installer or a subcontractor.


    Some additional credentials that may reinforce the quality of the installer are;

    • ISEA Member - Member companies are committed to education and policy in Illinois and also offer homeowners a complaint resolution process.
    • NABCEP certification - This is the gold standard for solar installers.  NABCEP Certified installers have the experience and knowledge to design and build any system. 

    Considerations:


    You are probably not a good candidate for solar on your home or business if your roof:

    •   is shaded by trees or surrounding structures
    • is in need of replacement in the next 5-10 years
    • is not owned by you (apartment buildings, condos)

    Before picking an installer

    Once you've chosen an installer


    If your installer is not an electrical contractor or doing 100% of the work, then they will be subcontracting some of the work.  You should find out who this is, what their craftsmanship warranties are, and possibly ask for referrals. If any of the work is subcontracted you should make sure to get a lien release before the final payment so that they can't hold payment against your house or building. 


    Items that should be in your contract:

    • who is responsible for permits and fees (e.g. structural engineering stamp) and how much they are (each town has its own requirements)
    • craftsmanship warranty (5 year labor warranty is standard in the solar industry)
    • know the warranties on the equipment
    • who is filing out the paperwork to sell your SREC’s
    • who is handling quarterly SREC statements
    • what are the fees involved for selling your SRECs
    • fair payment schedule for both parties. We advise not to pay the contractor all of the money up front.

    A more detailed checklist can be found on ISEA's site 


    More Resources:


    Citizens Utility Board - nonprofit organization created by the Illinois state legislature to work for lower rates and better service from utility providers.


    SEIA's Consumer Guide - SEIA is the parent organization to the ISEA.  This insightful download will empower you with the education to make smart decisions from financing to contracting terminology.

  • 15 Apr 2016 12:00 PM | Taylor Gendel (Administrator)

    On Thursday, April 14th ISEA hosted a Lobbying and Advocacy Training Webinar. This webinar was presented in conjunction with the Illinois Environmental Council and A Renewable America, and discussed real-world skills to help navigate the Capitol complex, refine and improve your message.


    View the recording to learn how to speak to your legislators on issues that matter to you!


    Prepare to join ISEA in Springfield May 4th for ISEA's Solar Lobby Day!

  • 12 Feb 2016 2:56 PM | Taylor Gendel (Administrator)

    by Lisa Albrecht and Dylan DeBiasi


    2016 is off and running!  Here’s a quick update on a few policy topics:


    DCEO State Rebate

    As you likely saw, we are very proud to announce that the Rebate/Grant program, originally set to expire in December 2015 has been extended to December 2020.  It is vital to note, however, that like all state programs, it is currently unfunded and therefore the program for the current fiscal year has not been released.  Without a budget we are uncertain when the DCEO will publish rules or begin accepting applications.  In fact, we do not know if there will be a program this year or not and recommend that individuals interested in purchasing solar this year do not count on receiving funding.  For more information, please go to the DCEO web page. http://www.illinois.gov/dceo/whyillinois/KeyIndustries/Energy/Pages/01-RERP.aspx


    Illinois Power Agency SREC Payments

    While on the subject of the State Budget, some system owners who were awarded RECs in the 2015 procurement auctions have expressed concern about the delay in their initial payments.

    The absence of a 2016 Illinois state approved  budget  has delayed payment of any of the states  bills including payments for the RECs purchased in the procurement auctions. The funds allocated for the procurements is in a secured fund and protected from budget sweeps.  All REC owners will receive all of their SREC payments, once the budget issues in Springfield are resolved.

    We suggest that you ensure your aggregator is still tracking your performance so that once the stalemate is resolved they will be able to bill immediately without issue. 

     

    The following was released to all successful bidders by the IPA:

    “This notification is to inform you that because a State of Illinois budget for Fiscal Year 2016 (“FY 16”) has not yet been adopted, the Illinois Power Agency (“IPA”) is experiencing a delay in the processing and payment of invoices. Further, the IPA’s processing and payment of invoices will continue to be indefinitely delayed until a FY 16 State of Illinois budget is officially adopted, or an appropriation for the Agency is otherwise approved into law. 


    BACKGROUND


    The Illinois Constitution contains the following provision: “The General Assembly by law shall make appropriations for all expenditures of public funds by the State.” [Illinois Constitution, Article VIII, Section 2]

    Expenditures made by the IPA are processed by the State of Illinois Office of the Comptroller. Under this provision, the Office of the Comptroller cannot process

    expenditures in the absence of an appropriation – including, at this time, expenditures by the IPA and other state agencies lacking a FY 16 appropriation.2

     

    Please note that both the budget prepared by the Governor and the budget passed by the General Assembly (and subsequently vetoed), contained appropriations for the IPA. Further, because all IPA operations are funded by Special Funds (and not the State’s General Revenue Fund, which has been the primary focus of the lack of agreement on the State budget), the IPA expects that when a budget is finally adopted, it will include the appropriations required by the IPA to meet its contractual/financial obligations.

     

    Although the State of Illinois cannot currently process and pay FY 16 invoices submitted to the IPA, vendors should continue submitting invoices to the Agency. The IPA will continue to take receipt of invoices and will promptly submit invoices to the Office of the Comptroller for processing and payment once a budget is approved.”

    Supplemental Procurement - Round 3 Timeline


    The IPA has posted the following schedule for the next auction.  Please note that aggregators may close Part 1 earlier than this date.

    This procurement will have two categories:  Speculative/Identified Systems <25kW and Identified Systems >25kW.  There is a goal that 50% RECs be procured from the <25kW category.  The total budget for this round is $15M.  

    UPDATE: SRECTrade has extended the deadline to submit applications for Round 3 of the Illinois Supplemental PV Procurement.The new deadline is Friday March 4th, 2016 at 5 p.m. CST. All application materials must be received by this date. Incomplete applications, or applications submitted after this deadline, will not be eligible for the Round 3 Bid. To finalize your registration, please login or create an account on SRECTrade.com

    Carbon Solutions Group is accepting systems for the Supplemental Procurement.  Their deadline for identified systems and speculative bids is March 8th.  To register your system with CSG please click here.  If you would like more information on this round of the Supplemental Procurement and how to participate with CSG visit this page on our website.

    2016 DG Regular Procurement - Timeline


    The IPA has also posted the following schedule for the next auction.  Please note that aggregators may close Part 1 earlier than this date.
    This procurement will have two categories:  Identified Systems <25kW and Identified Systems >25kW.  Speculative systems are not permissible in this event.  There is a goal that 50% RECs be procured from the <25kW category.  Bidders must total at least 1MW. Smaller system owners must work with an aggregator.  Carbon Solutions Group will be bidding on this project and interested parties should fill out this form on their website or contact them directly @ contact@carbonsolutionsgroup.com for assistance. 




    Clean Jobs Bill


    The coalition continues to work hard on negotiations on the Clean Jobs Bill. The legislation carried over from the 2015 sessions and we are excited to now have tremendous support in both chambers with unprecedented co-sponsorship.  This bipartisan bill will advance Illinois quickly into the renewable energy and energy efficiency markets bringing tremendous investment and jobs to our region.  Please watch for more information and action items

          House Bill 2607 (Sponsor - Rep. Elaine Nekritz, Co-Sponsors 62)

          Senate Bill 1485 (Sponsor - Sen. Don Harmon, Co-Sponsors 29)


  • 18 Dec 2015 4:06 PM | Taylor Gendel (Administrator)

    It’s a Bright Day for Solar!


    Both the Federal ITC & the Illinois Solar & Wind Rebate Programs have been extended!


     Solar ITC Bill Passes!

     

    The passage of the ITC extension ensures a strong and vibrant future for solar!

    Congress has passed a spending package that includes multi-year extensions of solar and wind tax credits, plus one-year extensions for a range of other renewable energy technologies.

     

    Under the legislation, the 30 percent Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar will be extended for another three years. It will then ramp down incrementally through 2021, and remain at 10 percent permanently beginning in 2022. President Obama is expected to pass the bill into law by the end of the day.

     

    This ITC extension provides stability for longer term plans and allows the industry to ramp up solar in a sustainable way.

     

    Illinois State Rebate & Grant Program Extended to 2020!


    ISEA is pleased and excited to announce that our efforts to get the Illinois DCEO Solar and Wind Rebate & Grant Program extended are a success!

     

    Last spring ISEA worked with the Illinois Environmental Council to introduce a bill to extend the state rebate and grant program that was due to expire at the end of 2016.

    The organization also hired Lobbyist John Kamis to assist in this effort.

    The bill has passed both the  Illinois House and Senate and Governor Rauner signed the bill on December 3rd.

    ISEA will now work with DCEO to help develop the structure of the program.


    Support ISEA with your tax deductible membership or donation!

    Your financial support of ISEA is critical to the continuation of our work to ensure a strong, vibrant solar market in Illinois!

    Membership dues and donations to ISEA are tax deductible.

  • 03 Dec 2015 5:07 PM | Taylor Gendel (Administrator)
    149 businesses call on Governor Bruce Rauner to bring more innovation and investment to Illinois, and create thousands of new jobs, by joining Governors of both parties supporting the EPA's Clean Power Plan and by backing the bipartisan Illinois Clean Jobs Bill.


  • 10 Sep 2015 2:22 PM | Taylor Gendel (Administrator)

    ISEA Board Member Lisa Albrecht was a guest on The Mighty House Radio Show! 


    This show is put on by ISEA business member Ron Cowgill of WinSol Power Company.


    Take a listen as she explains Solar PV and answers some frequently asked questions.



  • 04 Jun 2015 11:08 AM | Taylor Gendel (Administrator)

    By Lisa Albrecht


    Lots to report on policy in Illinois as ISEA undertook the busiest legislative session in our history. As we continue to grow our advocacy efforts, a key 2015 highlight was hiring John Kamis of Carpenter Lipps & Leland to lobby on behalf of strong solar policy in Illinois. With many issues in play this year, it is critical to our success that we have a voice and constant presence in Springfield, ensuring renewable energy is at the table during energy conversations.  John has been vital to getting the attention of leadership in both the House and Senate and secured strategic meetings in both chambers as well as the Governor’s office. As you can see below, solar policy is a dynamic force and we are excited to be driving change forward! The solar industry's financial support is imperative for our collective success. More information about ISEA’s advocacy work and sponsorship information will be in our next newsletter.


    Clean Jobs Bill (SB1485/HB2607):  Energy remains a key topic for Illinois law makers with 3 important energy bills up for debate – the Clean Jobs Bill, Exelon’s nuclear bailout bill and ComEd’s bill for restructuring rate plans. [see http://www.illinoissolar.org/Press for related news reports] Unfortunately, despite significant efforts from the Clean Jobs Coalition, the bill did not come to vote during the regular session as legislators focused heavily on budget issues for both Fiscal Year 2015 and 2016.  Law makers will continue to work through the summer on a combined “super bill” that is likely to contain aspects of all proposed energy legislation.  ISEA hosted over 30 events this spring in support of the Clean Jobs Bill including Solar Lobby Day with nearly 50 attendees and several Legislative Solar Socials, solar events in district that allow representatives to discuss clean energy legislation with constituents.  We will continue these efforts over the summer so please watch your emails for invitations to host or participate! Momentum is in favor of the Clean Jobs Bill as most officials agree the RPS is broken and clean energy must be a priority for the future of Illinois.  Proof is in the pudding as our bill has 58 co-sponsors in the House and 26 in the Senate, nearly enough bi-partisan support to pass both chambers!  It is CRITICAL that we keep up the pressure, reminding elected officials this is important legislation to all constituents.  Contact Lesley McCain if your organization would like to join the coalition and please sign a letter of support to be sent to your senator/representative as well as Governor Rauner’s office. 


    Rebates/Grants:  Rebate recipients and installers had a roller coaster ride as funding was frozen for over two months while the governor’s office reviewed all state spending.  Ultimately the promised funding was awarded but not before many cancelled their commitments to install, a devastating blow to installers.  Those who proceeded with their installations were held to the original deadlines creating a stressful spring as no extensions were allowed.  Additionally, all grant awards still remain under review and ISEA continues to work with DCEO to pressure the governor’s office to make fair decisions soon.   We are hopefully that the “business minded” governor will recognize this burden and honor the states commitments, allowing projects to proceed as planned.  DCEO has not been given a timeline for resolution. 


    Meanwhile, ISEA has been working to extend the rebate/grant program (SB0051) scheduled to sunset in December 2015 to 2020.  A few procedural events caused delay but it is our understanding this issue will also be addressed in summer budget negotiations.  Currently Governor Rauner’s proposed budget does not allocate any funds toward the DCEO rebates/grants and we have advised the industry, for the moment, to assume the program may be finished already.  We will continue to fight the good fight but realistically are not certain a win is likely with the larger financial issues.  We will continue to emphasize these are rate payer funds and not tax payer dollars but to date that has not been a winning argument.  More to come! 


    Supplemental Procurement:  It’s finally here – the Illinois Power Agency (IPA) will host the 1st DG procurement of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) on June 18th.  Funding will primarily be aimed at new projects installed after January 21, 2015.  The IPA will run a reverse auction, allocating 50% of the procurement to systems <25kW and 50% for systems > 25kW.  Pricing will be market driven as bidders are able to request pricing needed to ensure the development of a project.  Once bidding is closed on June 18th, the procurement administrator will eliminate any bid that is above a “confidential benchmark” or price cap.  Awards will be granted to eligible bidders until the state reaches their $5M budget.  Interested parties can still participate by contacting aggregators.  Please reference previous blogs for additional information on how to participate. 


    Regular Procurement:  Rules have not yet been established for the regular procurement of RECs for systems installed prior to January 21, 2015.  We anticipate that the primary procedures and requirements will be similar to the Supplemental Procurement.  System owners will work through aggregators who will represent their interest in a similar reverse auction that will be held in September 2015. We recommend contacting the 3 aggregators on the ISEA procurement page now to indicate your interest in participating.  Pricing for RECs will also be managed through a reverse auction and only new RECs will be eligible to be sold meaning you cannot back date your REC generation beyond September 2015.  Payments will be made over 5 years in quarterly payments based on performance data. 


    Next Steps:  The Policy Committee will continue pushing these action items forward but need your support both physically and financially.  The states with the strongest and fastest growing solar markets are states with strong, predictable policy.  It is our responsibility and opportunity to help shape that future in Illinois but we cannot do it alone.  The big energy corporations all have multiple lobbyists serving their interests daily but we have something more powerful – you.  Poll after poll shows that Americans and Illinoisans overwhelming support clean energy. Study after study proves that solar is good for the economy, environment and job creation. But we need to be active and loud if we are to be sure our voices are heard.  Please consider a donation to help continue our efforts in Springfield and vote with your time and participation in upcoming events.  If you are not yet an individual or corporate member, please join.  Together we can carve-out a clean future for Illinois while driving economic growth in the fastest growing job market in the country – renewable energy! 


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