Pritzker highlights solar investments for Illinois during national summit

Solar panels in Springfield, Illinois.
Solar panels in Springfield, Illinois.(Mike Miletich)
Published: Jan. 25, 2022 at 5:48 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WGEM) - Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker was recognized Tuesday during a national summit discussing solar energy. Pritzker and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee talked about efforts in both states to get closer to 100% clean energy.

The Chicago Democrat noted that the massive clean energy law passed and signed last year gave a boost to the Solar for All allocation for low-income communities. Pritzker also said $20 million will go directly to low-income community solar pilot projects.

“My vision for community solar is that it works as designed by supporting low-income communities who want to participate in growing clean energy and our clean energy economy and that it continues to expand,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker says states need additional funding from the federal government to help support community solar programs. He explained renewable energy procurements are funded by customers. Pritzker believes the more federal funding Illinois receives, the less ratepayers with have to pay upfront.

Inslee and Pritzker also talked about the importance of equity in the goals to address the climate crisis. Pritzker said 5% of the Solar for All funds are directed to community-based groups and other qualifying organizations that can help with general education and outreach efforts.

“When people see a project, hear about, learn about a project in a community and start talking about it, it spreads. We want that to happen,” Pritzker said. “The Illinois Power Agency offers a whole bunch of support to participants and the program administrator has been holding virtual workshops for members of the public who need help navigating the programs.”

Pritzker also explained the IPA submits an annual report on progress and barriers for small businesses that want to participate in the community solar initiative. He said that information will help the state make needed adjustments to improve the process for businesses moving forward.

The governor also seemed encouraged that the U.S. Department of Energy wants to have states work together on community solar. He noted knowledge sharing is critical for Illinois and he can’t wait for other states to share information and help solar grow across the country.

Inslee says individual states have the template, technology and local political support for more solar investment. He stressed that every state needs more scale and funding from the federal government. Inslee said he’s hopeful that the U.S. Senate will pass the Build Back Better plan to allow for more access to those opportunities.

The current federal legislation calls for a 10% tax credit for low-income families interested in solar power. The bill also features a 10% tax credit for using solar panels made in the United States. President Joe Biden previously noted that the Build Back Better plan could significantly drop the cost for solar installation as well.

Pritzker also noted that Illinois has conducted significant research on solar batteries thanks to funding from the Department of Energy. He said Argonne National Laboratories has specialized in developing battery technology. While there has been some commercialization of solar battery technology, Pritzker would like to see more of that in the future.

“As that technology is developed and becomes commercializable, we want everybody to be able to use it and think that there’s a real opportunity,” Pritzker said. “We have some specialized scientists who are focused on that.”

Pritzker hopes the Department of Energy continues to invest in Argonne so Illinois can be “a leader in the world in battery technology development.”

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