In a speech at Crystal Lake last week, President Biden was clear: “We cannot 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, Senate Speaker, environmentalists and workers on a bill that would make Illinois a leader in clean jobs, climate action and equity. Now is the time to make this deal.
We are women entrepreneurs. We have built successful small solar energy companies from the ground up. We’ve helped businesses, school districts, churches and families save money on energy bills and reduce climate pollution with projects that put Illinois to work and invest dollars in communities where projects are built.
And we are not alone. In May, Mark Raeder, director of Summit Ridge Energy, told a hearing in Springfield that his company was involved in 46 projects in 23 counties in Illinois. These projects have created 1,200 jobs and, when completed, will save Illinois businesses and families $ 1.5 million annually.
The exponential growth of solar power in Illinois has far exceeded industry expectations. Last winter, we sounded the alarm: without a legislative fix this spring to support these programs, Illinois’ solar industry would collapse.
It is now summer and there is still no solution. And as we hold on, it gets harder and harder every day for the passage to be delayed. Our customers are starting to wonder about the future program. Our workers are starting to worry about their livelihoods. Our investors are starting to doubt that we are a good place to invest their money. Legislation is needed to maintain the momentum for which we have fought so hard.
This summer, our businesses should be booked, carrying out projects that offer the benefits of solar and keeping our teams busy. But the delay in the legislative fix cooled the state, slowing new contracts to a trickle. The work dries up. Realities are getting closer. Help must arrive soon.
Without assurance that the state program will be funded, most new projects have been put on the waiting list instead of going through the licensing and installation process. Without a new job, there are fewer jobs. Without a job, there is no income. Currently, thousands of rooftop solar projects that would benefit families, businesses, churches and schools – projects that represent nearly $ 150 million in investment – are on hold.
Every week that goes by without a solution sends a message to the market that Illinois is closed to renewables. Some large companies are already withdrawing from the state. For small businesses like ours, the risk is great. Without a solution, our businesses could shut down, resulting in the loss of decades of knowledge and experience that could form a foundation for the next generation of solar entrepreneurs. Quality sustainable projects come from boots experienced in the field. This should not be underestimated.
It’s time to strike a deal. It’s time to bring our lawmakers back to Capitol Hill to pass the most important jobs, climate, fairness 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.