Energy Exchange

This cleantech hotspot is giving New York and California a run for their money

California and New York often steal the spotlight on cleantech innovation, but those in the know are keeping their eye on Illinois.

The energy sector has been undergoing rapid change in the Land of Lincoln, thanks to a slew of innovative initiatives. More than ever before, Illinois’ buildings are more efficient, its electric grid is more modern, and its electricity use is smarter. And the state is just getting started.

Powering all of the buildings in the United States costs over $400 billion a year. Many of these buildings were built long before modern energy codes and, therefore, use more power than they should. This gap presents a ripe opportunity: The retrofit industry is now valued at $20 billion, and Illinois is paying attention. The state topped the list of most LEED-certified buildings from 2013–2015, and has remained in the top 5 since. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Grid Modernization / Read 1 Response

How this up-and-coming leader is improving energy equity in Illinois

By Illinois Environmental Council

Meet Lavannya Pulluveetil Barrera

IEC: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. How did you come to work on policy issues related to clean energy access?
Lavannya Pulluveetil - EDF
Lavannya: I’m a recent grad with a degree in in Environmental and Sustainability Sciences as well as International Agriculture and Rural Development. I had the opportunity to work on a variety of community-driven initiatives in New York and internationally as an undergrad, and they all showed me the value of connecting people to resources available through local and federal governments. I became involved in policy issues related to energy access because I am hopeful about the work the Environmental Defense Fund is undertaking in Illinois. I was motivated largely by the focus on equity in relation to energy access, and I hoped that my previous work would lend itself to moving the needle forward on some of these initiatives.

Future Energy Jobs Act: Jobs and Development
IEC: The Future Energy Jobs Act includes provisions to grow renewable energy. Specifically, where will solar panels be installed? What was this land used for before the panels were planned there?

Lavannya: Ideally, solar development in Illinois will fit into a larger vision of a just transition for the communities that are most impacted by the aging coal industry. For instance, some communities in Chicago are calling for using old coal plant sites for solar projects, and developers are getting behind this idea locally. Additionally when considering open spaces across the state and brownfield site redevelopment, there is a lot of potential when it comes to transforming the landscape and local economies of communities. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy / Comments are closed

Illinois blazes new trail in anticipation of private microgrids using utility wires

On May 9, Andrew Barbeau, senior clean energy consultant for Environmental Defense Fund, will speak at the Microgrid 2018 conference. This year’s theme is Markets and Models for the Greater Good, and Andrew will discuss the effort to create a new microgrid tariff for third-party-managed microgrids as described in this post. You can register for the conference here.

Imagine you and your neighbors have solar panels on your roofs. You want to create a mini-power grid so that your neighborhood can operate solely on your panels’ electricity, even sending excess power from one home to another. And if there’s a storm that affects the main power grid, your homes can disconnect and stay powered.

This is the vision that microgrid proponents have promised for the past decade: small sections of the broader grid that incorporate rooftop solar and batteries, and can isolate from the grid as a whole when needed. Yet, this promise faces a major hurdle: The utility owns the wires that connect your homes and has an exclusive monopoly on that electrical infrastructure. This has driven most microgrid projects in the U.S. to either be completely “behind the meter” of a single customer, or owned and managed by the utility itself.

A new agreement with Illinois’ largest utility, ComEd, is poised to jump that hurdle. Working with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and the Citizens Utility Board (CUB), ComEd will begin a process this year to allow customers or third parties to develop and manage their own microgrid projects – working with the utility’s existing infrastructure rather than having to avoid it.

We have received lots of questions on how this will work. Here are your questions answered. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Grid Modernization / Tagged | Comments are closed

Illinois is about to release its plan to kick-start new renewables. Here's what you need to know.

The Future Energy Jobs Act, which catapulted Illinois to the forefront of the clean energy movement, includes an ambitious directive for electric utilities to get 25 percent of their power from renewable resources by 2025. To achieve that, the Illinois Power Agency has been developing a Long-Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan (the Plan) based on workshops and input from stakeholders, including Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

The Agency filed the Plan in December 2017 for the Illinois Commerce Commission’s approval.  Following several more rounds of comments, it is now up to the Commission to make its final modifications to the Plan before approving it on April 3.

By jumpstarting Illinois’ renewables development, the Plan contains huge wins for the environment and people. But there are a few questions yet to be resolved. Here’s what you should know. Read More »

Also posted in Solar Energy, Wind Energy / Comments are closed

Illinois has plenty of power, says new report. So, why bail out Dynegy’s coal plants?

Since last year, Dynegy has tried to strong-arm Illinois legislators and regulators into allowing it to pollute more. To add insult to injury, the Texas-based energy giant wants to charge customers more to do so. It’s a lose-lose for Illinoisans. And here’s the kicker: A new report just revealed that Illinois has more than enough power without Dynegy’s coal plants.

Dynegy has spent the past year targeting environmental protections at the Illinois Pollution Control Board, and has re-introduced legislation in Springfield that would give its uneconomic coal plants a $400 million per-year bailout. Meanwhile, Dynegy is raking in millions in profits. Moreover, Dynegy was acquired last week by Vistra Energy in a move that will generate $4 billion in equity.

There is more than enough power in Illinois (termed “resource adequacy” in energy parlance) to keep the lights on and then some, confirms the new report from the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC). The report is further evidence that Illinoisans should not have to bail out Dynegy’s polluting plants. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy / Comments are closed

Innovative Illinois initiative seeks to make solar power available for all

We recently celebrated the one year anniversary of the monumental clean energy development package passed by the Illinois state legislature, the Future Energy Jobs Act. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) joined forces with community-based organizations, fellow enviros, and clean energy industry representatives as part of the Clean Jobs Coalition to push for the historic bill, and now continues to work for its effective, efficient, and equitable implementation.

One of the many remarkable results of the legislation is the Illinois Solar for All program, created to increase access to the solar economy for economically disadvantaged communities and areas that meet program standards for designation as environmental justice (EJ) communities. In fact, the legislation allocates at least 25 percent of funds for three of the four subprograms (described below) to projects located in EJ communities.

The Solar for All program works by addressing the additional barriers these communities face when it comes to participating in renewable energy programs. By providing access to solar with no upfront costs, and a cash-positive experience (i.e. customers can positively manage their energy use and bills), the Illinois Solar for All program has the potential to transform how communities create, interact with, and benefit from clean energy. Read More »

Also posted in Solar Energy / Comments are closed