Big solar news from Illinois last week. The Wanxiang America Corporation held a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new $12.5 million, 40,000 sq ft solar module plant in the town of Rockford. It’s yet another example of how product follows policy. Of how manufacturing follows markets. Of how strong solar programs beget new jobs. And of how the race is very much underway to establish new centers of clean energy leadership around the country.
Illinois Governor Quinn attended the ceremony after having signed the state’s ‘solar ramp up’ bill, HB6202, into law that morning. The ramp-up sets Illinois on a clear path to building 750 MW of solar energy by 2016. That kind of commitment to solar is enough to turn the heads of major manufacturers who want assurance that their investment in new factories is going to be located advantageously close to market demand. And even though it’s a relative newcomer to our nation’s solar market, Illinois’ strong solar policies have sent a clear signal to global industry that the state is open for business.
To add frosting to the cake and send Rockford officials into political heaven, Wanxiang solar has also partnered with Chicago-based New Generation Power to start building projects. The two companies have announced plans to build a system of up to 62 MWs near the airport, a project that received $4 million in state ARRA funds. New Generation will construct the first 10 MW in 2011. While manufacturing jobs often get the headlines, about 75 percent of solar’s job creation opportunity actually lies in this kind of project development and installation. Given the state’s new solar requirement, Illinois can expect many more such local job creating projects to come.
Nearly every state we come across would welcome those new green jobs. Policymakers would be wise to take notes from the Illinois solar policy playbook.
Gov. Quinn at the Wanxiang Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, Rockford IL
Good news from the Buckeye State! The legislature passed important tax reform that drops the tax burden for solar farms from upwards of $100,000 per MW to a flat fee of $7,000 per MW. The bill (SB232) – which is expected to be signed by the Governor any day now - removes a major barrier to large-scale solar development in the state.
Existing Ohio tax law added these unreasonably high costs to the price of developing solar and other renewables. In early 2010 Governor Strickland sounded the call for change as part of his state of the state address. That set the stage for legislative action. February saw the introduction of SB232 by Senator Widener (R), a bill that proposed a flat fee in lieu of the onerous taxes. After hefty ne
gotiations (and support voiced by Vote Solar members in the state!), SB 232 passed both Houses in the wee hours last Friday.
This special tax exemption applies to clean energy projects built between now and 2011, a great incentive to hasten solar development in the state. Additionally, projects with a nameplate capacity of less than 250KW are now permanently exempt from the personal property taxation.
SB232 also contained language that expands last year’s passage of PACE enabling legislation to include energy efficient improvements along with solar. This PACE victory comes with strong concerns from energy efficiency advocates since utilities have access to the efficiency credits gained through PACE.
All in all, great progress made in setting up the kind of policy infrastructure that Ohio needs to be able to meet its solar goals. Thanks to all our Ohio members who emailed their legislators in support of SB232.
12 MWDC Wyandot Solar project, Upper Sandusky, Ohio developed, constructed and operated by juwi solar Inc.
Don’t just think sunny deserts, palm trees and cacti when you think solar. Think Twin Towers and corn fields. That’s right: Solar is making its way into the mainstream in the Midwest.
Illinois is rolling forward with aggressive new targets for green energy. 2007 saw the creation of the state’s first renewable energy standard: 25% by 2025. Last year the RES was expanded to cover more utilities and added a solar carve-out: 6% of the RES to come from PV by 2015. That’s a whopping 750 MW of solar, an aggressive initial target for a state that currently has less than 1 MW deployed.
Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, new energy markets take time to develop. The bill that just passed (HB 6202) helps Illinois avoid a 750 MW solar cliff in 2015 by establishing interim annual targets starting in 2012. The new solar targets will require approximately 40, 100 and 180 megawatts of new solar in 2012, 2013 and 2014 respectively. For those wanting the official word, see our press release here.
It may sound wonky, but it’s an absolutely critical framework for easing electricity providers into the world of solar and protecting Illinois energy consumers from sticker shock. Plus it helps get solar projects and jobs started now – when the Illinois economy can use it most. This year’s legislation sends a clear message to the solar industry to gear up to meet tremendous demand from Illinois in the next two years.
In combination with the one year old solar mandate Ohio, and newly created mandate for solar in Missouri, the new solar targets in Illinois will make solar energy a real part of the mix throughout the Midwest. Expect to see other states follow suit.
Congratulations on the passage of the Illinois Solar Ramp Up bill are due to the Environmental Law and Policy Center and our friends at Illinois Solar Energy Association among many other great state enviro groups. This bill hung in the balance in April when Vote Solar and ELPC organized a solar lobby day. Thanks to all those who lobbied along with our many members who contacted their elected officials to let them know Illinoisans want solar now!
Once again our unstoppable friends at Renew Missouri led the charge to get PACE legislation (incorporated into House Bill 1692) from sponsor to majority floor votes. But the birth of the MissouriPACE bill began when city planner Rosalind Williams of Ferguson, Missouri called Vote Solar HQ in early November. This go-getter had heard of other cities implementing PACE programs and wanted to do the same in her hometown. With her combination of vision, drive and local know-how, Rosalind was clearly a strong in-state collaborator for our PACE efforts in Missouri.
The first step of course was passing enabling legislation at the state level to give Missouri‘s municipalities the authority to do just that. Together we began to set about drafting a bill. Rosalind’s contacts at a local bond council firm helped draft strong PACE legislation (thanks Mark Spykerman) just in time for the start of the Missouri legislative session. From there we worked with the grassroots advocates at Renew Missouri who led the on the ground effort, coordinating city supporting resolutions, connecting with experts to answer all types of intricate finance questions and generally clearing the way for the bill’s success.
The PACE legislation garnered widespread, bipartisan support. Missouri‘s PACE supporters include Kansas City Power and Light, The Council for the Municipal League, Missouri Public Utilities Alliance, Missouri Energy Development Association, and several cities that passed supporting resolutions including St. Louis, St Louis County, Kansas City, Ferguson, and Creve Coeur.
The new law gives Missouri municipalities the authority they need to start these innovative finance programs for green retrofits. Now it’s up to pioneering cities to get these PACE programs up and running. In addition to reducing their community’s environmental impact, PACE programs give cities a strong tool for driving green job growth. These efficiency and renewable energy retrofits mean boots on roofs and installers put to work. Missouri‘s PACE passage is particularly timely as the state’s solar rebates and rooftop solar renewable energy credit (SREC) incentives programs are being rolled out as well – ready to help make solar even more accessible for Missourans. The final rules on those solar rebates and SREC purchases will be published within the month. Missouri is primed to go solar. And we couldn’t be happier to be part of that effort.
Last week Vote Solar’s Claudia Eyzaguirre traveled to Jefferson City, Missouri’s fine capital, to attend the final public comment hearing before the state sets its Renewable Energy Standard (RES) rules. Here’s her report from the road as Missouri aims for 15% renewables by 2021 . . .
Good news from Jefferson City. The final draft rules include many of the key local policies that make up solar’s recipe for success. For those keeping track, highlights include: a requirement for qualifying renewable energy to be delivered to Missouri customers, a standard offer for SREC purchase from small systems, simple administration of the $2/W rebate, and a fair accounting method calling for 10 year averaging on renewable cost recovery. I was glad to get the opportunity to endorse the many good points in the rules and recommend a few further clarifications to open solar incentives up to all customers – commercial, industrial and residential.
It was a long day, with solar interests well-represented alongside the utilities, industrial customers association, consumers’ council and wind industry representatives. At any time between one and four Commissioners were participating. As the hearing entered its eighth hour, and attention and patience waned, I was particularly happy to have the ever-competent PJ Wilson of Renew Missouri on our side.
We at Vote Solar have been collaborating with our dogged and dynamic friends at Renew Missouri since they first came to us in 2008 with the genius idea of running a state ballot proposition to create an RES. After Missouri voters passed the bill by a whopping 66%, I volunteered to roll up my sleeves and help dig into the fine print that is required to turn a renewable energy standard law into rules at the state Public Service Commission. Now in the home stretch, many of our recommendations have been adopted, and we expect to see a strong solar program in place soon.
Conveniently, the day after the hearing, our PACE bill was up for a Senate Energy Committee vote. PJ and I spent the morning in the state capitol tracking down key Senators to shore up any wavering votes. The vote was called just after noon, and the PACE bill sailed through the Committee 4-1. The trip turned out to be a very successful one. I always enjoy spending time with my Missouri counterparts who are leading the good fight on the ground. Jeff City, as the locals call it, now has a special place in my heart.
PJ Wilson, director of Renew Missouri and Claudia Eyzaguirre, Vote Solar in front of the Missouri statehouse
Renewable energy policy is moving at breakneck speed all around the country. So we teamed up with Clean Power Finance to give state-by-state policy updates from the regions that are keeping us busiest. Did you miss the live webinars? Never fear, we have them recorded for posterity here . . .
Vote Solar’s Director of East Coast Campaigns Shaun Chapman discussed the latest policy developments from the coast where the sun rises first. In this webinar, Shaun provides an overview of the regional policy landscape and dives deep into developments in CT, MA, ME, NH, NJ, NY, OA and VT.
This webinar featured Vote Solar’s Claudia Eyzaguirre discussing the midwestern solar policy landscape. Thanks to new renewable energy targets, Missouri, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan are poised for tremendous solar growth. Listen in as Claudia explores the opportunities and remaining policy hurdles facing these emerging solar markets.
In this final installment of our regional policy webinar trilogy, Adam Browning and Annie Carmichael tag team to bring you insights from the solar powerhouses of Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico.
Take a look around and you’ll start to see that things are looking decidedly brighter for solar in Ohio. 2009 was the first year that state law required utilities to generate a portion of their power from the sun. With a solar energy target now in place, we’re working hard to build the road to that renewable energy future.
So what’s on the solar agenda in Ohio?
First, expect to see new solar rebate programs from your utility as it works to meet its renewable energy requirements. Vote Solar is working with the Ohio Consumer Council and others to make sure potential solar customers get a fair deal.
Second, there are a number of issues at play in the state legislature to smooth the way for solar adoption:
House Bill 113 aims to give solar a boost in schools. If the bill is passed, school districts with more than 5,000 students will be required to power some of their electricity through solar. That means 71 Ohio schools would start tapping the sun for their electricity.
Senate Bill 223 would expand the state’s municipal financing option (PACE) to include energy efficiency investments. These PACE programs help property owners cover the upfront cost of making energy improvements. It’s an exciting new way for cities and counties to support a local green economy and job growth. Last year, this policy marked a big win for solar in Ohio, and we’re excited to see those benefits expanded to include efficiency.
And last but not least, Governor Strickland’s State of the State called for a personal property tax exemption for solar generating energy projects. Removing this obscure property tax would clear the way for the development of solar farms. We expect to see a bill introduced shortly to address this remaining barrier to large-scale solar in Ohio.
Now we don’t want to sugarcoat Ohio solar policy. There have been bumps in the road. Three utilities- AEP, First Energy and Dayton Power & Light, asked to be excused from their 2009 solar generation requirement. We formally disagreed with the granting of a solar waiver. The utilities stated the lack of approved RPS rules, however the solar generation requirement has been clear from day one. We do expect to see those missing solar electricity hours generated in 2010.
We’ll need your help to pass these bills. Stay tuned and get ready to go solar.
Illinois is looking at three big solar bills this year that, if passed, will change the state’s energy landscape by putting solar panels on rooftops and fields across the state. These bills mean new jobs and a brighter economic outlook for Illinois.
The first bill, SB3686, would establish small steps to successfully reach the solar requirement in 2016 in the current Illinois Renewable Energy Standard. Starting in 2012 the state would develop 20 Megawatts of solar power and the amount would grow in achievable, bite sized pieces every year.
The second companion bill, HB6202, would expand the types of customers who qualify for net metering, a wonky-but-critical policy that helps consumers save money on their energy bills when they go solar. Net metering is a simple billing arrangement that allows solar customers to get equal credit for the excess electricity their solar panels generate during daytime hours. The current law limits net metering to residential systems below 40 kilowatts in size. That means office buildings, schools and factories can’t generate their own solar energy and “bank” it on the grid for times when the sun doesn’t shine. That’s no good for those energy customers and no good for a robust solar market.
The third bill, SB2505 allows new municipal programs that helps property owners make solar and efficiency improvements without upfront costss. Called Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing, cites across the country are starting up PACE programs to support a thriving new green economy. HB2505 will improve a PACE law passed last year and make it easier for Illinois cities to use.
We have a lot of work to do to get these bills passed and we’ll need your support to help make it happen!
Yesterday we watched the California Public Utilities Commission approve the start of the statewide solar hot water rebate program. Following a successful pilot program in San Diego, hot water consumers throughout the state will now have access to $350 million in declining incentives through 2017. Congrats to Environment California and Assembly member Jared Huffman for passing AB 1470 in 2007 and initiating this effort.
The solar hot water funds will be split 40/60 between residential and commercial properties – the latter actually includes multi-unit residences like apartment buildings. Solar hot water helps solve the age-old dilemma of how to get these kinds of multi-tenant buildings to go solar. With electricity, tenants are generally billed individually so there’s rarely any financial motivation for the building owner to invest in a PV system. However, water is typically centrally heated and therefore paid for by the building owner. This time around, energy savings through solar benefit their bottom line. So we’re enthusiastic that soon renters and condo owners will be able to rejoice in their new found solar-powered-ness.
This solar hot water program will also bring California a step closer to the 2020 mandate for zero energy homes. With the new incentives, solar hot water heating becomes a viable alternative to the natural gas water heaters in most homes. In total, the residential portion of the rebate program is expected to outfit 200,000 homes with new solar hot water systems.
In November last year, Missouri voters passed Prop. C establishing a statewide renewable energy standard with a 2% solar carve-out. Our good friends at Renew Missouri lead that hugely successful effort. We offered a little guidance on solar carve-outs.
Since the spring we’ve teamed up on taking that proposition from a guiding state law to detailed utility regulations that oversee how solar develops in the state. We are happy to report that the rules are looking good. All solar systems under 25kW will get a $2/Watt rebate plus an additional incentive for the sale of the solar renewable energy credits to the utility. That’s an offer that’s going to move a lot of Missouri home and business owners to go solar.
These rules aren’t final yet, we’ve got some details to iron out yet. We’ll ask for your help sending in lots of comments during the final comment period. But expect to see Missouri enter into the solar top 15 states maybe even next year.
Want to get involved? Contact Claudia at email@example.com