Category Archives: Illinois

Sometimes it Takes a Community to Go Solar

By: Andrew Barbeau, EDF’s clean energy consultant

sunflower_AustinTXfinals-37_(1)_CC-4C_RFYou don’t have a south-facing roof. You have too many trees in your yard. You may not be committed to staying in your house for the next ten to fifteen years. Or maybe you rent, or don’t have the upfront money to install.

These may be some of the reasons why you can’t go solar. You are not alone.

In fact, only 22 to 27 percent of residential rooftops are suitable for installing a solar PV system, due to structural, shading, or ownership issues, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. These effects are even more prominent in densely-populated, urban areas, like Chicago, where viable project siting is limited and renters account for more than half (55 percent) of housing.

But in a new utility world of flowing electricity data and layered intelligence, we shouldn’t limit participation in the rapidly growing solar market to those inconvenienced by circumstance. We need to shift our thinking of distributed solar from the individual to the community. Read More »

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Illinois Bill Pledges More Clean Energy Jobs, Boost to Economy, and Cleaner Air

Illinois is two-for-two on clean energy wins. Today, Illinois legislators introduced a bill to spur significant new growth in the clean energy industry, creating an estimated 32,000 jobs annually across Illinois once proposed clean energy standards are fully implemented. Already a leader in America’s clean energy economy, Illinois, with this bill, would help boost the 100,000 clean energy jobs that already exist in the state, protect our children and future generations from the impacts of climate change, as well as maintain a reliable and affordable electricity system.

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People-Powered Pricing: Nudging Illinois toward Time-of-Use Electricity Plans

TOU graphic KOThis week I submitted testimony in support of a petition by the Citizens Utility Board and, my shop, EDF, to urge the Illinois Commerce Commission to require Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) and Ameren, two of Illinois’ biggest utilities, to provide families and individuals with new ways to reduce their energy bills: electricity pricing based on the hour of the day. This “Time-of-Use” (TOU) option provides times of the day when electricity will be much cheaper than the all-day, “flat” electricity pricing currently used today. Such electricity rates would reward energy-efficient customers and those who shift electricity use away from “peak” hours—when demand is high, prices skyrocket, and power plants produce the most pollution.

Our petition to the Illinois Commerce Commission, which is in charge of regulating electric utilities in the state, asks for ComEd and Ameren to offer optional rate plans beginning 2016. With voluntary TOU electricity pricing, families with digital meters can enjoy lower electric bills by running certain appliances, like the dishwasher, when electricity is cheapest, such as early in the morning or late in the evenings. However, the benefits go far beyond households that participate. Cutting energy use at high-demand times, like the afternoon, lowers electricity prices for everyone, reduces stress on the power grid, and offsets the need for expensive, polluting power plants.   Read More »

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Broad Coalition Coalesces for Clean Energy Jobs in Illinois

rp_iStock_Solar_Installer-300x270.jpgLabor, business, and environmental leaders have formed a unique coalition that will urge Illinois lawmakers to pass new standards for energy efficiency and renewable energy, leading to tens of thousands of new, local jobs.

Members of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, including Environmental Defense Fund, argue that the state should not settle for an old stagnant energy system – one that struggles to meet new Environmental Protection Agency clean energy standards, raises electricity prices for families and businesses, and fails to create new jobs. Instead, we should move decisively toward a cleaner, more reliable, and affordable energy future that increases employment right here in Illinois.

More than 100,000 individuals across the state already work in the clean energy industry, exceeding the number employed in the state’s real estate and accounting sectors combined. That figure is growing at an impressive rate of nine to 10 percent annually. Coalition members predict even sharper job growth if lawmakers embrace their recommendations for spurring a clean energy economy in Illinois, including: Read More »

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How EDF and Chicago are Leading the Way to Energy-Efficient Buildings

chicago-449021_1280One degree Fahrenheit.

Yes, that was Friday’s temperature in Chicago.

But instead of thinking about jetting off to a sandy beach in the Caribbean, my thoughts instead turn to a more practical matter. As I look across the Chicago skyline, I wonder how many of these buildings have old, inefficient heating systems.

The good news is that right here in Chicago, some building owners are finding better, more efficient ways to heat — and in balmier times, cool — their properties.

Over the past year, EDF, the City of Chicago, and some of the city’s leading building owners have teamed up to make real progress in cutting energy use and costs. 

The results of this partnership have helped Chicago move closer to the goal of the city’s Retrofit Chicago initiative: reduce commercial energy use in participating buildings by 20 percent in five years. The Mayor’s office has set the bar for energy savings, and EDF Climate Corps is providing boots on the ground to get it done. And Chicago’s leading building owners and operators are showing creativity and innovation in taking their energy management to the next level. Read More »

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2014: A Positive Sign of What’s to come for Clean Energy

Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0The New Year is a time for reflection, beginning with a look back on the previous 12 months and all that they brought. A quick scan of the U.S. climate and energy news in 2014 will tell you it was a very big year.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants, the U.S. and China struck a historic climate deal, and Tesla broke ground in Nevada on the largest advanced automotive-battery factory in the world – a  move that’s expected to slash the cost of lithium ion batteries by a third. At the same time that these important national and international advancements were grabbing headlines, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and our partners were working together to incrementally transform the U.S. electricity system by rewriting outdated regulations, spurring energy services markets, and modernizing our century-old electric grid.

The U.S. is on the verge of a revolution in the way we make, move, and use energy. And, having spent years working on governmental and regulatory matters related to our power system and lessening its impact on the environment, I can honestly say there has never been a more exciting time to be in this field. Here are a few of the moments that were near and dear to our hearts over the past year, developments I see as a sure signal 2015 will be another epic year for clean energy. Read More »

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