Tag Archives: Illinois

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. 


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?