Tag Archives: Green Economy

Reflecting on the UK Trade Mission

By Eric Pasi

It was an honor to join Minnesota Governor Tim Walz on a trade mission to Europe in mid-November. The delegation was filled with experts from various fields including ours, Energy and Environment. I was only able to join for the UK portion which was jam-packed with productive meetings, conversations, and idea-sharing. Regional Trade Manager Steve Riedel from Minnesota Department of Economic Development was a great leader for our Environment and Energy delegation. He helped identify and facilitate a variety of engagements with our European counterparts, distilled into concise daily agendas.

There were multiple references to the “special relationship” enjoyed by the US and UK. In terms of climate goals, Minnesota and the UK share an outsized ambition to significantly curb GHG emissions over the next few decades. Our common interests include the accelerated adoption of cold-climate electric heat pumps, electrification of our transportation industries, and advent of offshore wind technologies in the US, much of which has been pioneered in the UK.

Several event highlights included visiting start-up accelerator Sustainable Ventures, whose offices boasted an incredible view of parliament and Big Ben. We toured London’s greenest office building at Southworks and learned about AI technology for autonomous vehicles at the Smart Mobility Living Lab. My favorite part of the trip had to be the briefing and social hour at the US Embassy, which played host to most of our UK collaborators.

An obligatory selfie of Eric Pasi at the United States Embassy in the United Kingdom.

The view of Parliament and Big Ben as seen from Sustainable Ventures.

At the conclusion of our trip I was thankful to have had an opportunity to share my relevant experience with our counterparts in London. The intersection between clean, but intermittent resources like wind and solar, and flexible loads like electric cars, green hydrogen, and heat pumps can improve the grid and reduce costs. The orchestration between generation and loads will be absolutely critical. Several contacts I met specialize in different facets of these value chains; fostering further innovation in this space will help ratepayers, utilities, and the planet. I look forward to building on these relationships and ideas in my development role at IPS.

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The Infrastructure Bill & Climate Change: Clean Energy Connection EP. 6

(Interview starts at 0:21:00)


Proponents of Clean Energy: About the Guests 

Eric Pasi, Impact Power Solutions

Eric Pasi, Chief Development Officer, IPS 

As Chief Development Officer for Impact Power Solutions, Pasi has helped organizations analyze and adopt clean energy strategies nationwide.  He is extremely passionate about renewable power, entrepreneurship and the climate crisis. In 2020, he released his first book called “CleanWave: A Guide to Success in the Green Recovery” where he outlines the past, present, and future of clean tech, and its role in a post-COVID19 and post-George Floyd recovery.  


Interview Transcript

Joan E: Eric Pasi is the Chief Development Officer at Impact Power Solutions, and joins me once a month to talk about green energy issues. Eric, how are you? 

Eric P:
I am doing great. It’s infrastructure week. There’s a lot of things to talk about and a lot of things to be excited about.

Joan E:
Before we get to infrastructure, though, I want to get your reaction to the report on climate change that came out earlier this week where an international group looked at 1000s of studies that have been done all around the world, and came to the conclusion that “Yep, yeah, well, people are definitely causing climate change.” Some of it, like rising sea levels, may be with us forever, but there are other parts of what we’ve done that we might be able to undo. What did you think of the report?

Eric P:
The report
, which is known by its acronym, IPCC, which stands for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is put together by a group of climate scientists from around the world. Just as a background, it’s sponsored by the United Nations, who develop the reports detailing data behind climate change, and the findings must be agreed upon by the 195 participating countries before release, including us. So that makes the report the definitive source of information on the subject. And the previous report, which was released in 2013, influenced the creation of the Paris Climate Agreement. And so there’s a lot of folks in the energy community who were hotly anticipating the release of the report this year.

Joan E:
Even for climate deniers, I think that things have gotten so extreme that it’s a little bit hard to say that we don’t have any role to play in this. I mean, we’re watching what is probably the second largest wildfire, the Dixie fire in California, just burning 1000s and 1000s of acres. And couple that with all these pictures I’m seeing of rivers that are half dried up and reservoirs that are 15 and 20 feet below where they normally run. I mean, how does anybody at this point say, “Well, you know, that’s not climate change.” What are the things that I used to hear all the time? “Oh, just because we have one winter where the weather’s extreme, that doesn’t prove that there’s climate change.” But now we’ve had winter after spring, after summer, after winter, after spring after summer. It seems to me overwhelming and something that just simply cannot be denied at this point in time. Is that the way you see it?

Eric P:
Yes, absolutely. I think that there’s been some moderation on on behalf of Republicans who have traditionally stood with the fossil fuel lobbies and disinformation campaigns that we’ve been seeing over the last decade plus, and I think we both can remember back to Senator Inhofe on the Senate floor with a snowball in his hand, saying that the fact that he had ice was irrefutable evidence that climate change did not exist. But I think we’re seeing a lot of moderate Republicans, young republicans, come out strong on this issue. Having the private sector and the markets really lead the transformational change. There’s a lot of data and facts to help to support that. We are seeing corporate America step up in ways that we’ve never seen before on this issue. Google is really leading the charge on providing 24 hour clean energy to their facilities, which is something that’s never been done before. We’re seeing other groups leading in this regard as well, including utilities, who have traditionally been on the opposite side, are saying now, that clean energy is the most cost effective solution for ratepayers and it is reliable. We’re seeing with the adoption of these 100% or 80% clean energy by 2030 or 2040 mandates, as really being the future. That’s given cover to a lot of folks on the right who have been on the opposite side of this issue to say, “Well, if the markets and corporations are seeing this trend I think it’s time for us to kind of set aside the differences and get on board.”

Joan E:
I know that my daughter and I did a bucket list trip, right before the pandemic really closed up the world. We went diving at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and they’ve had periodic problems. It’s the world’s biggest reef, but they’ve had periodic problems with bleaching. That is where the water gets so warm that the coral starts dying. When the coral dies it sets off a domino effect. When we were there in January they told us as we were diving that the temperature in the water was a degree or less away from the temperature where they know the bleaching starts. The people we were diving with said, “it’s good that you’re going on this trip now, because we don’t even know what this reef is going to look like two years from now.” Because we were teetering on the edge of the temperature that would basically kill off of the reef. It was really climate change brought home in a way that maybe the people who’ve lived through these wildfires in California, also feel it up close and personal. For so many of us, Eric, it’s been kind of theoretical. Yes, we see the ice breaking off in the Antarctic, but when you are faced with your home burning, or faced with the fact that this reef that you’re diving into may not exist two years from now, it’s just staggering the effect that it has on you and how it really creates this incredible desire to do something. I think that’s part of the problem. So much of this is human generated, but it seems so much bigger than what any one person can do. How does one person make a difference?

Eric P:
You’re totally right on, Joan, with what your experiences have shown you. There’s climate injustices all around the world. For me personally, just as an anecdote, my father was an immigrant from Tonga and I had a chance to visit his home several years ago. The island that he’s from, Tonga, is in the South Pacific, kind of near New Zealand, and it is only about nine feet above sea level. Thinking about these folks, my ancestors, being really at risk for climate devastation, when they had no role in the warming planet and releasing all these greenhouse gases, is just something that drives me. I think that when people find similar stories that are in their own lives, that can give you the power to become your own advocate. I think what needs to happen is an uprising, like maybe we haven’t seen since the Vietnam War, where people are demonstrating and out on the streets showing their passion for this issue. It’s not just the humanitarian aspect, but also the ecological aspect to this as well. Needing to preserve what’s left of this planet for future generations. That is what drives me every day. I think folks, when they tap into that power, really can spend the time and energy on this issue that it demands, and I’m hopeful that we can all do that.

Joan E:
Toward that end, as you mentioned a moment ago, it looks like we’re going to be getting a new infrastructure bill. We’re going to take a break. And when we come back, I want to talk to Eric about what this new infrastructure package may or may not mean for clean energy in this country. We’re gonna take a break and be back with Eric Pasi right after this.

Joan E:
Before the break, Eric had mentioned this new infrastructure bill that the Senate passed with a 60 to 30 vote. We are going to find out what, if anything, this potential package will mean for the clean energy industry. Eric, is there a breakdown?

Eric P:
Yeah, absolutely. So there’s two aspects of what’s happened in the last 24 hours or so. The traditional infrastructure bill, which was a bipartisan bill, was really spearheaded by folks in the Senate, like Joe Manchin, who said that we’re not going to be able to address the larger issues without at least trying for a bipartisan solution. The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, which included about $550 billion of new spending, did have some aspects that were pro-clean energy. That includes $73 billion for the electric grid and our infrastructure. That’s going to be super important. As we try to onboard the backlog of solar wind and other clean energy assets onto the grid, we need some upgrades to that infrastructure. There’s $21 billion for environmental remediation projects, like cleaning up Superfund sites and brownfield sites, and to sort out the abandoned gas mines which have become an increasingly big issue as companies have left these mines to essentially spew out methane and other harmful greenhouse gases. There’s money in there to address those projects.

Joan E:
Okay, I know what a Superfund site is, but what is a brownfield site?

Eric P:
It’s also a contaminated site. They’re almost synonymous, but both are having to deal with environmentally contaminated sites.

Joan E:
We have the steel works plant over by the Chicago – Gary border. There have been lots of ideas from time to time about what should be done with that land. The fear of doing anything over there is about what kind of contaminants are in the ground. Would the old steel works plant qualify under this infrastructure bill? Is that someplace that could get cleaned up once and for all?

Eric P:
Yes, absolutely. It could qualify. What we’re seeing for a lot of these superfund sites, brownfield sites and landfills is that a great pairing in those situations is to repurpose those sites as solar sites. What we’ve seen is that a lot of developers are placing solar arrays where they’re not penetrating or disturbing the ground. They’re using ballasted solutions, allowing the remediation of that site underneath the systems and then also just having a dual use where we, you know, we need this infrastructure. We need clean energy. There’s a happy medium or Mayor Between these contaminated sites and solar projects.

Joan E:
I know this might be getting too far into the weeds, but I’ve read about this before, not recently because I think the technology is changing. We were having a discussion about infrastructure and Joe Biden’s desire to promote electric vehicles and somebody texted me and said, “Well, wait a minute, didn’t I read that these electric vehicles need these special lithium batteries, and that making these lithium batteries can be as polluting as refining gasoline and burning gasoline in an engine?” I haven’t read anything about that recently. I know that when electric cars first came to prominence that was a big concern. Has the technology advanced when it comes to batteries and how they’re made and how they’re disposed of?

Eric P:
The production of lithium ion batteries is actually well established now, including recycling programs and repurposing programs. There’s quite a few examples out there, but what we are seeing is a move for some advanced battery technology away from lithium. Traditionally, China has been the by far the leader in lithium production. There’s actually some legislation that is hoping to develop some of those resources that we have in the US, including in California, but new battery technology, which would include zinc and iron ore technology, is plentiful in the US and much easier to refine. We are seeing the next generation of batteries, which will likely be coming later this decade, as more powerful, longer lasting and cheaper batteries compared to lithium ion, but lithium ion does have good processes in place for environmental mitigation.

Joan E:
Oh, well that’s good to know. Because you don’t want to make the investment of buying an electric car and then feel like you’re not really helping the environment the way you thought you were in the first place. I know that. in China they’ve mandated that not too many years in the future electric cars are going to be all that they permit. They have a huge pollution problem over there. Do you think that the scales are going to tip at some point in the near future? And what point would that be? I read the car guy who writes on weekends for the Wall Street Journal. He reviews all these Lamborghinis and Ferraris, and it’s always fun to read about him driving these supercars. Oh my god, this has to be like four years ago, I was reading his column on the weekend and he said, “you know, guys, gas engines, they’re really gone. You might still be driving one, maybe the next car you buy will still have one, but for all intents and purposes, folks, they’re gone. That technology is gone. It is part of the past. At some point, maybe in the far future, or the near future, you’re going to be driving an electric car.” This is a guy who lives and breathes V8s and V12s. For him to say this, it really made me sit up and take notice. This really is coming, isn’t it, Eric?

Eric P:
Yes, all the major car manufacturers have laid out blueprints for their future fleets and all of it is electrified. The question between them is just really how soon. We’ve seen folks as aggressive as Volvo coming out to say that they are going to have 100% of their offerings be electric by 2030 to GM and Ford, who are saying half of their fleet’s offerings will be electric by 2030. It’s really on a fast pace. Right now in the US about 2% of new car sales are electric. That’s up from about 0.1% just a few years ago. Then if you look at places like Europe, that number is closer to 8% of new cars being sold as electric and in China up to 20% already of new cars being sold being electric. This is definitely coming. Within the bipartisan infrastructure bill there is $15 billion for electric vehicles, $7.5 billion to electrify public transportation and then $7.5 billion for additional EV charging stations. We’re going to see this transformation really happen in a blink of an eye. By mid decade most folks will be opting for EVs because they’re just the better option at this point. You know if you’ve ever driven an EV that it’s just the pure joy of driving the car. It’s just so much more fun. There’s environmental benefits. It’s just a clear winner, at least from my point of view, to head in that direction.

Joan E:
Oddly, even though I wasn’t going anywhere, eight months into the pandemic I bought an electric car. Here’s the thing that was the biggest surprise to me. Even though I wasn’t driving it very often, I was driving it to the grocery store or something once in a while and I still had my previous car, the gas car. For some reason, one time I went to drive that instead of the electric car and I turned it on in the garage and all I could think of was, “oh my god, this car stinks.” I never noticed the exhaust before, but now with this car, I smell gas, I smell exhaust. I had gotten used to not having that smell. And I realized, “Oh my god, I really get it. I understand now why you know what this car is throwing up into the atmosphere, because I can smell it like I’ve never smelled it before.” One of our listeners just texted this in. “Scientists were worried about an ice shelf on the Antarctic coast the size of New Jersey. The debate was between those who thought it would be gone in 20 years and those who thought that attitude was alarmist. One lone voice said that the ice shelf could be gone in two years and everybody said he was crazy. It was gone two weeks after the debate hit the press and that was 20 years ago.” So in some respects, I think a lot of us really have been crossing our fingers and looking the other way. One of the things I wanted to talk to you about is the Illinois Path to 100 bill, because we haven’t passed the clean energy bill. I know previously, you said that there’s a soft deadline at the end of August, but we haven’t passed it. Exelon says that they’re going to be shutting down the Byron and Dresden nuclear power plants. So what is that going to mean for the state of Illinois?

Eric P:
I think that this really steps up the pressure on lawmakers to get some type of deal done. Stakeholders, including the folks on our side, are hoping that a deal to make some type of bridge for labor and retiring coal facilities is going to be part of the solution there. I can really see both sides of the argument. We need to support a transitioning workforce in Illinois that is moving from coal to renewables, but every pound of additional CO2 in the atmosphere is really compounding the drastic effects of a warming planet. In my opinion, clean energy advocates should accept what’s on the table, which is the fossil fuel subsidy as a short term trade to keep low emission nuclear facilities online, and then also new wind and solar developments on the horizon. That’s my take on it. I think we’re getting to one of the Republican lawmakers who said that this is not a bluff. Meaning that we’ve heard that Exelon is rolling out their shutdown plans this month. We need low emission nuclear facilities as a part of the solution to combat climate change. I think this is a compromise that we all need to take very seriously.

Joan E:
When the bill didn’t pass the first time around they said they weren’t waiting and were going to start the procedures. I think they were threatening to shut Byron down by the end of September, certainly by the beginning of November.

Eric P:
I feel like there’s so much at stake. I think the fossil fuel subsidies are a mistake, but we all need to just focus on the larger picture here and get a deal done. This reminds me a little bit of 2016, when there was an extension of the solar and wind tax credits at the federal level. That was made in exchange for the lift on the oil export ban. We removed that ban, but it unlocked so much more in solar and wind development. That seems like a similar situation where we have to play ball and look at the bigger picture.

Joan E:
Yeah, and while everybody would like a perfect solution, maybe in the short term, we have to settle for good and then work from there. I agree with you. I know you said before, that probably August 31st was a soft deadline for this. So let’s hope that next time you and I talk, we can say “whew, crisis averted. They did it!”

Eric P:
That’s right. This, along with the other stuff that’s happening on the federal level, could lead to a very exciting end to summer here.

Joan E:
Thanks so much, Eric. I appreciate talking to you about these issues. Thanks for joining me today. 

Eric P:
Absolutely! Have a great rest of the afternoon. 


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IL’s Solar Jobs Program & Climate Change: Clean Energy Connection EP. 5

(Interview starts at 0:21:00)


Proponents of Clean Energy: About the Guests 

Eric Pasi, Impact Power Solutions

Eric Pasi, Chief Development Officer, IPS 

As Chief Development Officer for Impact Power Solutions, Pasi has helped organizations analyze and adopt clean energy strategies nationwide.  He is extremely passionate about renewable power, entrepreneurship and the climate crisis. In 2020, he released his first book called “CleanWave: A Guide to Success in the Green Recovery” where he outlines the past, present, and future of clean tech, and its role in a post-COVID19 and post-George Floyd recovery.  


Interview Transcript

Joan E: Eric Pasi is the chief Development Officer of IPS and he joins me today to do a round up on a lot of things that are happening here in Illinois. Welcome, Eric. How are you?

Eric P: Good afternoon, Joan. I’m doing fabulous today. How are you?

Joan E: I’m doing really, really well. Summer used to be a time when everybody got kind of sleepy. We could do stories on trees in the park, that kind of thing. Ever since the previous administration in Washington, summer is no longer sleepy. Summer is like, oh, my god, there’s a firehose, what’s happening today. So it kind of kind of keeps me on my toes. Hey, one of the things that I wanted to ask you about, speaking of clean energy, was the clean energy bill in Springfield. It looked like a lot of people were working on it and it was very close to being a done deal. There were some last minute snags, then there was the report that maybe when they came back in a lame duck session it would be voted on there and that didn’t happen either. Is this thing permanently stalled do you think? Or is it just a temporary delay?

Eric P: I think it’s a temporary delay. The reason why is that there’s so much on the line for a lot of different industries, and specifically clean energy. Our company, Impact Power Solutions, has a ton of projects that are waiting to be constructed if that bill passes, and so we’re talking about billions of dollars that would be unleashed for new landowner payments, for new tax revenue within the state. Not to mention just transitioning the grid to a much cleaner state. So we do expect that by the end of next month, August 31st is kind of a soft deadline, where we expect some movement. There’s a lot of optimism from people that are very close to the negotiations. As maybe some of your listeners know, really what happened at the end of the session was that downstate Illinois was really hoping for an equitable transition from coal, specifically at the Prairie State facility that has contracts that are lasting into the next 25 years. We understand that coal has been a strong source of good paying jobs in the region for decades, and this transition should and will recognize coal’s importance to the state and help those workers and families transition to the green economy. That’s really our hope. And we’re optimistic about it.

Joan E: Well, speaking of transitioning and training, I’ve heard of something called the Illinois Solar Training Pipeline Program. What is that?

Eric P: Audrey Henderson, who joined us in April on this segment, wrote a great article about the pending program rollout for Energy News Network. The Illinois Solar Training Pipeline Program is one of three workforce development programs under the state’s 2016 Future Energy Jobs Act that hope to close the gap with clean energy jobs that disproportionately disadvantaged communities have not been able to access. We’re talking about bringing in folks that have been formerly incarcerated, former foster care members, women and people of color until the program is administered by ComEd. There is a goal of training 2,000 individuals, especially from those groups that I’ve just mentioned, with a target of 50% of these trainees coming from environmental justice communities where there are existing fossil fuel plants that are causing environmental harm. The program is really designed to promote renewable energy throughout the state, provide savings on utility bills for consumers and then most importantly, create a diverse pool of solar and renewable energy installers and give them an opportunity to land good paying jobs created throughout the state.

Joan E: Just to clarify one thing that you just said. We talked about the closing of the coal plants and how those people obviously need jobs. Did you just say that a certain percentage of this solar training program was going to be set aside for people coming from the coal industry? Did I understand that correctly?

Eric P: It’s actually a little bit more nuanced. The environmental justice communities are really where the plants are located, and not necessarily just the workers that are working at those plants, but really the facilities that are causing asthma and other health issues for the public and population that are located near these facilities. This program is really meant to address those individuals, first and foremost. There are separate kinds of training programs and transitioning programs that would be set aside, specifically for workers in the fossil fuel industry.

Joan E: How are the people eligible for this? I mean, it sounds great. People who’ve got prison records and have trouble getting work, people coming out of the foster program, people in these communities that have been built on coal. What kind of an outreach program exists? How are they going to find these people? Do you have any idea about that? 

Eric P: They partner with organizations that are really focused on the ground. So in Chicago, the Cook County Workforce Partnership, for example, will help ComEd find organizations to receive workforce development grants. Applicants would essentially be organizations within the community. Those grants range anywhere from $150,000 to a million dollars, which would be distributed over four years to really create a pipeline of applicants. Eligible grant recipients include not for profit, actual government entities and for profit entities, along with educational institutions. Organizations located in and providing services for environmental justice communities will have priority. They’re starting in the next two weeks. We’ll hear the first round of grantees for that program and we’ll understand more about what kind of communities are going to start to have to develop the trainings within this program.

Joan E: Okay. We are going to take a real quick break. One of the things I want to talk to you about Eric, when we come back after this break, is climate change, particularly the craziness that we have seen in the Pacific Northwest. We were talking with Tony Fitzpatrick a couple of weeks ago, a gallery owner out there, who said he doesn’t have air conditioning in his home, he doesn’t have air conditioning in his art gallery, because he’s never needed it. People out there wear jackets in July, and suddenly they’re dealing with 110 degree heat. Eric and I are going to have a conversation about what the hell is going on in the Pacific Northwest right after this.

Joan E: Before we went to commercial break, I said I wanted to ask Eric what’s going on in the Pacific Northwest. So Eric, I know that I see climate change. Do you think other people see climate change in that bizarre weather, the bizarre heatwave that they were hit with?

Eric P: It’s been very tragic to see what’s happened up there. I think any logical person looking at what had occurred over that two week stretch is coming to a conclusion that anything but climate change would be unrealistic. So you’re right when you talk a bit about Seattle and the Pacific Northwest having record heat. I was looking at the data, from 1894 until last month, Seattle had only recorded three days in its history over 100 degrees, and that happened three days in a row in June. Speaking of the tragedy, almost 200 people lost their lives across the Northwest and this is just becoming more common, unfortunately. 

Joan E: I was talking to an expert in the field of climate who said that heat as a natural disaster kills more people than all the other natural disasters. More than tsunamis, more than hurricanes, more than tornadoes, and we tend to think of those as catastrophic events. He said, if you’re really looking at the big picture, as far as the ways that weather can kill us, nothing comes close to heat.

Eric P: That’s right. And it really affects disproportionately, folks that are lower on the economic ladder. We saw this in Seattle, where about 50% of owner occupied homes have air conditioning, but for renters, it’s less than 30%. So when you’re talking about heat of that magnitude, really the ones that are most affected are the ones that have the least.

Joan E: Hmm. So what can government officials, policymakers, utility companies, what can they do to prepare for a future where weather is going to be more unpredictable?

Eric P: When we were looking at statistics for this segment, one that really jumped out to me was that in the US, according to government data in 1992, non weather related outages in the power system outnumbered weather related outages like heat waves, four to one. But by 2012, just two decades later, those numbers have slipped. Weather events account for four times as many outages now compared to non weather events. That number, just the total number increased by more than 10 times. So this is happening at a frequency that we’ve never seen before. Extreme heat in the Northwest may force the Bonneville Power Administration, who’s the grid operator up there, to impose rolling blackouts in Eastern Washington. This is similar to what was seen both in Texas earlier this year, and in California last year due to the wildfires. Grid operators are maximizing the available power by doing the easy thing. So scheduling all the maintenance that was said to be scheduled on the system gets put on a pause. Similarly, for any electricity generators, they must also generate electricity with no maintenance outages. Those are the easy things, but also the things that aren’t necessarily going to flip the needle here. We need infrastructure spending to the tune that the Biden administration is talking about. 10s of billions of dollars to beef up and secure the grid infrastructure to allow for the transfer of power from certain areas in the country to others when we do have these, these weather events. It’s more necessary now than ever.

Joan E: I’m looking at the Midwest, where I was talking to one of my girlfriends about a year ago talking about whether it was a good place to retire to. She is much more environmentally astute than I am, and she said, “You know, I’ve got to tell you, with all the reading that I’m doing about climate change, with all the mudslides and fires and outrageous temperatures and ocean rise” she said, “I’m starting to read that the Midwest is actually the best place to be to ride out climate change.” So Eric, what do you see happening around the Midwest, whether it’s Illinois or other states near us, as far as energy policies being talked about or adopted?

Eric P: I totally agree with your friend’s assessment. I think recently, and I forget who wrote the study, but they found that Duluth, Minnesota is the most climate crisis prepared city in the country with its access to fresh water and a temperate climate. In terms of Midwest policy, we talked a little bit about Illinois and the Path to 100. How important that is to the state’s clean energy economy and to the state’s ability to fight the climate crisis. I’d be remiss if I didn’t put a plug in for it. We are encouraging everybody that we know to visit www.Illinoissolar.org. There’s a tab for Path to 100 and then you can click on a link there to take action and notify your representatives about the importance that you find in taking action on climate. In Iowa, just next door, we’re seeing some countervailing or opposite results. They passed a law in 2018 that affected their energy efficiency policies in the state and we’re now just getting some updated reporting on the impact. Iowa’s largest utilities have dramatically scaled back efforts to help customers conserve energy since the 2018 law. We’ve seen that Mid American Energy reported kilowatt hour savings in 2020, which were 64% lower than what the utility achieved the year previously. Alliant Energy’s savings were down 40% during that same period. It’s very simple things like energy efficiency that you feel like should be a no brainer are getting lost in the shuffle in certain instances.

Joan E: That seems counterintuitive. I mean even skeptics are now saying that at least they see bizarre weather patterns, even if they might not attribute it to climate change. But everyone acknowledges that we’re seeing these extremes, more so than we have in years past. How does a state justify not doing not only not doing more, but actually doing less?

Eric P: It baffles me and if I knew the answer, then maybe I wouldn’t be with you here. What we found is the best policy regarding energy efficiencies for utilities is when you decouple profits from revenue. What I mean by that is, if the utilities are incentivized to sell more energy, they’re going to make sure that you’re buying less efficient equipment, and not conserving energy. As we’ve seen in Minnesota, when we’ve decoupled the profits from the utility and from revenue, basically guaranteeing a rate of return, that then incentivizes the utilities to do as much as they can to preserve the amount of power that’s being produced. It’s really about aligning the interests of the publicly regulated utilities and the general population. We all understand that climate is a big issue and now it’s time for corporations, and specifically utilities, to step up and do their part in that regard.

Joan E: It’s kind of a catch 22, isn’t it? Because utilities, they really are a public good. They are very necessary for us to live our lives. But by the same token, as somebody who may buy their stock, you’re expecting them to show some kind of a profit. It seems like they’re being pulled in two different directions, to some extent.

Eric P: That’s right. I mentioned Minnesota, this legislative session they passed the ECO Act, which actually increases the amount of money available for energy efficiency projects in the state. it emphasizes the amount that’s available to under-resourced and communities of color. It’s almost a complete 180 from what you see in a neighboring state.

Joan E: I had an opportunity to look up Illinoissolar.org and click on the Path to 100 and I’ve got to say, it is a really clearly laid out page that will show you the legislation that is existing. They know who’s doing what, what it’s going to accomplish, and if this is something that you care about. I know that a lot of people who listen to this radio station do care about it. This is a great place to go to look at the legislation that is being considered and that Will Davis and Bill Cunningham are two of the people who are really working on this. You should reach out to your state rep and your state senator and let them know that this is something that’s important, especially as we’ve got this clean energy bill. Part of it is “when are we going to close up these coal plants?”. then down the road “Well when are we going to be sustainable enough that we can close up the nuclear plants and and move forward”. I just can’t see anybody being in opposition to that. Unless maybe you make your living off of coal? .

Eric P: Right. We recognize that there are interests, especially in Southern Illinois, as we mentioned before, that have decades long involvement with coal and we by no means want to disrespect them or those traditions, but right now we’re in a time of transition and we need to start thinking about our children’s future and their children’s future. If we continue with the status quo, it’s simply unsustainable. So you’re right, go to Illinois solar.org/path-to-100, or you can just go to the homepage and click on the link there. It really does lay out everything that’s at stake. Our company, and many companies like us, have developed projects spending money in the state as far back as five years ago, when the original Future Energy Jobs Act was passed. Now we’re looking at a cliff, essentially, where funding is dried up for these types of projects. We’re set to lose an estimated 3,500 jobs in the solar industry. It’s just untenable to me to know that there’s so much need for what renewable energy is, there’s so much need for it in the world, yet we’ve gotten in our own way, in terms of politics, that are preventing progress on this very issue. So, lots at stake and we’d encourage your listeners to head over there, Illinoissolar.org, and take action.

Joan E: I just tweeted out that link so if you are a listener who follows me on Twitter, I’ve tweeted out the link, and you can click on the link. So you think that we have a soft passage date of the Illinois clean energy bill by the end of August? Also, I’m imagining that there would be some benefits for Illinois once Joe Biden gets his infrastructure package passed? Because I know that there were some provisions in there to build more electric charging stations and things like that. Will that be a big help to Illinois as well? 

Eric P: Yep, absolutely. You’re right that the infrastructure bill goes beyond just clean energy to talk about the transformation of the transportation system. As you mentioned, there’s funding in there too, to install upwards of half a million electric vehicle charging stations across the country. There’s investment into research and development for everything from carbon capture to green fuels that can be used in airplanes. This is a monumental opportunity in terms of federal policy that we’re cautiously optimistic about. It’s time for progressives to put their foot down and just say “if we have a bipartisan bill on infrastructure that doesn’t address climate, that’s not acceptable”. The very infrastructure that we’re talking about is crumbling due to the climate crisis so any discussion about infrastructure without climate is not acceptable. We were hopeful for this two path approach that seems to be ironing itself out with half of the bill essentially going through budget reconciliation, but it’s tough to hold your breath for anything these days so we’ll just have to wait and see.

Joan E: Eric, thank you so much. It’s always a pleasure to talk to you. And I know, it’s an interesting conversation for our listeners. Thank you for being here. 

Eric P: Thanks, Joan. Have a great day. 


If you’re curious to see what solar would look like for your organization, feel free to reach out via email at info@ips-solar.com, contact us, or request a quote to learn more. 


UBS x IPS Energy Transitions Interview

Energy Transitions: About UBS 

UBS is a multinational firm that offers financial advice and solutions to private, institutional, and corporate clients. They have a focus on driving positive change for their clients, employees, and society at large, with a long standing strategy to play a leading role in sustainability for their industry.


Eric Pasi, Impact Power Solutions

Eric Pasi, Chief Development Officer, IPS 

As Chief Development Officer for Impact Power Solutions, Pasi has helped organizations analyze and adopt clean energy strategies nationwide.  He is extremely passionate about renewable power, entrepreneurship and the climate crisis. In 2020, he released his first book called “CleanWave: A Guide to Success in the Green Recovery” where he outlines the past, present, and future of clean tech, and its role in a post-COVID19 and post-George Floyd recovery.  



Interview Transcript


Day and welcome to the UBS energy transition call with IPS solar. My name. My name is Julie and I’m your event manager. During today’s presentation, your lines will remain on listen only. If you need assistance at any time please key star zero on your telephone and an operator will be happy to assist you. I would like to advise all parties this conference is being recorded. And I’d like to hand over to john Wyndham, please proceed.



Thanks, Julie, and welcome everybody to our latest installment of the UBS energy transition call series. So, in this call series, we continue to try to connect to UBS institutional investor clients with energy experts, the innovative companies that are enabling or driving the energy transition. Today we’ll be talking solar development, particularly community solar development with impact power solutions, or IPS. IPS is a full-service clean energy development company with an extensive track record of developing rooftop and community solar projects in the US. So very happy to have with us today from IPS. Eric Pasi, who’s the chief post development officer, and the author of a recent book, clean wave a guide to success in the green recovery, a book that is on my post nights stand as we speak. I was talking with Eric about halfway through it’s really interesting book more from sort of a perspective of people building their careers in the industry, and some sort of just sort of basic fundamentals of the industry shares Eric’s story. It’s also got some interesting interviews with some leading figures in the industry. So, as you’re interested in clean energy, do take a look. Clean wave, it’s available on Amazon. That’s why I got it. Anyways, this is john Wyndham. I run Alternative Energy and Environmental Services here at UBS I’m sure most of you are familiar with. Before I hand it over to Eric for some opening comments, just a few sorts of logistics. The format as today’s call will be a conversation between me and Eric we will open up to Q & A about a half hour and maybe a little bit longer. Julie who’s the operator will provide instructions on logging any questions after the presentation. And as always, if you prefer do feel free to email me questions if you’d like me to ask them, I’ll ask them for you. And obviously, as time permits, I’m sure most of you have it if you found your way to this call, but my email address is john.Windham@ubs.com. And then lastly, as a US research analyst, we are required to provide certain disclosures for all calls, the disclosures were included in the invite to this email. The short of it is this call is not a recommendation by UBS to transact in any security. A full list of disclosures is available on ubs.com. All right. With that, Eric, really appreciate you taking some time out of your day to speak with UBS and UBS investor clients. I’ll turn the floor over to you, but much appreciate you being here.



Thanks so much, Jon. And greetings. My name is Eric Pasi. I’m the chief Development Officer at Impact Power Solutions, also known as IPS solar. And as Jon mentioned, I’m the author of a recent book called CleanWave: A Guide to Success in the Green Economy. I’m thrilled to join you all today to talk about the rise of community solar in the US and trends for corporate procurement. Also, today with an introduction to myself and Impact Power Solutions and provide some context about what community solar is and where it’s going. And intersperse a few stories from our company’s experience in the space, and then I’ll wrap up with Jon and some Q & A. Impact Power Solutions is a full-service clean energy development company. For over 30 years, we have worked to deliver customer solutions ranging from rooftop installations to multi megawatt community solar gardens, and our company’s purpose is and always has been to, to positively impact people power and the planet with solar energy. The company was founded by Rob Jacobson in 1991. And through 2010, primarily focused on residential and small commercial installations. And in the past decade, we’ve shifted to become the Midwest, commercial solar leader, and one of the largest community solar developers in the country. According to the most recent rankings by solar power World Magazine in 2020. We provide two options for our clients traditional onsite solar, which could be on the roof or on land adjacent to their facilities, and communities. So, beyond our work with mostly corporations and public entities, we specialize in workforce development, and equity projects, including solar for the black community in Minneapolis near our headquarters, and work in indigenous communities like our ground breaking projects with Red Lake nation in northern Minnesota.

A little bit about me: I joined IPS in 2007, straight out of college, at that time was extremely passionate about the climate issue and clean energy And I recognize that solar was on a 40% year over year growth curve, which, amazingly has continued to this day. In 2016, I took on the chief development officer role at IPS and have contributed to growing annual revenues by more than 1,000%. Arriving today near 200 megawatts of developed and constructed project, which is enough to power roughly 40,000 us homes in 2019. We were partially acquired by smart pitch ventures which is led by a group of former utility executives based in the DC area. And this is fueled additional growth for our company as we strive to hit one gigawatt of distributed solar by 2025. As mentioned at the top I’m also the author of the recently released book CleanWave: A Guide to Success in the Green Recovery, which guides readers through the past, present and future clean tech while offering actionable solutions for jobseekers. More info can be found at cleanwavebook.com.

So now I’d like to get into the heart of today’s discussion which centers around community solar and give a little bit of background and perspective. Most people have known about solar for decades. In the 20th century technology traditionally powered things like remote pumping equipment, the space station, and other off grid solutions. Green tide really got it started in the 80s and 90s. As illicit cannabis use users grow or they stay in Northern California tempted to reduce their electricity consumption and avoid protection from law enforcement and that hippie mentality really power the industry for decades as in this niche technology. And our primary clients were typically people with expendable income and ideals. Until the most recent decade where solar electricity has become has exploded in growth. Solar is now the leading new energy source in the world, where costs have dropped by a factor of five in the past decade. It took 50 years for solar to reach 1% market penetration and only five years to double it. One of the fastest growing segments in solar recently has been community solar. For years, the only option for most residents and organizations wanting to adopt solar was to physically install equipment on their property. Early last decade, a few states including Colorado adopted the nation’s first community solar program so effectively allowing ratepayers to subscribe to solar panels that were not located on their home or building. Those early programs allowed for third party developers like IPS to build businesses around identifying and acquiring land securing interconnection rights, and finding subscribers to make these projects a reality. The typical model centers around an offset solar project that produces bill credits through an agreement with the utility. The community solar garden operator markets, subscriptions to the garden to residents and other organizations want to save money, usually with no initial capital investment. So it’s a pay as you go or solar as a service option. And the solar, the subscriber pays the solar operator monthly and earns a net saving usually around 10%. And the operator is responsible for ongoing maintenance and subscriber management, and the utility retains the environmental attributes to meet their renewable energy goals. Community solar has several advantages compared to onsite solar projects. First, it’s fungible, a subscriber can transfer their subscription to another party. If there’s a default by the subscriber the crew, a crew doesn’t need to show up at their home and tear off panels, the product owner can simply transfer the subscription to another party or another person. And this has significantly improved the underwriting process for these assets. Secondly, and most obviously, the cost to install the equipment at this scale is more competitive than installing on site solar. Third, policy folks and advocates love the ability to provide clean energy access for disadvantaged communities, and those typically unable to install panels on their homes or businesses. And fourth, the tax revenue, land lease payments and other societal benefits including pollinator friendly habitat, agrovoltaic, reducing pesticides and soil erosion all accrue to rural communities who need these benefits the most.

I’ve mentioned community solar is booming across the country. While early growth for community solar installations was led primarily by three key markets New York, Minnesota and Massachusetts. A growing list of states with community solar programs have helped to diversify the market. There are currently more than 20 states with active programs and significant legislation pending in a handful of larger states, like Michigan and Pennsylvania. This is all setting the stage for record year in 2021 was anticipated total capacity reaching three and a half gigawatts. And this represents nearly $10 billion in deployed capital. Now we’re on pace for at least 2.5 billion this year on Minnesota community solar, is how our company really, really started to take off. It’s the largest program in the country. In 2013, the state legislature passed the solar JOBS Act. And just this last month, we hit a record of 800 megawatts of operational capacity, which is about half of the state’s total capacity, and it makes it the largest community solar program in the nation 25% of the total market. These projects produce enough solar to supply energy to 195,000 homes according to the Department of Employment and Economic Development. And data from Xcel Energy shows that the bill credits for all customers totaled more than $2 million in February of 2018. And that number is only growing. It was one of the original developers in that program, which is now obviously the largest and the most successful in the country, and we were lucky to be a local company building on decade’s worth of relationships with similar stories emerging across the country. One example of this centers around a small cheese and bison ranch owned by Ed Eichten. Ed and his family own a cheese manufacturing facility in Chisago County, Minnesota just northeast of the Twin Cities. In 2011. Our company installed 140 panels to power their facility and I personally pulled together the interconnection agreements, the grant paperwork and helps his banker underwrite the $200,000 loan. The next project was a success and led to a really easy conversation just a few years later, when I outlined the concept of leasing an entire 40 acre hayfield for community solar. I had no idea what what I was doing at the time, the company had never done a project of that size, but most of those early days, were about faking it until we made it and we formally announced the county’s first community solar project in June 2014. It wasn’t necessarily going to be the first and we weren’t necessarily sure it was going to happen, but that didn’t stop us from from being bold. And the development process included utility applications, local permitting, financing, and a lot more all of which helped. It was similar to what we’ve done a few years earlier, but at a much larger scale – 125 times larger. Applications were finalized and financing fell in place and was really strange to see how everything lined up to become viable. And nearly two years from the day we announced Construction began and our company was off to the races. That project provides solar bill credits virtually to the local school district, an elder care facility in the area, also the cheese manufacturing plant and a wastewater facility in a neighboring county. And Eichten’s community solar garden has about 20,000 solar panels providing subscribers with nearly a million dollars in annual bill credits, and offsetting 2 million pounds of co2 per year. As of this year, our community solar projects in aggregate are producing about 40 times as much impact. So I’ll pause there is just a snapshot into the community solar market both locally here in Minnesota but also nationally. Since that time, IPS has expanded in the new markets like Illinois, Virginia and Mexico, and are excited to see the growth of the industry over the next 10 years. Thanks, Jon.



Perfect. Thanks for that, Eric. Julie, why don’t you go ahead and provide instructions on how participants can log any questions. And then I will get the conversation started.



Of course, if you do wish to ask a question, please press star one on your telephone, that star then one on your telephone to ask a question.



Perfect. So Eric, really appreciate your sort of comments. Opening up, I just want to dive in a little bit more because community solar, in particular is probably, you know, less focused on oftentimes by institutional investors sort of in between, you know, the other large market cap list of names or, you know, either residential, or module manufacturers like for solar, which does much more sort of utility scale. So, you know, I see one of the interesting things about solar is it’s so modular right? You go down to definitely have a system that was one module 360 something watts, or we’re building, you know, large farms that are 400 megawatts in Texas right now. Can you talk a little bit about, you know, I know there’s no typical system and since they can change, what’s sort of the average size on for these systems. How much land area do they take up, just sort of the basics like that for community solar for people on the call? Thanks.



Yeah, so community solar sits in a space, that’s obviously, much smaller than utility scale. When we think of utility scales now, often 1000s of acres of solar panels, community solar is typically much smaller, because it interacts with the grid on the distribution level on the distribution network. And so we’re looking at projects that are anywhere from, say, five acres to 40 acres. And this makes community solar much more palatable, you know, from a permitting perspective, with local counties and jurisdictions. Compared to taking up, you know, large swaths of land, we do run into similar situations, with, you know, the use of prime farmland and other issues, land use issues, but it’s often much easier for these projects to get done. And so we’re not talking about millions of panels, I mentioned, the Eichten’s community solar project was about 20,000 panels and 40 acres. And that’s typically the size of the projects that we see. Now, it’s difficult on the investment on the investment side to underwrite and execute on one project. And so what we’re typically seeing in the market is a pooling of portfolios of projects that then reach a certain thresholds where, where capital can come in and efficiently support these, these assets.



Got it, thank you. And for these ground mounted systems, you know, one of the big trends in utility scale has been the move from fixed tilt to single access trackers. On this sort of smaller scale systems. Do you tend to use trackers? Or is it mostly fixed mount? Just curious?



Yeah, so, there’s actually a double benefit with trackers now. So when we started on these projects, and kind of the mid 2010s, all projects were, were fixed. And, and that was because of the kind of leading thought of these systems having longer lifespans, especially in climates, northern climates, like the northeast and the Midwest, having to deal with the constant warming and cooling of the climate, on an annual basis, just just wreaking havoc on moving parts. And so we wanted to keep things simple. What we found, actually, is that the tracking systems help to shed snow in the winter and obviously, in places like the Northeast and Minnesota with significant snow accumulation, that’s extremely important. So boost the performance of the systems, not just from tracking the sun on a during the each day, but also with the ability to shed the snow. And the operations and maintenance costs for tracker as become much more of a known quantity after having installed you know, 1000s of megawatts at this point. In climates like ours, the other technology that we’re seeing, that’s very Akin and also happening in utility scale projects, is bifacial solar panels, and then the trend towards larger solar panels. And so when I started, the largest panel that we could get back in 2007, was about 200 watts. Now, we’re, you know, using or trending towards 500 to 600 watt panels. Granted, these are larger panels and require two people to install them. But we’re starting to see that that’s the most efficient way to install the equipment. And so those are there many parallels between utility scale and community scale solar projects in terms of the design and installation processes.



Thanks, Eric, you mentioned a few sort of examples of customers, you know, I’m in Massachusetts and other places very supportive of community solar, we have a town that has half a megawatt facility on top of a legacy landfill that’s been enclosed. The high school has a large system on top of its roof. Would when you think about, you know, for the market or IPS, you know, what’s the composition of the end customer how much is sort of, you know, public governments compared to corporations. Just sort of talk through a little bit of the end customer.



Yeah, so it really depends on Market to Market. In Minnesota 87% of the load for the entire program is served by commercial customers. And that is A-typical compared across the nation in a market like Illinois, there are incentives to have a larger composition of residential subscribers so it’s not uncommon in that state to see 75% or more of the garden, providing subscriptions to residents. And you also see in newer markets this trend toward providing low to moderate income subscribers access to these projects. And so in Virginia, for instance, it’s a requirement essentially to have 30% of a particular community solar project providing subscriptions to low and moderate income subscribers. For IPS, we’ve in Minnesota, because it’s been a more commercially dominated market, our clients are typically school districts, and municipalities. And so one of the kind of secondary benefits that we’ve offered to our clients is curriculum development and continuing education credits for educators to come in and learn about how to bring these 21st century learning opportunities into the classroom. Some of our other clients have been corporates that are looking for ways to help to address ESG opportunities. And so those might be folks like Hormel or Cargill, or, you know, larger corporations. And so it depends on Market to Market in terms of what the program requires. But we are seeing an increased interest or for the program managers and programs themselves to require more and more residential subscriptions.



Got it. And I think you said this before, but just sort of in general, is it multiple off takers for one community scale project, or, you know, multiple customers where you’re pulling together? You know, more than one, say, school district and a corporation and you sort of get everyone together? And then they sponsor one project? Is that’s kind of the idea?



Yeah, so the program requirements, typically, you’ll need at least five subscribers in one garden. And so, in most, you know, most of our gardens, we’ll have seven. And that’s, you know, to reduce the risk in case one defaults or is unable to participate in the garden, we can still meet the minimum requirements. But in most states, there’s, there’s kind of a minimum threshold of about five subscribers to energize the garden or to continue operating the garden.



Great, you got it. And we’ll get more into this, how do you sort of do the customer acquisition if you weren’t on on that. And but I’m just curious, could you dive a little bit more into them? Sorry, I know, some of these questions are sort of pretty basic. But I think it’s important for the audience to understand how this works is relatively new topic for a lot of people. And so there’s, there’s sort of three parties have added correct. There’s you as the developer of the project, and then a separate owner of the project, and then, in your example, the seven off takers, they jointly own the project, or they’re simply off takers. And I’m interested in how the economics work for the sort of off takers. Is it again, it probably depends, but is it at wholesale rates? Are they netting that off against whatever their commercial rates are? Just how the economics work for all the different entities involved in making this happen?



Yeah, it’s very different from markets to market. In Minnesota, for instance, when we started the program, off takers were being compensated at retail rates. And so that retail rate depends on what customer class you are. So if you have residents, you know, you qualify for a higher retail rate if you’re a commercial client then it’s lower based on kind of industrial rates. And so we went through an entire process of identifying what the actual value of solar is in the state. And so that was a regulatory process with utility where we identified you know, everything from transmission and distribution, benefits and the energy only costs and all these other societal benefits for renewable energy attributes to boil down into specific value for solar. That’s what’s being used in Minnesota. That’s what’s being used in New York for instance, and then you’ll get into places, like deregulated markets, like Illinois, where the community solar project is only offsetting transmission is only offsetting the energy value. And so transmission and then distribution charges are not included in that. But there is like a, there’s a rec, renewable energy credit that’s associated with some of those projects. So it does get quite complex. You, you asked a little bit about kind of the makeup of the project, a developer can also be an owner operator, you know, we typically will put these two investors at commercial operation or at notice to proceed. But many developers will choose to try to keep these balance sheet and work with a tax equity investor, and others in the capital stack to get these projects across the finish line. The subscribers don’t actually own anything, they just entered into kind of a long term arrangement to purchase the bill credits. At a slight discount. I mentioned 10% kind of a placeholder, obviously that changes from Market to Market and subscribers to subscriber. But typically the benefits for them are kind of in the marketing aspect and just participating in community solar, and then financially and saving about 10% of their utility costs.



Got it, thanks for that, Eric. Very helpful. And one thing I want to loop back back to was customer acquisition, which is, you know, obviously, it’s a pretty big part of the cost stack on residential. I know here in Massachusetts, I get mailers quite frequently about residential customers that can join in, in sort of community garden solar farms. How do you go about connecting with municipalities or governments that want to do this in corporations? Is it more of the sort of you know that they’re seeking you out? How much are you getting your name out there and sort of a marketing effort to just talk a little bit about how that customer acquisition works in the community solar market? They’ll be very helpful.



Yeah so I did quite a bit of customer acquisition, when the when the program first rolled out. We would go to school board meetings, we would go to go to city council meetings and meet with facilities managers, and energy managers. And so the B2B aspect is quite a bit easier if you could imagine, to fill out these these projects. We do work with, they’re known as aggregators. In our industry, just specific companies that are specifically going out working with residential subscribers. And there are several models there. The prevailing one that kind of came out of the gate was advertising via social media, places like Instagram, and Facebook, to people with like-minded interests that had an environmental tilt, they want to protect the environment and also save money, those that was really the low hanging fruit. And then other organizations popped up, that actually went door to door or are going door to door to contact residents to participate in these programs. And that’s a lot much harder list as you can imagine. And so the costs, the ongoing costs to service, the subscriptions in these cases can often represent 5% to 10% of the income for a project. So it can be relatively significant. But when we’re talking about the cost to install this equipment, being much more competitive, I talked about that at the front end. And then you’re getting closer to retail rates for the actual energy. There’s typically room in these projects to support subscription management, subscription acquisition, on behalf of the project. So there’s definitely a higher cost both in initial costs to secure subscriptions and then also to manage the subscribers ongoing with residential versus commercial, but you often can’t escape that in these markets that are requiring more residential participation.



Got it, thanks, Eric. And maybe we’ll get into your real quick before we get to the line into some of the like the most focus in the market right now and really topical issues on just be interesting as someone sort of out there, you know, executed on these projects. Any comments about sort of labor availability? It’s sort of been a big issue with with a lot of companies, the inability to get a workforce in place. If you just talked about that a little bit to be helpful. Thanks.



Yeah, we’ve actually fared quite a bit better than other industries as you can imagine, we often meet We were recognized as an essential business early on in the pandemic, so we did not have to let a lot of our, our labor force go. And I think that’s been a challenge for some of these other industries, including hospitality, and retail. But where we are feeling squeezed in the current market conditions are supply chains. And that’s just obvious to note, you know, that we use steel in our projects, we use semiconductors and silicon, which is, you know, been short, in the, in the kind of early quarters of this this year. And so that’s really where we’re starting, where we’ve been seeing the issues. Also, with, with China shutting shipping down or constraining the shipping earlier, this this quarter had a huge impact on delivery schedules for our solar panels. And then also, you know, in the supply chain, we ran into, and I’m not sure if you were going to bring this up, yet or not, but also just forced labor issues. And so the the industry itself has made huge commitments to understanding how and where forced labor was an issue with our projects, which was not a you know, less than 5% of the solar modules in the supply chain were affected by this. But we’ve we’ve made tracking those types of panels, kind of paramount, and making sure that that no US projects are utilizing or sourcing panels from from those areas. So as opposed to labor being the primary issue or concern, it’s been been materials.



Yeah, so you hit on a couple of topics, there, that Yeah, what were the other two questions? Let’s dive into those a little bit more. I mean, so steel prices are a lot, right? I think its like 300 and something percent, at least for utility scale things around 12 cents a watt used to be the cost for tracking, but 50% of the cost of goods sold is the steel, you got all you know, freight, all these other things going up. How’s that impacted when you’re thinking about projects that are on the drawing board that are maybe not committed to yet, but moving forward next year? Does it cause you to not to pencil out or want to wait and see if sort of commodity prices normalized? How do you manage the volatility? Does it make more sense to sort of wait on normalized prices? Or is it more of you in the industry that “these are the prices where they are today, we can still get the economics to work for people?”



Yeah, I think for us, it’s the ladder, and we need to turn through projects, revenue needs to continue at the company, we can’t just kind of sit and wait so we’ve will typically as a developer, need to eat those losses in those situations. However, for larger projects, like utility scale projects, I think that is having an effect to delay the construction of these projects into next year. And so we are anticipating that as an industry kind of seeing that some of these projects are being pushed the next year. The other side to that is, you know, the constraint on the silcon side, which, you know, has been all over the place to cell phones, computers, everything has been affected by the silicon shortage. And, and so we are anticipating that those prices will also drop next year, so it doesn’t necessarily affect the community solar market as much as it does for these larger scale, where project margins are much thinner on utility scale side.



Okay, that’s super helpful. Thank you. And maybe one more on, you know, obviously, western China has been quite a bit in, in the news. And there’s sort of two views out there. I’m sort of wondering how your customers are thinking about it, and how you think about as a company. There’s the one idea that “Well, okay, there’s a supply chain in a particular part of China that we’re going to be concerned about.” And then what do you hear some other people talk about is “Well, that’s an artificial line. Meaning it’s not a separate political entity, in a sense, China essentially run by the Communist Party. These are administrative regions. And so do we feel comfortable with this, pretending like this line sort of matters, or, you know, do we kind of want to de-emphasize China in general in the supply chain?”  I just want to know if your customers are focused on this, I know you are, because just from reading the book, I think you care about doing what’s right in the right way. Is this something that’s bubbling up from customers? How are they talking about it? Or is it more pushed by IPS since you want to do things the correct way?



Yeah, we obviously do want to do the right thing, and it’s not necessarily only for our clients, but I think we think about our partners, and our team members. I mean, we, ethically we don’t want to be, you know, working on projects that have an adverse effect, whether it’s environmentally or socially, and that affects our team, as well. So yep, from that standpoint, it’s a pretty hard line in the sand and from our clients perspective, one of our clients, for instance, is Target Corporation. We do quite a bit of on site work with Target. This was a thing that got flagged early on, so what we did was make a commitment, along with others in our national Solar Energy Industry Association to say that we will not be sourcing panels from Western China. And the industry has gone so far as to implement tracing, as I mentioned, traceability protocols, and so we can understand that, where they’re sourcing these, these panels from, but you’ve mentioned de-emphasizing China, as a source for these products. And within the previous presidential administration, there was a heavy emphasis on imposing import tariffs and other things, especially in the solar arena. And so the industry itself is dispersed from China over the last five years or so, to doing more manufacturing in places like India, Vietnam, other Southeast Asian countries, and then also domestically, where we’ve seen kind of the announcement from First Solar here just a few months ago, expanding their operations in Ohio significantly. And so I think, as an industry, we recognize that, as a company the importance of this issue, and then our clients are as well. And so we’re kind of taking those signals and moving forward by making sure that we’re on the on the good side of sourcing solar panels and other material that we use in our in our projects.



 Yeah, perfect. Yeah, we’re sure many investors noted that for the First Solar announcement, I think was $680 million investment into 3.3 gigawatts. So yeah, it was a pretty clear commitment by First Solar that at least they see some advantages of manufacturing in the United States. I have several questions that have been emailed to me from participants, so thank you for those and do keep them coming. If you have any more against john jon.windham@ubs.com. But before I get to the emailed questions, Julie, are there any questions on the on the line live? Thanks.



I have one question from the line of Colleen H, please go ahead.



Thank you. This is Colleen from Natural Resource Services in Minnesota. And, Eric, we’ve seen your growth from Minnesota, and across the United States. What I’m wondering is what you’re seeing at the permitting level, as far as changes from 2010, really to 10 years 11 years later. And if there’s anything that we can do to try to preempt our county or a township in being favorable about permitting solar in the region, and particularly what changes you’ve seen in the last 11 years?



Thanks for the question, Colleen and it’s great to hear your voice by the way. We we’ve seen quite a bit of change, really, in the last, you know, I would call it even just five to six years, when these projects are being permitted that community solar projects I mentioned. You know, it’s easier to permit one 40 acre project versus a 400 or 4000 acre project. However, in states like Minnesota now where we have about 800 of these things across the state, it does get, you know, communities do feel fatigue, right. And so we’re starting to see opposition not necessarily, you know, somewhat unfounded opposition. And so what I mean by that are folks are just even though the current the permitting processes in these jurisdictions allow for solar there, they’re choosing to put it up moratoriums, they’re choosing to say, you know, no more community solar projects in this area. And so we’ve had to go, you know, in some cases, address potential legal remedies to get these projects done. And that really starts to take effect, the longer that these programs are in place. And so a few things that we would find helpful and know in Minnesota is that their property tax issue is limited to projects that are larger than one megawatt in scale. So I think there’s a way to make sure that there’s more economic benefit accruing to the counties and to local jurisdictions, in these cases, and I think that will help. We’ve had to go through everything of you know, like installing screening, and, and trees to basically, you know, obscure the systems from the road or from adjacent residences. And I think the solar community can do a much better job of citing and making sure that we’re not imposing these projects, into the community in areas that are going to be confrontational. And, you know, I think with the growth of agrovoltaic, I mentioned it a little bit earlier. But some counties, you know, are pushing back on the, on the on taking out the use of prime AG land. And even though, you know, we were helping to rejuvenate the soil by installing, you know, and you know, a lot about this Colleen, but installing pollinator friendly habitat that restores health to the soil, we’re not using pesticides, we’re not turning over the soil every year, allowing for a dual use underneath these panels, like agrovoltaics or we’re installing low growth crops. I think the more that things like that happen, and we’re providing additional benefits beyond just revenue to the farmer, to lease land, the more benefits that are occurring to the to the communities, the easier that process will be for us to get these projects done.



 Any other questions on the line Julie?



No more questions.



Okay, perfect. Time to get into some of the email’s questions. And I’ll sort of put some of these together in a topic that I think people are getting at. There are several people asking about storage, certainly a hot topic in the investment community right now. Eric, your thoughts on the opportunities for attaching storage to solar projects? I think they’re asking about both sort of commercial rooftop as well as community scale.



Yeah, it’s going to be the jelly to the peanut butter right? In in the next five years, that we won’t see solar projects without storage. Now that energy storage projects are moving forward, even independent of solar projects. And so in areas. In Virginia, for instance, we were out permitting a project and right behind us was a was a developer that was pitching an energy storage only project. And so the more penetration that obviously that we’re seeing with renewables, the importance of, of increasing the amount of renewables on the grid, we’re gonna need a corresponding increase in energy storage. So the prevailing process that most developers are going down with lithium ion being the leading technology. In the space we’ve seen other long duration storage projects popping up in Northwestern Minnesota  and in Eastern North Dakota, a really interesting one with Otter Tail Power. We’re starting to see a diversification of the types of storage that are needed. Obviously these heat events that are happening in the Northwest are accelerating deployment in some of those areas. We’re going to  see in the community side, I think, a recognition that bill credit rates are going to be tied to a time of day. We’re seeing in California that market is driven by time of day energy price, even down to the residential meter. For community solar the price signal that will likely happen is you are going to get a larger credit or bill credit if you’re offsetting power between the hours of lets say 2 or 4PM or 2 and 7PM and effectively allowing developers to interject energy storage to address deployment of that energy during those peak periods. That further aligns us with the utility, it addresses a few different things that will start to make sense and this is already the case in some places with pilot programs like Hawaii. So I think its obviously coming, we recognize it, for listeners that are familiar with the duck curve in areas of high solar penetration during the peak that happens later in the day and the valley during the high solar hours during the day and shifting that to a later time is going to be the goal of the utilities and ultimately a price signal with developers and price owners.



Got it. You made a couple of follow ups on other questions that tie into the storage topic. Investor asking I think you mentioned in your comments, and in five years, storage will be attached to most projects. What are the attachments now, are you doing storage attachments now to some of your projects? Or is it sort of coming in the future?



Yeah, on commercial projects it’s still rare for us. Unless we’re in areas with high where the market signals are, where it’s very apparent that storage is benefiting the project. And so what I mean by that is typically where an energy bill is divided between capacity, and energy. And so in areas where capacity demand rates exceed a certain dollar amount, typically $15 or more, then we can start to see the benefit to adding storage to the project. And in one case, we’ve got a project in a utility that has $30 per per kilowatt demand, the storage is actually decreasing the payback for that customer by two years. very lucrative, and some of those situations. policy really lagged behind with energy storage. And so, you know, some states are just now kind of getting pilot programs are rolling out where the market and the utilities already saying, Hey, this is this makes sense today. You know, let’s skip the study, we’ll skip the pilot program, you can go straight to implementation. So the market is leading a lot faster than then policy. So it’s going to take a few years to catch up. I know that with the most recent infrastructure discussed in the bipartisan proposal, which we’ve all heard about over the last couple of weeks, did not include provisions for clean energy. However, if a reconciliation budget or reconciliation bill does move forward, I think in all proposals with standalone energy storage tax credits, and that’s also going to help increase the deployment where today even only receive tax credit on coupled projects, solar and storage, we’re going to start to see more energy storage alone projects moving forward and some of that legislation, obviously will help to accelerate that.



Yeah storage is what we need. There are tax credits, but the ITC and the PTC for wind are the blunt instruments that are quite effective. They definitely helped in both the solar and wind industry get up to scale the United States. And from what I’ve heard, pretty bipartisan support for something similar for storage. I’ll tie in two separate questions from people asking about software. One related to how important software is coupling with storage and there’s decisions to be made to the electricity on the grid, would it feed the battery, discharge the battery, is the data and software there? Someone else was asking about how important is software in terms of the controlling the tracking system?



Both are very important, I think we’ve seen, I’ll talk to the tracking person and the storage. So we’ve seen companies like Nextracker, who I believe is kind of preparing an IPO. We’ve seen ACI that that went public earlier, earlier this year with an astounding evaluation. I can’t remember off the top of my head, but really kind of forcing a lot of folks in the industry to think going public right now, the thing to do, which I believe the answer is likely yes. But Nextracker, whose competitor is ACI has really led the way, and Dan Trigger is the CEO over there, kind of a luminary, and also just a public, big public figure in our community pioneered this idea that when you’re looking at the topographical map, you’re looking at the production of these systems, there’s ways in which you can even design the array both from physical standpoint as well as from a profit standpoint to maximize the production of these systems. And so, their claim is that this software, they’re able to eke out several percentage points more in production, which is critical, in many cases, especially in these large systems. So the software really has taken off there. And I know that competitors have caught on to that and making sure that their software offerings are up to speed with Nextracker. On the flip side of that, energy storage, it’s even more important, because we’re not talking about, you know, tweaking a tracker, you know, by three degrees. In a certain part of the day, we’re talking about instantaneous microseconds of, given the ebb and flow of these, devices. We are starting to see kind of leaders and in that, in that space, developing the software, and also the modeling for, for developers to and so we use a product called energy tool base, which takes in the 15-minute data from our commercial customers, 15-minute data for the entire year, breaks that down. And then is that modeling of you know, how much What if you had 200, maybe 200 kilowatts of solar and 200 kilowatts of battery storage, and then we can help us optimize the size of system that makes the most sense in terms of economic and other attributes. So, if you had to do that, you know, by hand or, you know, any other way is to the impossible. And so, the software is really kind of led over the last few years in the energy storage space. And it’s absolutely critical in making sure that these systems are fully optimized and economic for our clients.



Perfect, thank you Eric. We sort of covered the policy with the the comments, and one specific participant was asking that you mentioned some states, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, I’m going to forget the last one, maybe New York, happen to have pretty supportive community solar programs right now. Any states we should keep an eye on in a year or two?



Mostly recently this year, New Mexico passed their legislation which has taken several years and that’s what we’re kind of seeing on the policy front I that once a bill is introduced it really takes a couple of seconds for it to kind of build momentum, get the right co-sponsors and, then come to a compromise with utilities and other stakeholders. And so Pennsylvania is the next one that’s kind of up, it’s been through the wringer for few sessions in a row. There’s a lot of optimism for that stage, because it’s one of the largest energies or using states in the country. So that’s one worth keeping an eye out for. I mentioned, initially, also in that category, Wisconsin, Delaware, and some Western states, including California, and once, California implements a program, which right now they just have seen the aggregation that is likely to be the biggest market or could be the biggest market in the country. So I’d say near term, Pennsylvania, kind of midterm at Wisconsin, Michigan, and, and Ohio and some of these other markets.



Perfect. And with that, we only have about a minute and a half left. Eric, before I hand it back over to you for any closing comments. Just a quick thank you for all the participants that emailed questions, really appreciate it. And thanks, Juloe the operator for helping us out today. This is our last call in June in the US energy transition call series. We’ll have some more calls in July. And then since 2018, we’ve been running this we typically take August off of the call periods, but don’t worry, we will keep it up and running back in September. And I appreciate all the clients who are supporting the call series, it really does make a difference and our ability to keep doing it. And then lastly, and most importantly, Eric, thank you for taking the time out of your day. You are the exact type of speaker when this call series that we were looking to have on. People that are actually on the front lines actually doing this work to talk about the issues in an honest and forthright way. Eric, really enjoyed the conversation today. I’ll turn it over to you for any closing comments.



Thank you so much Jon, it’s been my pleasure to be here and talk with you all today. I have been very fortunate to be on this journey here over the last 15 years, 14 years, and the one way that I’ve been paying it back in your word is to leave the door open. For others to come in behind me. We’re seeing that the clean energy revolution is going to need 5 million new workers in the next decade so I wrote this book called CleanWave: A Guide to Success in the Green Recovery, cleanwavebook.com. If you’re interested go check it out. And then also, you know, just again, allowing me to be a part of this conversation on behalf of Impact Power Solutions. Ips-solar.com is our website. And again, we help corporates across the country implement on-site and off-site solar projects. Thanks again to you Jon and UBS for hosting.



The IL Path to 100, Wind, & ERCOT: Clean Energy Connection EP. 4

(Interview starts at 0:24:00)


Proponents of Clean Energy: About the Guests 

Eric Pasi, Impact Power Solutions

Eric Pasi, Chief Development Officer, IPS 

As Chief Development Officer for Impact Power Solutions, Pasi has helped organizations analyze and adopt clean energy strategies nationwide.  He is extremely passionate about renewable power, entrepreneurship and the climate crisis. In 2020, he released his first book called “CleanWave: A Guide to Success in the Green Recovery” where he outlines the past, present, and future of clean tech, and its role in a post-COVID19 and post-George Floyd recovery.  


Jonathan Roberts, Vice President of Development, Soltage

Jonathan leads project and business development for Solatage in the Midwest Region of the US. Jonathan has over 10 years of combined experience in the utility and solar energy industry and has personally worked on over 100MW of projects in 7 states and internationally, ranging from rooftop C&I, to utility scale solar photovoltaic systems. He currently is active in energy leadership within Engineers Without Borders USA.


Interview Transcript

Joan E: Back here in Illinois, one big disappointment is that the clean energy bill did not get passed. Now there is talk that within a week or two that lawmakers will come back. One of the stumbling blocks was money to keep the nuclear power plants going until the solar and other things are up and running. That was settled. Then there was the timetable for closing the coal plants. Apparently that was settled. The last thing that they couldn’t get done was the timetable for closing up the natural gas plants, that just didn’t get done. So the legislation is on hold. Senate President Don Harmon is saying that he is confident though that it will get done. And hopefully, lawmakers will come back in a week or two to make that happen. But Exelon, which runs the two nuclear power plants, were supposed to get something like $700 million to keep those plants up and running until we could get some wind power and some solar power up and running and on the grid. Because the bill didn’t get passed, the money for Exelon isn’t there and they have now said that as they had planned to do before they are going to start closing down those nuclear plants. This will throw thousands of people out of work. They’re going to start retiring the Byron plant in September, followed by the Dresden plant in November. Obviously, if the bill does get passed, in a couple of weeks, those plans could change yet again. The hope is that those nuclear plants can stay online long enough to provide power and keep people employed until there are other options for jobs and for power. We do a regular sponsored segment here on WCPT with some of the people who specialize in clean energy. We are going to be talking to them right after this.


Joan E: As I mentioned a moment ago, lawmakers in Springfield decided that rather than continue to hash out the clean energy bill, they really, really, really wanted to go home and have dinner. So that’s what they did. Senate President Don Harmon and others believe that lawmakers could return within a few weeks, whatever amount of time that is, that they will be back to try to vote on this clean energy bill. The bill included $700 million that the nuclear power plants could use to keep running until other sources of energy and other employers could be up and running. Capital Facts reported for a while that some senators were trying to put together some kind of stopgap bill that would provide short term help that apparently did not save the day. So now we are waiting. Shia Kapos in Illinois Playbook reporting that the legislation, if or when it is passed, will fund renewable energy. it’ll improve labor and equity standards, it could potentially create thousands of jobs in these new industries of wind and solar and basic energy efficiency. The hope was again that the Byron and Dresden plants would stay on line for a little bit longer until this transition is made. This bill was worked on by so many people yesterday, we talked to one of the people who had been very involved in the negotiations. And up until the last minute, there was really hope that this bill would get taken care of. It sets new standards. It sets a timetable for our carbon polluters to close up and go away and it creates incentives to really help Illinois become a leader in a lot of these new green technologies. So it’s in many respects kind of a win win win. 

Joan E: This segment of Joan Esposito: Live Local and Progressive is brought to you by IPS, the leader in clean energy. If you are interested in clean energy, it’s a company you should be looking into. Eric Pasi is the Chief Development Officer with IPS, and today we also have another guest Jonathan Roberts, Vice President of Development for the Midwest company. Soltage. Welcome, gentlemen. How are you both doing? 

Eric P: Well, how are you, Joan? 

Joan E: Good. Good. Jonathan, how are you? Welcome to the show. Jonathan, let’s start with you. Give us a real quick description of what Soltage does and then give me your take on what’s happening in Springfield.

Jonathan R: Absolutely! I’m Vice President of Development with Soltage. We’re based out of Jersey City, New Jersey, but I live in Chicago. We both develop and own and operate solar projects long term. So all across the country in about 14 states, we’ve got solar projects, to the tune of about 400 megawatts that we are owning and operating. Illinois was a big market for us after FEJA, and I joined the company to help lead their efforts in developing projects. Today, we have seven community solar projects that are online and operating in the state. We’re working on bringing on more, but this current legislative situation is creating some wrinkles for all of us across the renewable sector in the work that we do.


Joan E: Talk about what the effect is going to be for you and your company and Illinois as a whole.


Jonathan R: Absolutely! It kind of affects our past work or present work and our future work. Our past work with respect to the seven projects that we have online and operating. These are community solar projects that residents across Illinois in ComEd and Ameren service territories are able to sign up for and get credits on their bill and achieve savings after being able to support and sign up for solar projects. There’s a glitch in the past FEJA bill or law now. The Future Energy Jobs Act that was passed back in 2016. There’s money collected in the RPS collection on the on-bill collection that supports the renewables programs. The money must be spent within a certain time period. If it’s not paid out, it has to be refunded. So many of us, through COVID, had longer lead times supply chain issues. Many of our projects from FEJA have been built. The community solar projects; they’re out there. Steel’s on the ground, boots on the ground, building these things, turning wrenches. And now we’re online energizing, ready to operate, fulfilling our contracts respectively with Comed and Ameren and the money collected is being disbursed back, unless the legislation phase happens that creates a rollover. For our current work with the projects that we’re currently trying to develop or acquire in the Illinois market, everything’s kind of on hold until we see what’s in the legislation if that’s passed. Then of course, future work, including projects that were waitlisted in the state, from eight to 900 megawatts of projects that both Eric and I have worked on that are ready to go, shovel ready, and are kind of held hostage to this legislative impasse.


Joan E: Eric Pasi, as I said before, is the Chief Development Officer for Impact Power Solutions. Eric, I think you can take this one. How long for some of these projects that are in the works or some of these projects that are now in limbo? One thing we learned with COVID is that you can only be in limbo so long before you pack up your tent and say it’s just not worth it. Don Harmon is saying we’re coming back sort of “TBA, hold on. Uh, we’ll come back. We’re going to get this done.” We’re not quite sure when, but we think it’s going to be soon. What kind of a window? Does he really have to get this done before some of these projects just fall through?

 Eric P: That is a great question, Joan. You can hear it both in my voice and Jonathan’s voice. I mean, we are exhausted following this issue and the bill down in Springfield. So, you know, really what Jonathan was alluding to, which is this funding gap that we’re facing, has immediate consequences within the next, I would call it six months. So this is something that we absolutely need to address as soon as possible. It affects existing projects and existing contracts with the utility and the states and then as developers and owners of projects, with our customers. So it’s a really, really tricky issue and I think both Jonathan and I were on Twitter following this over the Memorial Day weekend, as the session wore on, late into the evening. I think I saw one of Jonathan’s tweets at like one or two AM. I hope you got some rest that weekend! But yeah, this issue is set to really hit the existing projects hard, not to mention everything, all the future investments that we’d like to make, really in the next six months.

Joan E: Jonathan,  there’s been a lot of talk about how this bill is so important for labor and equity, but nobody’s really explained exactly how that fits into this new bill. Can you explain that to me?

Jonathan R: For labor, there are provisions for both new programs that are going to come about with respect to both wind and solar development of requiring a prevailing wage for a lot of the larger projects, including the type that I build with these community solar projects, in farm fields in the countryside. There’s a big element for labor in ensuring in Illinois that living and prevailing wages are provided to the workers that are benefiting from the work opportunities in these bills. As far as equity, there are a number of very progressive ideas that are in this bill. It’s a very large bill, and includes a variety of job training opportunities for the BIPOC community and minority owned businesses. There are also provisions in a program that’s called ‘Solar For All’ that allow a substantial amount of savings for low income individuals. So there are quite a few provisions in this bill that build off of ideas from the last bill and make them bigger, better and stronger. And that’s kind of what is in the bill. As far as labor and equity. Obviously, labor also is very interested in the jobs associated around the nuclear topic that is also a part of the DNA of this bill.

Joan E: Jonathan, you mentioned that you have seven solar projects going on now or that have been completed. When you say solar projects, are you talking about a solar farm? What is the range of things that can create solar energy?

Jonathan R: Absolutely. So this bill contains the whole gamut. When I speak of my solar projects, they are more or less the solar farm, on anywhere from 10 to 20 acres, the old program had a cap of about two megawatts AC. That’s enough for about 400 average Illinois households that are subscribed to these. The bill has provisions for residential solar. There’s a number of our brothers and sisters in the industry that work for residential installers for people that put these on their house. The types of projects  that I do are for folks that maybe solar doesn’t make sense to put on their house, but they still want to participate in the savings that they add supporting carbon free electricity, and signing up to solar in this community path. There’s also utility scale provisions for the really large solar and wind projects that are also a part of this bill for how the IPA will procure these RECs, or renewable energy credits that are the key denominating unit of the output of these projects of 1000 megawatt hours of electricity per REC.

Joan E: Jonathan, do you have your own workers when you do these projects? Do you hire local people to build this stuff out?


Jonathan R: When we build this stuff out, we often do RFP processes just like any construction firm would. It stands for request for proposals. So we’re looking for people that have experience. These are really expensive assets, where my company brings the capital stack of the money to finance the projects to make them happen. Given how expensive and the technicality involved in constructing one of these renewable energy assets, we have to make sure that whomever we hired to do it is both qualified and capable to build the project.

Joan E: After they’re built, is there a staff that monitors them or tweaks them or keeps an eye on them? Is it a forever job for some people?

Jonathan R: On the larger projects, you definitely have dedicated staff. On our smaller projects, on these solar farms that are 10 to 20 acres, we’ll have an operations and maintenance team that’ll be hired. Often we’re looking at local companies for that type of work. They’re visiting the site anywhere from three to four times a year, as well as any of the tax revenue that comes from the tax payments on the parcels that we’re on. We’re usually also renting the land from local farmers, and providing income for them, as well as the groundskeeping personnel that are hired to take care of the land and mow it and so forth.

Joan E: Eric, or Jonathan, whichever one of you wants to handle this. I was reading a few weeks ago that one of President Biden’s proposals is to put wind turbines out off the coast in the ocean. I don’t know if that was a special location with lots of wind or if that just works. Anytime you have a body of water, do you think we could put some wind turbines out in Lake Michigan? Would that help us out in any way shape or form and is that feasible?

Eric P: Jonathan, you want to take this? I know that what you’re referring to, Joan, is regarding opening up key areas in the Gulf of Mexico, where you already have expertise in building oil and gas extraction. So definitely, though, I mean they don’t call it the Windy City for nothing. There’s lots of wind out there. But yeah, Jonathan, I don’t know if you’ve probably had a lot of these types of conversations before.

Jonathan R: I’m an engineer by training, but my heart and soul and career are in the solar industry. I know that Chicago is home to a lot of great wind energy companies, including Invenergy, for instance. We see over in Europe that they’ve really advanced in the offshore industry, in a lot of the countries and more Nordic areas. And of course, there’s a lot of wind companies out of Spain and the UK, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and they’ve really advanced the game in terms of developing offshore wind. In the United States, we have a lot of offshore construction capabilities and as Eric mentioned, in the Gulf of Mexico is a ripe opportunity, also on the east and west coast. I don’t see why we couldn’t figure something out for Lake Michigan.

Joan E: Well, after what we’ve just seen at the statehouse, I think that there’s a lot of wind in the Capitol, down in Springfield. Maybe at the statehouse we could put a couple of turbines and really have some benefit there from all of the political discussions that take place. We need to take a break. Jonathan, I know you have to go. Thank you so much for joining us and sharing with us your thoughts on this. Jonathan Roberts, Vice President of Development for Soltage, and we’ll be back with Eric Right after this.


Joan E: Eric, what the heck is going on in Texas? I know that they had some bad weather that led to some power problems, but they seem to be having so much trouble down there. What’s going on?

Eric P: Yeah, I, along with most of the country, have no idea what is going on down there and what they’re thinking. Right now as many of your listeners will know, there is an issue that has popped up again regarding the energy infrastructure in the state. Folks remember, back in February, ERCOT, who’s the regional operator of the grid had problems keeping their energy generation plants online and resulted in killing more than 100 people. Just on Monday this week, the ERCOT officials said that energy generators reported about 11 gigawatts of generation that were offline under repairs. To give an idea, one gigawatt powers roughly 200,000 average homes. About 80% of that is thermal generation, which includes natural gas and coal facilities. That’s over two times as much as what is typical in the state. This is causing shutdowns and really a lot of hardships. In the statement, ERCOT is asking residents to set their thermostat to 78 degrees or higher, turn off lights, cool pumps, and avoid using large appliances. This is really problematic. The advice that they’re giving is almost identical to what California was recommending last summer, during its own heat wave. We’d be remiss if we didn’t talk a little bit about politics, but at that time, US Senator Ted Cruz, attacked California for conservation and represented that that was a train wreck of an energy policy. In a tweet, he went so far as to say “it’s hot everywhere, try Texas every summer. But the rest of the country doesn’t have a dysfunctional state government where you can’t turn on the lights or AC. That’s the policy failure of the dems.”That’s what he said back then, It’s so typical that this is now coming back full circle in a way that really just highlights some of that hypocrisy. Texas’s insistence that they need to go it alone by isolating their grid infrastructure is causing issues less than four months from the last disaster that hit and so that’s a snapshot of what’s going on down there.

Joan E: Well, speaking of politics, the Joe Biden infrastructure bill, do you think we’re gonna see it anytime soon? And how will that help the clean energy industry?

Eric P: You’ve seen this group of 10 senators that announced the bipartisan $1 trillion spending package earlier this month, and that was spearheaded by Senators Sinema, Manchin and Portman, the Republican from Ohio. The issue with that is that Democrats said they would negotiate with Republicans on a bill that focused on traditional transportation. If a deal can’t be reached, then Democrats would fold that into a larger climate bill. The initial package now is this bipartisan bill that seems to be wavering. Focus is now coming back to a larger package that may be passed through reconciliation and so the main confrontation here was really within the Democratic Party. This two pronged approach, passing a more simple, traditional infrastructure package, and then trying to focus on climate is like having your dessert before the main course. Senator Ed Markey, a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal, is very adamant that there needs to be a guaranteed deal on climate in the infrastructure package that is consistent with what the crisis demands. We’re at an inflection point here, quite frankly, where the Democrats need to decide if this issue is something that they’re going to need to take up. I think the answer is yes. We’re gonna see how that unfolds over the next week. It sounds like Biden is going to make a decision with or without the Republican support by next week. I think we’ll start to see what that looks like. In terms of what that means for the climate, the $1 trillion package does have some of the elemental components to what we need to succeed in it. That would include the extension and basically making the existing tax incentives permanent for wind, solar, and then also new technology like batteries and energy storage. At the very minimum, I think that passes. Things are generally going in the right direction, but as you know, we have really only about 15 years to turn this massive ship that is the global economy around to be consistent with what we need to do to positively correct the climate crisis.

Joan E: We’re at an inflection point it feels like, the way things are in Washington. It’s hard to believe that everything we want the way we want it is going to get passed, but I still have hope. Nancy Pelosi said she’s not given up on Joe Manchi and so you know, I hope there’s reconciliation. There’s lots of different ways, lots of different angles. Hey, Eric, how long has solar been around? Is it 30 years?

Eric P: Solar has been around since the 1950s. Our company, though, is celebrating our 30th year in business, this month actually, and we’re very blessed to be one of the oldest and longest standing solar specific solar companies in the country. We couldn’t have done that without really good policy. I’ll tie this back to what we’re really hoping for, which is that we’re optimistic that the Illinois legislature can take up the energy issue and come to a positive resolution, on behalf of clean energy. You heard it in Jonathan’s voice, you can hear it in mine, there’s a lot of discomfort, and really, borderline desperation that we really need this legislation to save jobs in Illinois, and really to also to affect the climate crisis in a positive way. We would urge all your listeners to please call your state legislators and tell them how much the climate and clean energy jobs mean to them. Jonathan talked a little bit about the equity components of this bill, really focusing on BIPOC owned businesses and communities. There is a lot to be celebrated in this bill, and frankly, we just need to come to a resolution on a few key points regarding jobs in natural gas and the nuclear industry. I think we can do that, but one place to start, as I mentioned in the last few segments, is Illinoissolar.org. That will bring your listeners to the website for our trade association, who’s really rallying behind legislators and trying to get this thing across the finish line. Again, thank you and I very much appreciate the platform that you’re able to provide for Jonathan and myself to just talk a little bit about how this affects our community and how this affects our planet,

Joan E: There are so many people who want this to happen, whether or not we get what we want on the federal level in the way we want it. I think that here in the state of Illinois, this bill is definitely going to become law. I really think that there are just too many groups that support it. Eric, thank you so much. I really appreciate your talking about this and you always make things so understandable. Thank you for being here.

Eric P: Yes, thank you, Joan. Hopefully  we’ll see some sunshine at the state legislature and have solar there instead of wind, right?

Joan E: Yes, that would be lovely!

The American Jobs Plan & Path to 100: Clean Energy Connection EP. 3

(Interview starts at 0:24:10)


Eric Pasi, Impact Power Solutions

Eric Pasi, Chief Development Officer, IPS 

As Chief Development Officer for Impact Power Solutions, Pasi has helped organizations analyze and adopt clean energy strategies nationwide.  He is extremely passionate about renewable power, entrepreneurship and the climate crisis. In 2020, he released his first book called “CleanWave: A Guide to Success in the Green Recovery” where he outlines the past, present, and future of clean tech, and its role in a post-COVID19 and post-George Floyd recovery.  


Interview Transcript

Joan: This segment of Joan Esposito live local and progressive is brought to you by impact power solutions. The company that knows clean energy in Illinois and throughout the Midwest. Eric Pasi is the IPS chief development officer. And he joins me. Hello, Eric. How are you?

Eric: Good afternoon. I’m doing fabulous today. Thanks, Joan.

Joan:  At the beginning of the show, Eric, I was talking about some of the things that Joe Biden has been mentioning in the last couple of weeks. I know we talked last month about his infrastructure plan, and what it would mean for clean energy and what stood out to you about what Biden has been talking about.

Eric: Yeah, I think there’s a lot of things to be excited about in the American Jobs Plan. And there’s been particular increased interest in the legislation this last week since the jobs numbers April jobs numbers came out last last week. Kind of as a reminder, the Labor Department reported slower than expected growth with payrolls increasing by only about 250,000, while the unemployment rate rose to 6.1%. And estimates have been hoping for 1 million new jobs and unemployment below 6%. And so many eyes are now on the American Jobs Plan, which is a pretty catchy name for the infrastructure bill. This is coming on, coming on the heels of the recovery plan, which is passed earlier this year. And so the job measures here are meant to address deeper, more fundamental infrastructure opportunities, as opposed to the shorter, shorter term stopgap measures of the recovery point.

Joan: One of the things that Joe Biden was talking about, oh, just in the last week or so was the idea of putting in windmills, wind farms out in the water. What do you think about that?

Eric: Yeah, offshore wind. It’s been something that Europe has adopted at a much faster pace than America. And we don’t have to look much further than Martha’s Vineyard to understand why folks that have keen interest in political power are able to push back on progress. And this is something that is coming to America and may even be coming to a great lake near you soon. But it’s a fantastic opportunity. There’s nothing else that we’re really doing in the water, we might as well harness the power of ocean winds and increase energy.

Joan: Now, I think of windmills as those things in the Netherlands,  where they’re surrounded by tulips and everything? Are those the big white things with the skinny little blades? Do we still call those windmills? Or is there another name for them?

Eric: They’re still windmills. Wind turbines, I guess, are maybe more accurate.

Joan: That sounds much more scientific, Eric. I like that. Write that down, wind turbines. What about Joe Biden mentioning a plan to create 1000’s of new electric charging stations?  I’ve got to tell you, that was one of the big concerns I had in buying an electric car. I’ve wanted an electric car for years. But it just seemed like up until recently. It was just you couldn’t go any length because you didn’t especially if you got away from an urban area. You weren’t sure you’d be able to charge it. That’s an important part of his plan.

Eric: Yeah, I’m right there with you, Joan. I do have an electric vehicle. And I was recently on a road trip and, and felt what they refer to as range anxiety. And so, in the new plan, the Biden administration is proposing 500,000 new charging stations all across America, particularly on kind of well traveled arteries, road roadways, and that’s absolutely going to transform the the opportunity to charge and in the way that we the ways that we charge and go a long way to to reducing that range anxiety.

Joan: I’ve been kind of surprised. Well, I shouldn’t be. Joe Biden’s infrastructure package really is full of all kinds of programs and monies and ideas for every state. Every state is going to benefit and fixing up the bridges and fixing up the roads and all these other things. And yet it still has Republican opposition. What’s going on? Eric, do you think it’ll pass? What has to happen?

Eric: Yeah, there’s some challenges. Absolutely. And there’s pretty much united opposition, as you mentioned, to any legislation, let alone infrastructure from Senate Republicans. And we foresee this playing out. Most political pundits and folks in the industry can see this playing out similar to the American recovery plan, where really the only viable pathway forward is via a budget reconciliation process, with a very, very outside chance of reform, or filibuster reform. But we have not seen signals from Senate Democrats, especially the moderates, like Joe Manchin, that reform is on the table.

Joan: Yeah, I think it’s going to end up being like the COVID relief package, where Republicans vote against it. I can’t remember at last count how many different republican officeholders have posted on social media, what great things are coming to their state and to the residents of their states because of this COVID relief package that they didn’t vote for, that they voted against. But now it’s going to be like, hey, look at look at I did this. Well, not exactly. One of the things that I want you to go over with me again, the Illinois path to 100 bill. Give me again, the cliff cliff notes on that.

Eric:  Absolutely. It’s worth mentioning, actually, a new study came out today by Vibrant Clean Energy – and it found that deploying eight and a half gigawatts of local solar, which is the Path 100 bill, would save Illinois ratepayers just over $2 billion by 2030, and 3.4 billion by 2050. And so that equates to about $15, a month off of Illinois average household electricity bill by 2030, and $39 by 2050. So right now, state legislators have a really timely opportunity. The rooftop and community solar projects in the state have been in limbo for over a year. And when I need to pass this legislation, again, kind of good name, path to 100, 100% clean energy. And without the legislation, the industry really has a slim, dim pathway forward. And so several different pieces of legislation, including governor Pritzker, his energy bill, the consumers and climate first act are under consideration. So both of those aspects are under consideration. And, we’re all hopeful that the Illinois legislature will act on an omnibus clean energy package before the state legislature legislative session adjourns on May 31. So a lot be optimistic about

Joan: Yeah, for the big proponents down in Springfield for this?

Eric: Well, absolutely. The private sector and consumers have had their voices very loud at the state legislature. This year, there are bipartisan bills. And an industry has been working hard to make sure that really, this isn’t just a one sided issue. This is a multifaceted issue. And so we would absolutely encourage your listeners to visit Illinoissolar.org and click on the Path to 100 link. That’ll take you to a list of your legislators with a script so you can either call them or reach out by email. Anything that you can do to support this legislation is important to foster the fledgling renewable energy industry in the state.

Joan: This segment of Joan Esposito live local and progressive is sponsored by Impact Power Solutions, the company that knows clean energy and Illinois and throughout the Midwest. I’m talking to Eric Pasi, the chief Development Officer. And, Eric, I want to go over with you the basics of community solar, and the questions people have about it, because it’s something that I’ve talked to people about on this show before and I’m still not really sure I grasp exactly what it means. Can you explain it again?

Eric: Yeah, community solar allows businesses, residents and municipalities to participate in solar power, even if they don’t have the resources to install panels on their own home or building. If you can kind of conceptualize it, it’s typically produced off site, typically on farms, solar farms, and bill credits are then generated by combat or the utility for subscribers to that particular project. Consumers then pay back a portion of those savings to the solar operator 90%, for instance, and leave about 10% savings for the participants. So it really does democratize energy in a way that hasn’t been done before allowing people to kind of control their energy bills with solar power, even if they again, don’t have room for panels or can’t install panels on their own property.

Joan: I recently saw the term solar gardens. Do they mean solar farms? Is that the same thing?

Eric: Yeah, it’s somewhat similar. It was originally coined in Minnesota community solar gardens, it may have even had a basis earlier than earlier than that. But that program, which is the largest program in the country, coined this idea of kind of like a community garden, you’ve planted vegetables and other other things that are then shared within the community with others that are kind of also working in the garden. And so the secondary idea behind solar Gardens is that in the state of Illinois, it’s actually a law for solar projects, solar farms, to plant pollinator friendly seed mixes and habitat for pollinators, which is really cool. And some of the work that I’ve done across the country and mainly in the Midwest, we’ve actually assisted beekeepers to install apiaries around our project sites. And that honey gets made into delicious things like beer and cider. And, and been to use at local restaurants too. And so it’s a trend, not just thinking about solar as a kind of an industrial thing right in, in farmland, and more thinking about is regenerative, that helps the ecosystem almost as much as saving electricity and breathing electricity.

Joan: Okay, we’re talking now to our audience,  just regular folks. Some of them, maybe ComEd customers, some of them may be customers of different electric utilities. How do we get involved in community solar? Do we have to look it up online? Is it a different company? Do we go through our utility company?

Eric: Luckily, there’s a lot of there are a lot of providers out there for folks to reach out to our website goes over very well, the basics of how community solar works. But Illinoissolar.org also has some of these resources too. It’s an industry that’s been around for quite a while, I think folks would be surprised to know that the first community solar projects started popping up in the country around 10 years ago, so we’ve gone through these programs and these processes before. Consumers can have a lot of confidence when they interact with businesses in the space.

Joan: And if somebody does want to put solar panels on their roof, and install one of those great, ginormous Tesla batteries in their house, can people generate in the Midwest with all of our crappy weather? Can you generate enough electricity to get off the grid? Or do you just simply supplement what you would normally get through through a utility?

Eric: Depending on how much energy you use, I mean, if you’re running industrial equipment and doing everything, you might not be able to get to 100%. But the nice thing about solar in Illinois is that if you produce more than you use, which is very typical during the day, you can sell that energy back to the utility and they’re required by law to buy back that electricity at retail rate. So the solar on your home, usually out working during the day, you’re earning a credit, while your solar panels are hard at work. And then in the evening, you’re drawing off of that credit. And so typically, for most homeowners, you’re going to see, depending on how much roof space you have, again, and how much energy you use, at the end of the month, the goal is always to try to get to 100% of what you consumed to be provided by solar.

Joan: I remember, I was looking online at Tesla’s and I think there’s a Tesla that you can order that has a solar roof, a solar panel roof, I thought that was, I thought that was pretty interesting. Because  solar is something that I think is  for anybody who’s buying a house, and is planning to live there for a while. And because I think the last I heard it was probably if you’re going to really invest in a lot of solar panels, it takes about five years to start seeing all of your return back and start really kind of getting ahead of the game. But I can’t imagine buying a house anywhere in this country, without trying to make it energy efficient. And whether that’s solar panels, or some of the other technology, there’s just such amazing technology, other than solar panels, what technology are you most excited about?

Eric: I think the majority of clean energy professionals are really excited about batteries. And you mentioned it at the top with the power wall. The reason why we’re excited about that is because most of the generation of clean electricity is done using intermittent resources like the sun, right? Sun is only out if we’re lucky, 12 to 18 hours a day. The wind is only blowing, a portion of the time. And so with the advent of next generation batteries, we’re gonna see the ability to smooth out the generation of these assets. And so, we’re looking at elements like graphene, new lithium ion technology. And really, with all that excitement, we’re seeing certain areas of the country including areas in California where the mining of some of these advanced resources is going to be extremely important from a national security and just an outlook standpoint. So it’s going to create a lot of jobs. And there’s a lot of excitement around our ability to get to 100% clean energy, which these batteries are going to be vital in order for us to do that.

Joan: Last time we talked, I don’t think I mentioned that you put out a book, Cleanwave: a Guide to Success in the Green Recovery. Tell me about your book.

Eric:  Yeah, so thanks for the plug, Joan. The book’s website is cleanwavebook.com and it really goes over the past, present and future of clean energy, with actionable advice for career seekers. I did this in response to getting a lot of interest and outreach from people that were in my network asking, “Hey what is it that you do what and what opportunities exist in clean energy?” so it’s really kind of a how-to guide for those folks. I pulled that together and it was released late last fall. And, there’s a lot of interviews with other cleantech leaders, and a lot of other information that I think listeners that are interested or curious about a job in renewable energy will find useful

Joan: If Joe Biden gets this infrastructure program pushed through and all of his clean energy programs pushed through, will there be more hires in the jobs you already know about? Or do you think there will be new job categories created?

Eric: Yeah, absolutely. There will be new job categories created. I think a substantial part of this bill will invest in research and development of sectors. So I think about 580 billion, actually, of the infrastructure bill will go towards research and workforce development. And so creating those jobs of the future. So there are definitely jobs that will be developed that haven’t even been contemplated, and will be a direct result of the American jobs plans. But then, yeah, I mean, we definitely see the increase in the amount of existing types of jobs. So solar installer was the fastest growing job. One out of 18 jobs that was produced pre COVID, was in the solar energy industry. And so we’re excited about that, that continued growth. But certainly, with the addition of additional spending on grid upgrades, which has been a major issue trying to onboard all this renewable energy that’s sitting in process, we’ll need some upgrades to the existing grid. And this job, jobs plan provides for that. So yes, we’re very excited about existing jobs, as well as all the ones that are yet to be developed through new and exciting research.

Joan:  Eric, we’re running out of time here, I want to give you an opportunity to pick the one message that you want to leave our listeners with today.

Eric: Yes, and I will highlight again, this new study that came up by Vibrant Clean Energy that really states that now is the time for Illinois to invest in its clean energy future. And so I would encourage folks to please visit Illinoissolar.org and contact your legislator, and legislators in support of the past 100 legislation, it’s gonna be extremely important for the future of Illinois clean energy and, and really the future of the planet.

Joan: Wow, that’s great, that’s a great message to wrap things up with. Eric. Thank you very much. And good luck with the sales of your book, CleanWave: a Guide to Success in the Green Recovery. I really think I will pick it up because I’m gonna be like one of those people that was like, yeah, when I was a little girl, we didn’t have those kinds of jobs. But for young people, this is the world that they want, and it’s the world they’re going to have. And Eric, thank you so much. I appreciate what all you’re doing, and I appreciate your support for WCPT. It’s always fun to talk with you.

Eric: Yes, I’m looking forward to next month already. Thanks, Joan.

Joan: You’re very welcome. Eric is the chief development officer with Impact Power Solutions and they’re a big sponsor and supporter of WCPT. And you know, who doesn’t want to know more about green energy?


The Green Economy & Energy Equity: Clean Energy Connection EP. 2

(Interview starts at 1:26:00)

Proponents of the Green Economy & Energy Equity: About the Guests 

Audrey Henderson, Energy News Network

Audrey Henderson, Author, Energy News Network

Audrey is an independent writer and researcher based in the greater Chicago area with advanced degrees in sociology and law from Northwestern University. She specializes in sustainability in the built environment, culture and arts related to policy and related topics. Her work has been featured in Wallpaper magazine, the Chicago Reader, Chicago Architect magazine, Next City, Transitions Abroad, Belt Magazine and other consumer and trade publications.


Eric Pasi, Impact Power Solutions

Eric Pasi, Chief Development Officer, IPS 

As Chief Development Officer for Impact Power Solutions, Pasi has helped organizations analyze and adopt clean energy strategies nationwide.  He is extremely passionate about renewable power, entrepreneurship and the climate crisis. In 2020, he released his first book called “CleanWave: A Guide to Success in the Green Recovery” where he outlines the past, present, and future of clean tech, and its role in a post-COVID19 and post-George Floyd recovery.  


Interview Transcript

Joan E: This segment of Joan Esposito: Live, local and Progressive is sponsored by Impact Power Solutions, the company that knows clean energy in Illinois and throughout the Midwest. Eric Pasi, the IPS Chief Development Officer, joins us and today we are also joined by Audrey Henderson, who’s an independent writer and researcher. She’s based in the Chicago area and she specializes in writing about sustainability. Hello, Eric. Hello, Audrey. Welcome to our broadcast.

Audrey H: Hello

Eric P: Good afternoon, Joan.

Joan E: One of the things that we were going to talk about today was the idea of energy and equity. Now, Audrey, I know that you’ve done a lot of research into sustainability. Has any of your research touched on this idea of trying to do clean energy in a way that is equitable? And if so, what have you found?

Audrey H: That’s definitely become more prominent recently. As far as I’m concerned, energy and equity go hand in hand. What I’ve found is that energy now is thought of more as just more than just making cars more energy efficient or more gas efficient. It’s really transitioning to a green economy, and adding more opportunity for people of color and people of lower income people to plug into, no pun intended, the economy.

Joan E: Audrey, can you or maybe you Eric, can you define our terms? Because I’ve got to tell you, when somebody says green economy, I’m not always sure exactly what they’re talking about. So I need to know what you would define green economy as, and when you’re talking about increasing jobs, particularly for underserved communities, what are we talking about as specific jobs? Are we talking about factories where solar panels are made? First of all, let’s define green economy and then I want to know, specifically, what are one or two or three different jobs that kind of an economy would create?

Eric P: Yeah, absolutely. The green economy is a very broad big subject and encompasses everything from more efficient vehicles, as Audrey had mentioned, to energy generation (such as solar and wind) energy efficiency, and carbon capture smart technologies that help us consume energy in a smarter way and more efficiently. I think that is probably a good basis to start with a definition of the green economy.

Joan E: Audrey, give me some examples of how people would actually work in the green economy, what would they do?

Audrey H: Well, Eric is absolutely right. It is a broad term. When you mentioned factories where people are making solar panels, that would definitely qualify, but also what would qualify is green buildings, green materials, urban planning. I guess what I would try to convey is that when you think about a green economy, an opportunity, you have to think beyond cars being gas efficient. I’m not sure I’m answering your question.

Joan E: Let me give you guys one example. Recently, I had been thinking about an electric car for a while and then I decided to take the plunge. And some people are saying “Well, you know, that’s great. That’s the wave of the future.” And then I read articles that say “it’s really not that great, because there’s so many toxic minerals in the batteries, and then what do we do with the batteries?” and “are you really hurting the environment or saving the environment.” I don’t have the depth of knowledge that you guys have on this subject. I get confused very easily. And frankly, I can’t, at the end of the day sometimes, decide if I’m doing a good thing or not. Do you have any words of advice for me?

Audrey H: I just recently interviewed someone named Ellington Ellis and he addressed the very problem that you that you mentioned. Because you’re right, what used to pass for recycling for car batteries, or E-waste in general, was scandalous. Now there are more environmentally friendly ways of extracting the materials from batteries that can be recycled. They can be refurbished and they can be repaired so that the materials can be extracted in a way that’s less toxic. The batteries that have degraded to a certain point, but are still useful, can be used for other purposes. Whereas when you bought an electric car before, that battery might have just been disposed of in the landfill or shipped off to a developing nation. Now there’s more emphasis on responsibly recycling those batteries. So I worry less about it now than before.

Joan E: Audrey, one of the topics that I know you’ve looked into is this whole idea of environmental concerns and the impact on communities of color. Can you talk about that?

Audrey H: Yes, one of the things that I keep hearing over and over again, is the black to green pipeline. What that means is that communities of color, and lower income communities, have worn a lot of the burdens of the Industrial Revolution. The factories have been located in those neighborhoods. They’ve had to deal with more of the carbon emissions. They’ve had to deal with more of the waste materials. But at the same time, they haven’t had the same opportunities for jobs. So with what green economy advocates are saying about wanting development, we want it to be more equitable. We want to have people in our neighborhoods to have opportunities to train for and get these jobs that are in the green and clean and sustainable industries.

Joan E: I’m talking to Eric Pasi and Audrey Henderson. This is a segment that we’re doing on clean energy and the equity impact. We’re going to take a break when we come back there is actually a project right now going on in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago. I’m going to tell you about that. Well, our experts are going to tell you about that when we come back after this.

Joan E: I want you to talk about the Bronzeville microgrid project. Okay, now, I’ve now said everything that I understand about what is going on. So Eric, you want to you want to enlighten me?

Eric P: I can kick things off by defining what a microgrid is. Then I think Audrey can jump in with some of the specifics about that project. A microgrid is a small network of electricity users within a geographic region that can essentially detach from the grid at any time and operate in isolation. That’s via technology, energy storage, and some sorts of generation like solar or wind. And so in the Bronzeville area, we’ve seen one of the country’s first larger or mid-scale microgrid project. Audrey knows a lot more about this subject than I do so I’ll kick it over to her.

Joan E: All right Audrey, you have the floor.

Audrey H: Okay, so the microgrid project in Bronzeville, is actually part of a larger initiative called the Community Of The Future. It’s a collaboration between a number of agencies, including Com Ed and the Bronzeville Community Development Partnership. What the Community Of The Future does is it uses the microgrid as one aspect of it. As Eric was saying, the grid is an energy source that can that can be integrated into the larger grid, or can operate independently. But with the Bronzeville microgrid, they’re also doing a number of other related initiatives. They initiated an electric vehicle shared ride service. They had an ‘ideathon’, which is kind of like, I was about to say a hackathon but you might not know what that is about either, it’s a contest where groups of young people get together and design projects within an energy efficiency or smart grid or sustainability theme. They sponsored that contest in 2018 and 2019 for high school students in the Bronzeville. area. They also had a pilot program where they introduced solar and battery energy. I think it was also related to the microgrid in one of the public housing developments, the Dearborn homes. That was also co-sponsored with the Department of Energy. So this was, as I said, part of a larger initiative in order to develop the microgrid, but also as a means for the community itself to enter to become more integrated into what we’re calling the green economy.

Joan E: Okay, Audrey, let’s say somebody who lives in Bronzeville is hearing this and is pretty excited about the idea. How would somebody get involved in the project and what, if anything, could they do to be a part of it?

Audrey H: The alderman has been very active and they have a whole Community of the Future Advisory Council that has been directly involved. It has had public meetings where community people have been able to give their own input. So the community itself has really been more active as far as the impact with the Bronzeville Community Development Partnership, and they really engage with community stakeholders, shaping what goes into the project, advising and commenting on what initiatives they want, and really shaping the program, not just to develop the microgrid, but also to develop job opportunities and urban development opportunities for people in the neighborhood.

Joan E: Earlier, you guys were talking about this idea that lots of times communities of color are hit particularly with pollution generating industries. I know when just in the Chicago area, we’ve had that recent example where General Iron, which is a metal shredding company, were pretty much pushed out of Lincoln Park. Neighbors there didn’t like the pollution and stuff they found floating around in the air. They made the announcement that they were going to go to the south side of Chicago and a lot of residents there were like “Oh, wait a minute. No, I don’t think so.” Maybe it would have been one thing if they would have come in and said “Oh, by the way, you know, we’re going to hire 500 local people from the community.” But they weren’t. They were just looking for a place where they could continue to do this metal shredding business, in a in a community where they hoped they wouldn’t get so much pushback. So there really is this very obvious, and even very recent example, of exactly what you guys were talking about. I want to shift gears a little bit. Joe Biden announced his infrastructure bill. It had some clean energy elements to it. Eric, what were the high points for you when you looked at Biden’s infrastructure bill? What were you happy to see as a part of that?

Eric P: As a clean energy advocate, there’s a lot to be excited about in this bill and we don’t necessarily always associate clean energy with infrastructure, but it absolutely is related. I’m about as excited as anyone for this bill. I’ll give you some examples as to what folks can expect to hear, and maybe the not so much covered aspects of the bill. First off, the legislation would establish an energy efficient and clean energy standard, which would be the first in the country’s history, to achieve 100% clean energy power by 2035. Because the bulk of that generation of clean energy happens in rural America and more conservative America, we need to find a way to bring that power into the urban core. So another aspect of the bill establishes a targeted tax credit to incentivize the build out of the next generation grid, which would essentially span solar power generation in the southwest and bring that all the way to the east coast. We’re talking about building these massive and much needed power distribution networks to bring clean energy from where it’s generated to where it’s needed. A couple of the other really interesting points in this bill include $50 billion in dedicated investment to improve infrastructure resilience. As we’re seeing in particular, the most essential services like food systems and urban infrastructure and transportation assets can be impacted as our climate becomes more volatile. We’re going to need to have this resiliency in place. Then, specific to clean energy, the bill extends the tax credits that are so vital to deployment of solar and wind. It also includes a new tax credit for specifically for energy storage, which is like battery storage.

Joan E: When you say these tax credits, are these tax credits for companies or for people like me?

Eric P: They’re for both. That’s the beauty, I think of the tax credit It applies both to private individuals as well as corporations. There’s even talks, because this is yet to be sorted out, for some of these credits to be refundable in the cases of municipalities or tribal nations, or other folks that can’t use tax credits to actually to actually gain some benefit from them.

Joan E: This infrastructure bill has been proposed, but do you guys have any feel for when or if it will really be voted on and become law? I mean, are we looking at something in the next few months? Next year or in the next couple of years? Audrey, do you have any feel for that?

Audrey H: I do not. I will speak on my own personal opinion, because I don’t have contacts in Washington. From what I hear and read and see, this is something that is going to happen sooner rather than later, especially in the house. I think I’ve heard or seen on TV that they were thinking about passing it through reconciliation, which would not through the filibuster. That would expedite the passing of it. So really, it’s a matter of getting all the democrats on board with a bill that everybody can vote on. Perhaps if we did have Vice President Harris cast that tie breaking vote. I think the process now is just rounding all the Democrats together, getting the aspects of the bill that everybody can agree on, and then putting that forward. Everything I’m seeing shows that it’s a priority for President Biden and I don’t see them having any difficulty passing it in the house. I think the any impediment will be in the Senate, and that would just be a matter of getting senators together.

Joan E: What’s one message, Audrey, that you want to leave our listeners with.

Audrey H: Eric was saying something earlier about infrastructure being a broader topic. I think if I were to say anything, I would say that infrastructure and clean energy are broad and inclusive, but they’re both important. Infrastructure is broader than just sticks and bricks. I was reading that the governor of South Dakota said that infrastructure has nothing to do with roads and bridges. Well, it has something to do with roads and bridges, but it also has to do with the internet and also has to do with clean water. I think if I were to say one thing it would be that it’s really necessary to reverse disinvestment and engage with people on the ground. The people on the ground have an idea of what they need, and usually have a pretty good idea of how to go about it. Moving forward, I would just say that clean energy and emphasis on infrastructure are important tools.

Joan E: Okay, Eric, you get the last minute and a half. What message do you want to leave us with today?

Eric P: Piggybacking on what Audrey mentioned, being focused on what’s happening on the ground, I love to think about this concept of ‘think globally and act locally’. Right now, Illinois residents have a chance to make a meaningful impact in their state. We’re so close to tipping the scales and making the clean energy future a reality.  I mentioned in our previous segment last month about a bill at the state legislature called Path To 100. It’s so important that your listeners know about it, if they’re engaged and interested in that bill. In particular, I would certainly invite folks to visit the Illinois Solar Energy Association website where they can provide some support for that bill. It just takes literally 30 seconds. That is found at Illinois solar.org. And, you know, as always, I appreciate you giving us some time here today, Joan, and I wish your listeners well and hope you have a great rest of the month!

Joan E: Thank you so very much Eric Pasi, who is the Chief Development Officer of Impact Power Solutions, and Audrey Henderson, an independent writer and researcher in the Chicago area who specializes in sustainability. Thank you both so much. I really appreciate the fact that you can talk about such complex issues in a way that even I can understand them. Thank you both Eric and Audrey.

Audrey H: Thank you for having me.