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. 

  • 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
    Don't Miss The Opportunity to
    Participate as a Speaker at SOLAR 2011!

    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.  


    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
  • 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)
  • 12 Nov 2010 11:29 AM | Michelle Hickey
    Aurora Beacon - A new certification program at Waubonsee Community College could light residents' ways to jobs as renewable energy technology workers.

    Waubonsee will offer its first solar energy class, Introduction to Photovoltaic Systems, this spring.  Blickern said.  A second class, Photovoltaic System Selection and Design, will start next fall and a third class, Installing and Maintaining Photovoltaic Systems will begin in Spring 2012. (read full story)
  • 10 Nov 2010 5:01 PM | Michelle Hickey
    The first ever SolarDuct installation in Illinois is nearing completion at the new Joliet Junior College Facilities Services Building.  HarneTech provided the SolarDuct material and assisted with the design of the system.  Installation is being completed by Mechanical Inc.

    The SolarDuct system is a rooftop solar air heating system that pre-heats ventilation air for the building.  The significant temperature rise achieved by the SolarDucts reduces the requirement of traditional heating fuels for the building, providing a rapid return on investment.
  • 10 Nov 2010 4:59 PM | Michelle Hickey
    In by far the most exhaustive and detailed study to date, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that solar homes sold 20% faster, for 17% more than the equivalent non-solar homes, across several subdivisions built by different California builders....

    After extensive interviews with the home buyers in the development, the (413 page pdf) NREL study made some other interesting findings.

    If solar was already on the house, and factored into the price already, buyers were more likely to pick a house with solar. But if it was just one more decision to be made at the point of purchase, the decision got shelved. (more)

  • 03 Nov 2010 11:26 AM | Michelle Hickey
    In researching for my series on jobs in renewable energy in the U.S., I turned up some very interesting information.  First, it’s clear that clean energy is creating jobs.  In 2010, the solar industry created 50,00 jobs according to the first ever national solar jobs census that was conducted by The Solar Foundation, Green LMI, Cornell University and others.  In total there are 93,000 people employed in the solar industry right now.

    When you read it you will see that of the five renewable energy technologies – solar, geothermal, wind, bioenergy and hydro – only one, wind, experienced a slowdown in 2010.  The rest are growing and unequivocally adding jobs.

    And yet there remains a perception that clean energy is NOT creating jobs as it promised that it would.  Here are some reasons why I think this is happening. (more)

  • 03 Nov 2010 10:21 AM | Michelle Hickey
    Some of the largest investments in Canadian history were negotiated and confirmed within the first year since the signing of the Green Energy Act (GEA), which ushered in the first true comprehensive Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) program in North America, and set ambitious goals for transitioning away from coal-generated energy. The legislation’s basic approach is that by creating a market for renewable energy, economic growth will follow. The legislation commits to a full transition away from coal-powered electric generation prior to 2014, which has created immediate demand for a broad spectrum of renewable energy power generation facilities and technologies.
    In March, OPA announced 510 projects for mid-scale FIT projects (10kW to 500 kW) with a total generating capacity of 112 MW. The following month, there were 184 new private-sector green energy projects, including a 300 MW off-shore wind projects in Lake Ontario – with a total value of $9 billion. Seventy-six of these projects are ground-mounted solar photovoltaic, 47 are on-shore wind and 46 are waterpower projects. The remainder includes: biogas, biomass, landfill gas, rooftop solar projects and one off-shore wind project.
    The connection between the FIT and the growth of renewable energy production is clear. The number of wind turbines in Ontario has grown from 10 in 2003 to more than 670 by the time the GEA regulations were announced in 2009. Wind output from Ontario’s commercial wind farms reached 2.3 terawatt hours in 2009, a 60 percent increase over the previous year. How did this happen? FIT payments for wind power, for example, are 13.5 cents per kilowatt-hour (c/kWh) for on-shore and 19.0 c/kWh for off-shore projects. The FIT also includes both a price escalation clause linked to inflation over the 20-year contract and a “price adder” to encourage the development of Aboriginal and community projects.


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