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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 Apr 2011 9:28 AM | Anonymous

    Japan is still feeling the devastating effects of the March 11th earthquake.  As some nuclear plants shut down and engineers try to stabilize others, the radiation is having a detrimental effect on natural resources.  Tokyo's 13 million residents were told not to give tap water to babies under 1 year old after contamination hit twice the safety level last week (learn more).  Radiation above safety levels has also been found in milk and vegetables from Fukushima and radioactive cesium 1.8 times higher than the standard level was found in a vegetable grown in a Tokyo research facility.  Australia and the United States are just a few countries restricting imports from the affected region. This nuclear crisis not only affects the country domestically but internationally as well.  What effect will this have on renewable energy development and policy? Will this deter other countries from nuclear power?
    The answers to these questions are unclear.  Since the quake, Japan has required a large supply of natural gas in order to fill the energy gap that nuclear power used to fill.  In rebuilding infrastructure, though, Japan may have a strong demand for all forms of distributed power, from mobile generators to PV arrays.  Some believe that distributed PV is the best low-cost alternative to imported natural gas, and therefore, modules created domestically and abroad will be in high demand by the Japanese.  Other experts, such as Piper Jaffray’s Ahmar Zaman, believe that "Demand for solar energy in Japan, among the top 5 markets in the world, will fall this year as the country focuses its resources on reconstruction and other recovery measures."  The role that solar power will play in Japan's energy market is still unclear.  As well, Japan's on-shore wind resource withstood the earthquake, and it is possible that the need for power may accelerate the development of wind energy.  Read more about Japan's future energy market here.
    The impact of Japan's quake and nuclear crisis has been seen around the globe.  Not surprisingly, the shares of U.S. and Chinese solar companies, such as First Solar, SunPower, Suntech Power and JA Solar, spiked after the earthquake, while many other stocks fell due to fear that there may be a nuclear meltdown (Read more).  Other countries are taking more extreme measures; Germany wants to abandon nuclear power.  Germany's transition was supposed to take 25 years, but they want to speed it up after Chancellor Angela Merkel called Japan's nuclear crisis a "catastrophe of apocalyptic dimensions".  Germany has 85-percent public opposition to nuclear power. 

    How will this affect U.S. policy?  In President Obama's State of the Union address in January this year, he endorsed nuclear power. Roberta Gamble, director for energy markets at the research firm Frost & Sullivan, notes that countries worldwide, "Are likely to back away from the 'all-eggs-in-one-basket central power station' model"; meaning that the time of focusing all efforts on nuclear power are gone.  This also means that although solar stock prices rose, this will not become the only energy source.  Mixing numerous forms of renewable energy is the future.  We believe this is a prime opportunity to show off the benefits of renewable energy. 
    How can we do this?  By proving that Illinois is Ready for Solar!  Through education programs and advocacy campaigns, we can show others the benefits of solar power.  We have the ability implement new policies to prevent future disasters. 

  • 05 Apr 2011 9:35 AM | Deleted user
    From 3/31/11

    FirstEnergy Corp.'s subsidiary Pennsylvania Power Company (Penn Power) has successfully contracted for 19,800 Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs).  One SREC represents the solar renewable energy attributes of one megawatt-hour of generation from a solar generating facility.

    The procurement is part of Penn Power's plan to purchase SRECs to meet the state's Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards through 2020.  This purchase of SRECs is equivalent to approximately 2,200 megawatt-hours of solar power generation annually over the next nine years, representing enough energy to power more than 300 homes.  Purchasing SRECs will help provide a stable basis for financing solar generation projects in the company's service area and help support the development of solar energy in the state.

    The average cost is $199.09 per SREC, with deliveries scheduled to begin in June 2011 and last through May 2020.  The results of the procurement were approved by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on March 11, 2011.
    The competitive bidding process was conducted by The Brattle Group – an independent evaluator and global economic and financial consulting firm based in Cambridge, Mass.  Costs incurred to meet the solar requirements of Pennsylvania's Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards will be reflected in Penn Power customer bills beginning in June 2011.

  • 16 Mar 2011 11:33 AM | Anonymous

    While we emphasize Illinois’s leadership in the renewable energy field, how do we actually know if Illinois is more progressive than other states? The American Council on Renewable Energy’s (ACORE) report, “Renewable Energy in America: Markets, Economic Development and Policy in the 50 States” provides us with this information.  ACORE recently released their updated report on renewable energy, which compiles state-by-state financial, market, resource potential, and policy information.  While ACORE does not make many comparisons between states, they provide the basic facts from which you can draw conclusions.

    Illinois is described as, “one of the top electricity-generating states in the nation and a leading net exporter of electricity to other states. It is also home to some of the most extensive wind and biomass resources in the nation. The state has attracted large amounts of investment capital due in large part to an aggressive renewable portfolio standard (RPS) and progressive state and local incentives.”  

    Illinois’s extensive wind and biomass resources are further emphasized in the report:
    • Illinois ranked second in the nation in overall biomass resources in 2007, with 28,284,000 tons available per year.
    • The American Wind Energy Association ranks the state 16th in the nation for potential wind capacity
    • The wind energy supply chain in Illinois comprises of over 100 companies. Chicago is home to at least 13 global or U.S. headquarters of major wind power companies.
    (See more here)

    ACORE points out that Illinois received large amounts of investment capital due to an aggressive RPS, as well as state and local initiatives.  One of these investments came in the form of funding from the Recovery Act.  In fact, the report states that Texas and Illinois received the most funding from Recovery Act competitive grant and tax credit programs (1603 and 48C) to fund renewable energy projects and manufacturing facilities (read more). 

    We need to maximize the grants and capital invested in Illinois renewable energy and also show that Illinois is a promising investment for the future.  We can do this through adhering to our RPS, which requires that suppliers produce 25% of their energy from qualifying renewable energy sources by 2025.  As this policy is seen as “aggressive”, Illinois will receive more national attention and investments if we stay on the track to meeting this goal.  This means creating an Alternative Compliance Price or other penalty for non-compliance with the RPS, and extending the now expired In State Preference for renewables used to meet the RPS.  This guarantees that investments in Illinois renewable energy will stay in Illinois and policies will be followed as we develop new technology and create new jobs in the renewable energy field. With these recommendations, we can continue to lead the Midwest in the transition to renewable energy. Check out ISEA’s other 2011 policy goals to see what else we can do to remain renewable energy leaders.

    ACORE’s report also looks at Net Metering, Loan Program, Bond Program and Tax Incentives throughout Illinois, and each state in the U.S.  Take a look at the report to see how other states stack up in renewable energy policy and development.

    Stay up to date on ISEA news by following us on Twitter and liking us on Facebook.

  • 03 Mar 2011 10:34 AM | Anonymous

    As states across the U.S. create optimistic energy goals, they are looking for ways to better utilize solar energy.  To date, 24 states have adopted Renewable Energy Standard (RPS) policies.  Illinois hopes to have 6% of its energy this year coming from renewable sources, and 25% of its energy by 2025.  If you think this sounds like a lofty goal, Hawaii hopes to have 70% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.  Why the difference? Unlike mainland states, Hawaii does not have access to many fuel sources, such as natural gas or rivers for hydropower.  Instead, their main energy source is petroleum.  Combining Hawaii’s soaring electricity costs (highest in the nation) with the want to limit climate change effects, their 70% goal does not seem so unreasonable. 

    A major barrier in reaching these goals is energy storage.  Intermittent power takes time to build up, and can lessen on days without sun or wind.  This causes utilities to increase production sporadically, and does not allow for back-up energy during power outages.  Finding a way to harness and store energy efficiently would solve these dilemmas. The Dept. of Energy’s Energy Storage Council estimates that the widespread use of high-density energy storage would save the U.S. $175 billion over the next 15 years. 

    Recently, HNU Energy and International Battery teamed up to test renewable energy storage in Hawaii.  The energy storage system created consisted of “four battery modules,  32 160AH lithum iron phosphate (LFP) and a batter management system (BMS) integrated into a standard Electronics Industry Alliance (EIA) 19-inch portable rack mount chassis and enclosure.  The large format lithium ion batteries were chosen because of their high energy density, robust thermal and cycling performance as well as easy system expandability”.  Ramp up/ down studies, among others, tested the batteries’ ability to store energy and hold a charge.  As well, a graphical user interface (GUI) allows HNU Energy to monitor and control the batteries.  Read more about the project here. The success of Hawaii’s energy storage brings optimism to all solar energy advocates.  As we transition into a renewable energy economy, more of these projects will help us reach our RPS policy goals.

    One of ISEA’s legislative goals in 2011 is to create an Alternative Compliance Payment or other penalty for non-compliance with the Renewable Portfolio Standards.  Only through enforcement of RPS policy, can we reach our goal of 6% renewable energy this year! Hawaii’s energy storage project proves that we have the technology and capability to implement renewable energy practices into our everyday lives.

    Help spread the word that Illinois is Ready for Solar, and join the discussion on our LinkedIn page.

  • 24 Feb 2011 9:17 AM | Anonymous

    In our previous blog, we delved into the SunShot Initiative, the Dept of Energy’s plan to stimulate the solar and wind industry by providing $77 million in funding.  The goal of this initiative is to spur renewable energy technology, as well as improve the design and permit processes.  Spreading solar awareness and creating numerous jobs are also offshoots from this program receiving a lot of support.  With the recent excitement around SunShot, other renewable energy ideas are beginning to surface!

    In 2010, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced the Ten Million Solar Roof Act, a plan to put solar panels and water heaters on 10 million of America's roofs by 2020.  Although approved by the Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee in July, 2010, no other advancements have been made.  With the help of SunShot’s plan to lower solar installation costs by 75%, Sanders’ bill is resurfacing. Shayle Kann, managing director of solar research at GTM Research states, "These are two parallel but distinct programs. They could play together very well because undefined to the extent that the SunShot initiative is successful undefined it will lower the [financial] incentives that are required per project for the Ten Million Solar Roof Act” (read more ).

    In the State of the Union, President Obama, proposed building 20 million solar installations nationwide by 2020.  While Sanders’ bill calls for about half of this number, the support from the Federal level is encouraging.  "I look forward to working with the Obama administration to incorporate elements of the new solar initiative into the Ten Million Solar Roofs Act to make the legislation even stronger," Sanders said in a Feb. 4 press release. "We have an opportunity to create hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs and make America the world leader in solar energy."  Learn more about the Ten Million Solar Roof Act here.

    Want solar energy updates? Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter!

  • 16 Feb 2011 9:48 AM | Anonymous

    The U.S. Department of Energy added $77 million to stimulate solar and wind development in their SunShot initiative. By reducing the cost of photovoltaic solar energy systems by 75%, DOE hopes to make these systems cost competitive within in the next ten years.  This reduction will bring the cost for utility scale installations down to $1 a Watt, allowing solar systems to be more affordable and commonplace.

    U.S. Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, states "These efforts will boost our economic competitiveness, rebuild our manufacturing industry, and help reach the President's goal of doubling our clean energy in the next 25 years."  The SunShot initiative will focus on both improving solar cell technology and streamlining local permitting processes.  This focus on streamlining is extremely important, as one of the major roadblocks faced by solar companies and investors is the lack of a common permit process, resulting in slow and expensive procedures.  Read more about the need for a common permit process in our previous blog.

    The major focuses of Sunshot will be:
    • Technologies for solar cells and arrays that convert sunlight to energy;
    • Electronics that optimize the performance of the installation;
    • Improvements in the efficiency of solar manufacturing processes;
    • Installation, design and permitting for solar energy systems
    The DOE will also be awarding $27 million to 9 new renewable energy projects. Five of these will be geared towards further developing U.S. supply chains for PV manufacturing.  These five projects  are spread throughout the U.S. and focus on various parts of the U.S. energy supply chain.  Read further about the SunShot initiative and where other DOE funding will go.

    While none of the 5 projects are located in Illinois, we can take advantage of this heightened interest in solar power and support from DOE.  We want to spread the word that Illinois is a leader in the Midwest transition to renewable energy by displaying our solar companies, jobs and forward thinking.  How can you help?  Publicize your solar jobs!  Find out how in our previous blog and fill out this short survey about solar jobs in your company.  We hope that the SunShot initiative will improve solar technology, streamline permitting processes and make energy systems more affordable.  But we also have to show the rest of the country that Illinois is Ready for Solar, and that we are a leader in this field.

  • 07 Feb 2011 2:37 PM | Anonymous

    Much of the solar energy discussion has been focused on policies, goals and permits. While these are crucial in advancing the solar industry, spending so much time on regulations may cause us to overlook the astounding advances universities and solar companies are making every day.  From solar windows to cheap full-spectrum solar cells, we commend organizations out there dedicating themselves to advancing solar technology!

    Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories have developed a solar cell that responds to almost any wavelength of light.  Traditionally, solar cells respond to only a few wavelengths; therefore decreasing their possible efficiency.  Attempts to create solar cells that absorb energy from the entire light spectrum have been extremely expensive and only used on specific projects, such as spacecrafts.  Berkeley researchers, though, have discovered a way to combine various semiconductors to create a commercially viable solar cell that responds to the entire light spectrum.  Learn the specifics of this process here.

    New Energy Technologies, based in Columbia, Maryland is making it possible to generate electricity on see-thru glass windows.  They have created a coating for windows which supports electron movement and produces electricity.  New Energy is now trying to create a product that could be distributed commercially.  While most solar panels are made by a high-temperature, high-vacuum method, this product could be sprayed onto clear, glass windows.  Check out New Energy’s latest developments.

    If you think solar windows are the direction of the future, what about solar roads?  Scott Brusaw, an electrical engineer in Idaho, believes this is the next step.  Using super-strong glass instead of asphalt or concrete, the roads would remain heated and clear during harsh winter storms.  Brusaw’s idea has gained the attention of both GE and the federal government.  Read more in this article.

    Want to stay up-to-date on the solar industry and the constant technology advances?  Follow us on Twitter!

  • 02 Feb 2011 11:15 AM | Anonymous

    In the State of the Union this week, President Obama called for the United States to produce 80% of its electric power from clean energy by 2035.  But how feasible is this?  What are the major roadblocks standing in the way of solar power expansion?

    According to many solar panel businesses, it is the lack of consistency in solar permits.  As there is no common solar permit, the application process differs between cities, and even counties. Ken Button, the President of Verango Solar Plus, a residential solar panel installer in California, says that he has fifteen employees, “dedicated solely to researching and tailoring permit applications to meet the bureaucratic idiosyncrasies of the dozens of towns in the company’s market” (read more in this New York Time’s article).  This current structure delays installations, adds costs, frustrates installers, and is time consuming and confusing for solar businesses. 

    A recent report by SunRun states that the permit process adds an average of $2,500 in costs to each installation.  Streamlining this could provide a $1 billion stimulus to the residential and commercial solar power market over the next five years.  Having a consistent process for all permits would eliminate extraneous fees and increase safety.  The American Solar Energy Society looks at the other benefits of a common permit application.

    Would a national permit application help move us toward President Obama’s goal?  Join the discussion on our LinkedIn page!

  • 25 Jan 2011 12:24 PM | Anonymous

    How many renewable energy jobs has your business created?  According to a recent blog on Renewable Energy World, publicizing this information may greatly increase awareness and support for renewable energy! 

    Many renewable energy opponents vocalize that spending time and money on green energy is not viable in our country’s current economy.  They correlate financially backing renewable energy with destroying jobs. Unfortunately, these individuals do not see that the creation of renewable energy businesses will in turn create numerous jobs! Therefore, publicizing the constant creation of renewable energy jobs will provide legislators and advocates with solid numbers to support renewable energy and display this field as a source of new jobs.

    What can you do, as a solar energy business professional to publicize new jobs in your company?  Tor Valenza has great tips in his blog “Psst! Solar Fred Marketing and Advocacy Tip: ‘It's the Jobs.’ (Shh! Don't tell the coal lovers.)”:
    • Publicize how solar (and your company) are helping the economy. Did you know that the solar job growth rate is expected to be 26% between August 2010 and August 2011? Work this into blogs and other sales pitches for your company.
    • Write a press release and/or blog post every time you hire someone.  You might receive some attention from the local press.
    • Publish your job numbers on your web site.  Just like McDonald’s has “Over a billion served” on its signs, add a simple, “Thanks to you, X solar jobs have been created since (years in business)” to your web site “home page,” “about us” or “contact us” page.
    • Use social networking to publish job openings and hires. If you’re on social media sites, advertise job openings on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin. 

    Check out Valenza’s blog for more great tips for your company.

    How many solar jobs do you have in your company?  We want to know!  If you are an Illinois solar business, tell us how many filled and available positions are in your company through this brief survey!  We want to be able to pass on hard numbers to other advocates and show that Illinois should invest in solar energy!

  • 18 Jan 2011 7:30 PM | Anonymous

    Thank you to everyone who attended Solar Drinks last Tuesday, Jan. 11th!  With over 40 guests in attendance, the evening provided an opportunity for renewable energy professionals in the Chicago area to meet and share ideas with one another.  A special thank you to Lisa Albrecht and Jeremy Jones for presenting on the evening’s topic, renewable energy policy!  Great discussions ensued over solar installations, upcoming legislation and what we can do.  Remember to mark your calendars for our next Solar Drinks on March 8th at Eastgate Café.  Financing Solar will be the evening’s topic.  Register here for Solar Drinks.

    In keeping with the topic of policy, ISEA works with the Environmental Law and Policy Center to create annual legislative goals.  The following are a few of these goals for 2011 (check out our previous blog for other objectives):

    1. Creating an Alternative Compliance Payments or other penalty for non-compliance with the Renewable Portfolio Standards (applicable to Alternative Retail Energy Suppliers).  This would ensure that all retail suppliers comply with the RPS requirement that 6% of electric sales (in 2011) come from renewables.  If they do not comply, they will be penalized.

    2. Working with PACE financing if the federal nationwide lien position issue is resolved.  While the PACE program is currently at a standstill, this program provides a financing model for energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements to homes and commercial buildings.  Not familiar with PACE? Take a look at our previous blog, “PACE Program Update” to learn more.

    3. Elimination or avoidance of the 2% rate cap on renewable expenditures.  The rate cap was put in place until 2011, at which time the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) is to report to the General Assembly if the 2% rate cap "unduly constrains the procurement of cost-effective renewable energy resources."  The ISEA & ELPC believe the rate cap does constrain procurement and recommend it be eliminated.

    Want to learn about other renewable energy legislation?  Check out our Policy page.

    And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter for solar energy updates!



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