Breaking Down Illinois’ Equitable Climate Bill

Day 281 – Back in September, Illinois passed Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (SB2408). It is a nation-leading law to fight climate change, create good-paying jobs, improve the health of Illinoisans, and support disadvantaged communities. I didn’t know exactly what the new legislation involved, so I thought what better way to learn about than to write about it.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) summarized the key components.

  1. Slash climate-changing carbon pollution by phasing out fossil fuels in the power sector. Require Illinois to achieve a 100% zero-emissions power sector by 2045, with significant emissions reductions before then. Illinois will be the first Midwest state to require a carbon-free power sector, joining California, Hawaii, New Mexico, New York, Virginia, and Washington.
  2. Grow renewable energy generation more than five-fold. Invest $580 million a year to generate 40% of Illinois’ energy from wind and solar by 2030 and 50% by 2040.
  3. Extend cost-saving energy efficiency programs. Save people hundreds of millions of dollars on their electric bills each year. Expand requirements for energy efficiency investments in low-income households.
  4. Expand economic opportunities for disadvantaged communities and people of color.  Invest $115 million per year to create job training hubs and create career pipelines for the people who need them most, incubate and grow small clean energy businesses in disadvantaged communities, and more.
  5. Clean up Illinois’ transportation sector. Creating planning processes for beneficial electrification, and providing rebates for electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging infrastructure. 
  6. Support communities and workers impacted by the transition away from fossil fuels. Invest up to $40 million per year to replace lost property taxes, and support economic development and job training.
  7. Move towards cleaner buildings. Creating a statewide stretch building code and including building electrification measures that reduce fossil fuel use in buildings as part of energy efficiency programs.
  8. Provide limited support for nuclear plants. Provides payments to economically struggling Illinois nuclear plants totaling about $700 million over five years. 
  9. Hold utilities accountable with stronger ethics rules and reforms. Plan our electric grid in a more transparent, equitable way and help prepare the grid for electric vehicles and clean, efficient all-electric buildings.
  10. Create good-paying clean energy jobs across Illinois showing that economic growth and a healthier environment go hand-in-hand. This bill will grow all sectors of the clean energy and the jobs that come with them, and requires family-sustaining wages and benefits for most clean energy jobs in Illinois, encouraging union jobs while also ensuring that small businesses in disadvantaged communities can get a foothold.

The climate crisis is upon us and real meaningful changes need to happen now. This is a good step forward, but Illinois and states around the country need to do more to help heal our damaged planet.

Tomorrow, compostable snack bags.

The Pros and Cons of Solar Energy

Day 142 – Now more than ever, we are in need of renewable energy sources. We have reached a moment in time where real change needs to happen or we (the human race) will be unable to recover from our destructive ways. Solar Energy is one of those renewable energy sources. I have seen countless ads in my social media feeds for solar panels. I thought I would look at the pros and cons of solar energy.

Let’s start with the CONS:

  1. Solar panels are not very efficient – The solar panels on the market, today, are only able to convert about 17-21% of the sunlight collected into electricity. That is a lot better than in the past, but still rather low. Scientists have found a way to increase the efficiency to 50%, but the cost is not practical for commercial use. We can only hope that like many technological breakthroughs, the cost will come down.
  2. Recycling solar panels is difficult – Even though solar panels are relatively recyclable, the infrastructure to handle the recycling is lacking in the U.S. “The European Union holds PV module (solar panels) installers accountable for their electronic waste and requires solar producers to recycle, and Japan holds project developers and owners liable for waste disposal and requires payment into a decommissioning fund. However, there is a vacuum when it comes to U.S. federal leadership on solar recycling and treatment of end-of-life PV modules. For now, the future of solar panel recycling is in the hands of the states.”PV Magazine
  3. Not all solar panel companies are eco-friendly – You would think that any business selling solar panels would be environmentally friendly. However, that is not always the case. The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition produces a solar scorecard that ranks companies based on sustainability.
  4. Solar batteries are expensive – Solar batteries are needed to store the energy converted by the solar panels. Unfortunately, solar batteries can add an additional cost of $8,000 to $10,000. Solar batteries are recyclable, but like solar panels, the U.S. lacks the facilities capable of recycling them.

The PROS:

  1. Community solar farms are becoming more popularCommunity solar farms allow a group of people to go in on solar energy. This is nice for renters or homeowners in heavily shaded areas.
  2. There are more reputable solar panel companies – Even though one of the cons was that not all solar panel companies are eco-friendly, it is a pro that there are many more environmentally friendly companies than there are unfriendly.
  3. Tax credits help with the overall cost “The 26% federal solar tax credit has been extended through the end of 2022. This solar incentive is available for both residential and commercial solar systems. A tax credit is more valuable to the taxpayer than a write-off because it is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in taxes owed. In addition, businesses can get solar tax write-offs, further reducing the total cost of installing a solar system. For the project to be eligible, the solar system must be purchased. Thus, many community solar farm memberships, solar leases, and power purchase agreements do not qualify.”Earth911
  4. Accessing a free source of energy – Currently, there is no fee to access the sun’s energy. Along with the fact that it is a renewable source of energy. Using it will help decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
  5. Low maintenance cost – Once installed, solar panels can be maintained for as little as $300 per year (even if a professional cleaning company is used). Additionally, companies providing solar panels usually offer warranties, which further helps to minimize costs.
  6. Decrease electrical bills – Solar panels can help both companies and individuals keep their electric bills low. Traditional sources of electricity only need to be used during times when, for an extended period, the sun isn’t out, or during months when hours of available sunlight are restricted.

There is a lot to think about when deciding if solar panels are right for your home or business. This information is just the beginning of the process. If you do decide to contact a solar panel company be sure to ask questions about the issues discussed in the list of CONS.

Tomorrow, lawn furniture made from recycled plastic.