Delivering an address in Crystal Lake this month, President Joe Biden was clear, “We can’t wait any longer to deal with the climate crisis. We see it with our own eyes.”
We agree with the urgency. In Illinois, the solar industry has been working overtime with the governor, the Senate president, environmentalists and labor toward a bill that would make Illinois a leader in clean jobs, climate action and equity. The time has come to get this deal done.
We are women entrepreneurs. We have built successful small solar energy businesses from the ground up. We have helped businesses, school districts, churches and families save money on their energy bills, and slash their climate pollution with projects that put Illinoisans to work and put dollars into the communities where the projects are being built.
And we are not alone. In May, Mark Raeder, principal at Summit Ridge Energy, testified in a Springfield hearing that his company is involved with 46 projects across 23 counties in Illinois. Those projects have created 1,200 jobs and when complete will lead to savings of $1.5 million annually for Illinois business and families.
The exponential growth of solar in Illinois has far outpaced industry forecasts. Last winter, we sounded the alarm: without a legislative fix this spring to support these programs, Illinois’ solar industry would go over a cliff.
Now it is summer, and there is still no fix. And while we are hanging on, it is getting harder every day that passage is delayed. Our customers are starting to question the future program. Our workers are starting to worry about their livelihoods. Our investors are starting to doubt we are a good place to put their dollars. Legislation is needed to keep the momentum going that we fought so hard to build.
This summer our companies should be booked, completing projects that deliver the benefits of solar and keeping our teams busy. But the delay in the legislative fix has sent a chill through the state, slowing new contracts to a trickle. The work is drying up. The realities are closing in. Help needs to come soon.
Without assurances that the state program will be funded, most new projects have been wait-listed as opposed to moving through the permitting and installation process. Without new work, there are fewer jobs. Without jobs there is no income. Currently thousands of rooftop solar projects that would benefit families, business, churches and schools – projects that represent almost $150 million in investments – are stuck.
Each week that passes without a fix sends a message to the market that Illinois is closed to renewable energy. Some larger companies are already pulling out of the state. For smaller companies like ours, the risk is stark. Without a fix, our businesses could close, resulting in the loss of decades of knowledge and experience that could provide a foundation for the next generation of solar entrepreneurs. Quality lasting projects come from experienced boots on the ground. This should not be underestimated.
It is time to strike a deal. It is time to get our legislators back to the Capitol to pass the most important jobs, climate, equity and clean energy bill this state has ever seen.
Because, as the president said in Crystal Lake, “we can’t wait any longer.”
Lisa Albrecht of Chicago is the Founder of All Bright Solar. Dawn Heid is the CEO of Rethink Electric.