ISEA Blog

Welcome to the ISEA 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. 

  • 10 Jan 2011 11:39 AM | Anonymous

    If you are reading this blog (first of all, thank you for supporting our work and please continue to do so through our Illinois is Ready for Solar campaign!) you most likely have an interest in solar energy. You may work in the renewable energy field or hope to do so with the creation of green jobs. Regardless of your connection to solar energy, do you know the current policies and proposed legislation surrounding renewable energy? Most people do not. We, at the Illinois Solar Energy Association, partner with other organizations to create annual legislative goals. ISEA and the Environmental Law & Policy Center have created the following goals for the 2011 session:

    1. Raising the net metering cap to 1-2 MW. This would encourage big box stores to install solar by extending the retail-to-retail rate from the current 40 kW, expanding projects for installers and increasing the amount of solar energy generated. Learn more about net metering in ISEA’s "‘Freeing the Grid’ Grades States on Renewable Energy Policies" blog.
    2. Extending the now expired in-state preference for renewables used to meet the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). Through 2011, electrical utilities must utilize eligible in-state renewable energy resources. After 2011, equal preference is given to resources in-state and in adjacent states.
    3. Creating a solar prioritization such that Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) are procured first to meet the solar RPS. If this is not achieved, wind energy may use all of the funding and hit the current 2% rate cap on all renewable expenditures. This 2% rate cap will be reviewed by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) in 2011, who will report to the General Assembly if it "unduly constrains the procurement of cost-effective renewable energy resources." We will delve more into this issue in an upcoming blog.

    These are only half of the legislative goals and three more will be presented in our next blog. Stay tuned and Check out ISEA’s policy page to look at other legislation.

    If you are interested in renewable energy policy, be sure to register for Solar Drinks in Chicago on Jan. 11th! Mix and mingle with other professionals interested in renewable energy.

    ISEA is now on Twitter! Follow us and stay up-to-date on solar energy news.

  • 04 Jan 2011 4:47 PM | Anonymous

    What is your new year’s resolution? In 2011, do you want to dedicate more of your time to a cause you feel passionately about? How about a cause that increases local job opportunities, educates Illinoisans about energy issues and ensures that future generations will have healthy, sustainable communities through energy research and advocacy? If so, the Illinois Solar Energy Association would love to have your support!

    Whether you are a solar energy vendor or a green jobs enthusiast, there are numerous ways to get involved! Becoming a volunteer is a great way to lend your expertise in design, research, outreach, marketing… and the list goes on. Wherever your personal interests fall in the renewable energy realm, we have a volunteer opportunity for you.

    What if you would like to support the ISEA but do not have time to volunteer? Becoming a member may be the perfect median. Through this membership, you receive access to Member Only events, discussions on the website and reduced fees for classes. Check out the Membership section of the ISEA site to learn more about this opportunity, as well as sponsorships.

    Another way to show your support is through donations. The ISEA would not function without your financial support, and we thank our loyal supporters who continue to believe in the importance of advancing renewable energy in Illinois.

    This January, the ISEA began an Illinois is Ready for Solar campaign. Check out the campaign page to learn more, and help us reach our goal of $150,000 by December 2011!

  • 03 Jan 2011 8:31 PM | Anonymous

    As 2010 came to a close, Illinois ushered in the new year with strides in renewable energy! On Dec. 22, Governor Pat Quinn announced the implementation of long-term renewable energy agreements. These efforts confirm Illinois’s position as a "… leader in developing the green economy, and this support for renewable resources will keep us on the cutting-edge," according to Quinn.

    The 20-year agreements allow select wind and power energy venders to supply Ameren and ComEd with renewable electricity. This brings Illinois one step closer to its goal of 25% of energy provided to smaller customers to be generated by renewable energy sources by 2025. Not only do these partnerships demonstrate Illinois’s leadership in the transition to renewable energy, they also put people to work and boost our economy. As 2011 begins, we hope others locally and nationally follow in these footsteps to a renewable energy economy.

    Who are these select wind and power energy venders? Check out the press release to find out.

    The Illinois Solar Energy Association and the Environmental Law and Policy Center consider meeting the 25% renewable energy goal a priority over the coming years. Illinois needs to extend the now expired in-state preference for renewables to ensure new jobs and projects are created in Illinois. Additionally, we should place a priority on solar energy. Before wind energy uses up the funding and hits the current 2% rate cap on all renewable expenditures, Solar Renewable Energy Certificates should be procured first to meet the Solar Renewable Portfolio Standards.To learn more other 2011 priorities, visit the ISEA and ELPC websites.

  • 17 Dec 2010 11:51 AM | Anonymous

    The Network for New Energy Choices released their 2010 Freeing the Grid report!  In this report, states are graded on their net metering and interconnection policies.  So what exactly is net metering?  It is an electricity policy that allows consumers to offset some or all of their energy use with their own renewable energy.  While many people know net metering as the process that “enable’s a customer’s electric meter to spin backwards”, the electric meter actually spins in both directions depending on their own energy production and consumption.  The meter spins forward when the customer is using more energy than he is producing, thus drawing from the grid.  The meter spins backwards when the customer is producing more energy than he is using, thus sending energy out to the grid.  At the end of the month, the customer is only billed for the net energy used.  If the customer produces more energy than he uses, he is either credited that amount for the next billing cycle or he is compensated for that amount.

    How does the Network for Energy Choices grade a state on their net metering policies?  There are certain variables, such as allowing the monthly carryover of excess electricity at the utility’s full retail rate, allowing all renewable technologies to net meter, and allowing all customer classes to net meter.  Click here to see the full range of criteria used in these grades.

    The second major factor in the Freeing the Grid report is interconnection.  This is the process under which a generator can connect to the distribution grid.  Each state regulates these policies and various standards should be upheld, such as setting fair fees that are proportional to a project’s size and ensuring that policies are transparent, uniform, detailed and public.  Read more of these standards.

    So how did the states stack up? Much better than in the last few years!   In 2010, 37 states received “A” or “B” grades for their net metering policies, up from 13 states in 2007.  Massachusetts and Utah received exceptional “A” grades in both interconnection and net metering. This is the first time in the report’s history that any state has achieved “A” grades in both categories.  Where did Illinois fit in?  Check out the Freeing the Grid report and see for yourself!

    If you would like to learn more about the topic, The Interstate Renewable Energy Council released a comprehensive report on net metering in competing energy markets.

    Feel passionately about renewable energy?  Want to mix and mingle with others in the Chicago area that feel the same way?  Don’t forget to register for ISEA’s membership meeting and annual report tomorrow, Dec. 18, at the Chicago Center for Green Technology.

  • 12 Dec 2010 3:56 PM | Anonymous

    On Thursday, December 9th, Congress introduced a bill that will provide a one-year extension of the Treasury Grant Program (TGP). This program enables builders to receive grants for their renewable energy projects. Since its inception, TGP has spurred over 1,000 solar energy projects across the nation, creating numerous jobs for Americans. Rhone Resch, President of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), released a statement saying, "An extension of the program will keep our U.S. industry growing and help achieve the industry's goal of installing enough new solar energy to power 2 million new homes each year by 2015". This vote on this bill is expected to be Monday. (Read more)

    Not only will the solar energy industry benefit from the extension; Denis Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is optimistic. Bode released a statement, "Factories across the country will restart production lines, recall workers, and avoid layoffs that would have followed the loss of this key incentive for wind energy. With consistent policies like this one, wind energy can generate 20 percent of America’s electricity within 20 years, and employ half a million Americans."

    Check out the Environmental Law and Policy Center and Vote Solar to learn more about this bill. If you would like to support this bill, it is important to contact your legislators today!

    To learn who your legislators are click here.

  • 06 Dec 2010 7:34 PM | Anonymous

    When property owners want to invest in renewable energy, such as the installation of a new solar energy system, what is the largest barrier standing in their way?  The upfront cost.  Over the past year, this dilemma has been addressed through the PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy Financing) program.  PACE allows cities to set up finance districts capable of issuing low-interest bonds.  Homeowners can then opt in to borrow this money for renewable energy installations or improvements.  They will pay back this loan through a long-term assessment on their property taxes.

    One of the key benefits of this program is the ability to transfer the payments to future property owners.  If the payback period lasts 20 years, but the initial property owner moves after 15, the final 5 years will be paid off by the new property owner.  Therefore, this transfer removes the major risk of this investment.

    Recently, homeowners received letters from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac suggesting that they are prohibited to participate in the PACE program if they have mortgages from these lenders.  While this action inhibits local government’s right to assess property taxes and use those taxes to benefit the public good, the debate has recently heated up as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the FHFA question the senior lein status of the PACE program.(Read more)

    This affordable, low-risk program will not only benefit property owners, but the economy, as it is expected to create an estimated 160,000 long-term green jobs.  President Obama allocated $150 Million in federal funds to PACE programming, and twenty states have already enacted the program.  Now, we have to clarify to both the FHFA and the general public that this investment is worthwhile and will not adversely affect any mortgage lenders.  Instead, it will create jobs and transition us into a sustainable, clean energy economy!

    Want to see the PACE program in action?  Check out the pilot programs, BerkeleyFIRST and ClimateSmart.

  • 01 Dec 2010 7:35 PM | Anonymous

    As the buzz around green jobs perks up ears in Illinois, what is the next step to create these opportunities?  The answer may lie in the business market.  The Environmental Law and Policy Center recently released a report looking at wind power in relation to job opportunities.  The federal stimulus funds provided a jump-start to this renewable energy market, and policy decisions also supported this investment.  The next step in the growth of the wind power industry, leading to the creation of jobs, lies in the marketplace.

    The Illinois Renewable Electricity Standard, which requires utilities to purchase 25 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025, has businesses beginning to take heed of wind power.  In order to really reap the benefits of the wind power industry, more businesses need to invest in this form of energy.

    Fortunately, there are a lot of companies in Illinois that are involved in the supply chain of wind industry.  In Illinois, more than 100 businesses are connected to wind power production.  Of these, 60 are in the Chicago region.  What does this mean for Chicagoans?  Jobs.  But only jobs if the business sector is able to harness the potential of the wind industry.  If we want Illinois to be a leader in renewable energy and to create new jobs in these 100 wind power companies, the initial funds and policies are in place.  Now it is time to spread the word and grow interest and investment from the marketplace. (Read More)

  • 26 Nov 2010 2:10 PM | Anonymous
    Who will lead the Midwest’s transition to renewable energy?  While competition increases between the states surrounding the Great Lakes, a recent event in Cleveland focused on the power of collaboration.  “Financing the Midwest Energy Transition”, held by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and NorTech on October 18th, examined the region’s potential to be the global leader in the energy economy, as well as the costly effects this transition may have.

    Richard T. Stuebi, President of NextWave Energy, wrapped up the event with his remarks.  His strong belief in the Midwest as an advanced energy leader is driven by four considerations; diversification, environmental and economic (emphasized twice).  His stress placed on the economic opportunities of this region also leads into the economic support needed to make this shift a reality.

    This capital required is not going to come from one city or one state.  Stuebi underlines, “We in the Midwest can’t succeed as independent islands.”  As a region, the Midwest can succeed through leveraging important financial institutions and corporate giants.  With proper funding, the plethora of universities and research facilities can make energy-related studies a priority.  Additionally, the Midwest needs venture capital funding from within and outside the region to support local innovation.    With all of these initiatives in place, and with support through government policies, the Midwest can prosper as the leading region in renewable energy.

    Want to learn more?  Check out Stuebi’s blog post about the “Financing the Midwest Energy Transition” conference.
  • 16 Nov 2010 11:34 AM | Michelle Hickey
    LAST CHANCE!!
    Don't Miss The Opportunity to
    Participate as a Speaker at SOLAR 2011!

    FINAL EXTENSION UNTIL 5:00PM MST
    FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2010

    Join Us May 17-21, 2011
    Raleigh, NC

    Sponsored by The American Solar Energy Society, SOLAR 2011 is the longest-running solar energy educational conference in the nation. SOLAR 2011's goal is to advance renewable energy technologies by offering presentations and forums on solar power, biomass, wind generation, nanotechnology, smart grids, energy efficiency and more.

    SOLAR 2011 is a unique opportunity to present your work in all topical areas including technology, buildings, policy, marketing, professional education and workforce development.  

    CLICK HERE FOR A LIST OF SUGGESTED TOPICS

    Submit an abstract  or forum proposal by 5:00 PM MDT, November 19, 2010. The National Organizing Committee and Technical Review Committees review all abstracts and proposals. Final notification will be made by January  31, 2011. Final papers and final confirmed speakers are due by March 7, 2011.

    Contact : Kate Hotchkiss, National Solar Conference Director
    E-mail: khotchkiss@ases.org
  • 12 Nov 2010 11:34 AM | Michelle Hickey
    A new report shows that Illinois is lagging behind at least 20 other states when it comes to jobs in the solar industry.

    The National Solar Job Census released by The Solar Foundation and Cornell University shows that Illinois expects a 30 percent increase in jobs in the solar industry in 2011 compared to 2010. But that's still not good enough, according to Environment Illinois, which is pushing state lawmakers to come up with incentives to get people off the electricity grid and on to green power.

    Environment Illinois wants lawmakers to adopt two policies that would help expand the use of solar power as well as the solar industry.

    - First, the state should expand its net metering program, which allows small scale renewable energy installations to sell power to the electricity grid.

    - Second, the state should adopt PACE (Property Asses
    sed Clean Energy) financing, which would allow homeowners to pay for green energy installations by borrowing money against their property taxes and gradually pay it off over time.                                  
           Mark Burger, ISEA President
    Despite not having those two policies in place, Andrea Luecke, executive director of The Solar Foundation, says Illinois is making progress. She says there are approximately 533 solar industry jobs in that state and she projects that number to rise to 692 jobs by 2011.

    (Illinois Radio Network)

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