I left my home state of Nevada in 2013 and moved to Illinois so that I could start my own solar panel installation business. My family and I left Nevada in part due to business uncertainty. The utility in Nevada did not want competition from rooftop solar customers. Five months ago regulators sided with the utility and dramatically raised fees on rooftop solar owners in Nevada. Now, I am fearful that monopoly utilities will jeopardize everything I have built here in Illinois.

SEND LETTERS TO: letters@suntimes.com. Please include your neighborhood or hometown and a phone number for verification purposes.

Exelon and ComEd are making a play to end solar net metering in Illinois, and lawmakers must decide whether to pass the bill by the end of May. Net metering enables the right to self-generation and fair credit for power sent to your neighbors, and is fundamental to any sustainable solar market. Every recent independent study shows that net metering is a benefit to all ratepayers. This fair credit was eliminated in Nevada altogether, and at least half a dozen companies were forced to exit the state, or significantly reduce their staff.

That’s not the end of it. The utility companies in Illinois are also introducing mandatory residential demand charges, a rate design that punishes homeowners for the limited time when they use the most power each month. No other state in the country operates under these confusing charges. It’s inherently unfair.

The people of Illinois want clean energy options — and my company, along with many others across the state, provides this service. This competition is precisely the reason that Exelon and ComEd are trying to stop us.

Net metering creates jobs and furthers the state’s clean energy leadership. I urge Illinois lawmakers to continue paving the way.

Mike Nicolosi, CEO and founder,
Rethink Electric, Chicago

Illinois can be clean-energy leader

As Illinois works to meet the national carbon pollution reduction targets set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan they have an opportunity to cement their status as a clean energy leader and help ensure cleaner air for generations to come. As part of their effort they should ensure ample opportunity for more wind, solar and energy efficiency. They can also recognize the important role of existing carbon free nuclear power.

Illinois is a leader in generating zero-emissions energy. This is due in large part to the state’s nuclear energy facilities – including Clinton and Quad-Cities – which provide about half of the state’s electricity and produce 90 percent of the state’s carbon-free energy. If the existing nuclear plants in Illinois were to shut down, achieving the carbon pollution reductions set forth in the Clean Power Plan would become virtually impossible in the near term. But because nuclear power is not currently recognized for its zero carbon footprint as are other carbon free sources of energy, some plants may face early closure.

This is significant, not only for Illinois but for existing nuclear energy plants across the nation, many of which similarly face the prospect of closure. In sending a signal to other states that existing nuclear deserves to be properly credited for its carbon-free energy through legislation that’s been proposed in this legislative session which ends on May 31, Illinois will encourage other policymakers to similarly value nuclear for it environmental benefits. This would make it easier for states to meet carbon reduction goals and easier for the U.S. to meet its carbon pollution reduction commitments.

When it comes to the challenge of fighting climate change we will need every tool available to reduce existing carbon pollution and create opportunities for new clean energy technology. Taking existing nuclear power off the table will only make the job of reducing carbon pollution that much more difficult. While working to support energy innovation and other new and existing clean energy technologies we should also be mindful of the existing sources of energy that are already contributing to a cleaner environment and powering our homes and local economies.

During my time with the EPA, I confronted similar environmental challenges by creating new solutions and tools to address them and giving stakeholders the flexibility needed to develop and implement those solutions. Taking action to value existing nuclear for its environmental benefits, which until now has been unprecedented, can impact the energy policy discussion and outlook for decades to come. This is a worthwhile cause that Illinois stakeholders should consider, not only for the sake of cleaner air, but for the potential to achieve meaningful change in the way we value our carbon-free energy resources.

Carol Browner,
former Environmental Protection Agency administrator