New Analysis: Local Solar Could Save Illinois $3.4 Billion as State Transitions to 100% Carbon-free Electricity

Prioritizing rooftop and community solar reduces electricity rates, leads to less pollution and more jobs

Springfield, IL – Rapidly deploying local rooftop and community solar and batteries — enough to power the equivalent of 1.2 million homes — could save Illinois ratepayers $3.4 billion by 2050. A new analysis conducted by grid modeling experts Vibrant Clean Energy and commissioned by Local Solar for All, a coalition promoting the benefits of local solar production, reveals that developing 8.5 gigawatts (GW) of local rooftop and community solar by 2030 as part of the state’s quest for 100% clean electricity would save money and reduce electricity rates for Illinois families and businesses by 43%, or $39 per month based on today’s average electricity consumption. In addition to saving money, scaling local solar and storage would also provide valuable benefits to the community including massive job creation, cleaner air, and a more equitable and resilient electricity system that works for all Illinoisans.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, these findings demonstrate that making early investments in local solar and battery storage as part of the state’s clean energy plan and pairing them with utility-scale renewables, leads to reduced rates, more societal benefits, and lower costs than a grid that does nothing different than we’re doing today,” said Rob Sargent, Campaign Director for Local Solar for All. “By making rooftop and community solar a priority right from the start, Illinois can speed up emission reductions, save money, and create more jobs, while building the foundation for a more equitable, consumer-focused energy system powered entirely by clean electricity.”

Using a state-of-the art grid planning tool developed by Vibrant Clean Energy, the analysis goes beyond the limitations of traditional grid planning by leveraging big data and advanced analytics to produce a more complete and inclusive picture of the direct costs and benefits of all resources on the grid.

The main takeaways from the analysis include:

  • Deploying and optimizing 8.5 GW of local rooftop and community solar on the grid by 2030 – and pairing it with local batteries and utility-scale renewables – would save both the grid and electricity customers $3.4 billion when compared to not deploying and optimizing local clean energy assets in pursuit of 100% carbon-free energy by 2050.

  • Expanding local solar and battery storage would result in electricity rates that are 43% lower than today’s rates, translating into direct, monthly cash savings through reduced electricity bills for all Illinoisans. Based on today’s electricity consumption, the average electricity bill would decrease by $39 per month.

  • Scaling up local solar and batteries results in 63,000 more local family-sustaining jobs by 2030. The analysis includes direct and indirect jobs only and does not include induced jobs that occur as the ripple effects of direct economic impacts.

  • Rapidly adopting more local solar and storage leads to a nearly 15% greater reduction in the carbon emissions that affect our climate and our health. Because local solar shapes load and reduces how much fossil fuel power is needed to serve the grid, it reduces cumulative carbon dioxide emissions by over 88 million metric tons, which is equivalent to removing 19 million cars from the road for one year.

The tool used for this analysis, WIS:dom®-P, analyzes trillions of data points including every potential energy resource and the direct costs and benefits associated with bringing the most cost effective resource mix to the electric grid. The model takes into account and enhances the delivery of local solar and storage generation located closer to customers on the distribution side of the grid. The Illinois analysis looked at Governor Pritzker’s goals of 100% carbon-free energy by 2050, assumed the entire Illinois economy would be electrified, and incorporated a build-out of local solar based on the average amount being proposed in various bills in front of the legislature.

“We continue to see that including distribution infrastructure as part of our co-optimization engine in WIS:dom-P produces lower cost pathways for the planning of future electricity systems,” said Dr. Christopher Clack, founder and CEO of Vibrant Clean Energy. “This study shows that to hold even when including electrification of other sectors.”

Local solar and storage – part of the group of innovative, affordable power technologies sometimes referred to as Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) – are small, distributed facilities that produce and store power closer to the homes and communities where it is being used. The two most common forms of local solar are community solar and rooftop solar, both of which can be paired with battery storage. Community solar, the fastest-growing segment within the solar industry, refers to local solar facilities shared by multiple subscribers who receive credits on their electricity bills for their share of the power produced. Rooftop solar gives people the ability to generate their own power on their own property and store it in a battery for resilience even in the event of grid outages. Both rooftop and community solar help customers lower their monthly utility bills.

In addition to the direct grid cost savings measured in this analysis, the additional community benefits of local solar energy are significant and far reaching. This includes job creation and economic opportunities, local tax revenue, lower energy bills, and a more equitable, resilient, and clean electricity system that works for all Illinoisans including communities of color, low-income households, and those communities disproportionately impacted by climate and environmental degradation.

“There are 135 communities across Chicagoland that have formally supported consensus clean energy goals of the Greenest Region Compact,” said Edith Makra, Director of Environmental Initiatives, Metropolitan Mayors Caucus. “These community leaders know that solar development in our region leads to cleaner air, healthier residents, and more vibrant local economies. We are encouraged by the findings of this recent analysis, showing that a strong commitment to rooftop and community solar can also help Illinois move to lower rates and less pollution as we shift to a carbon-free electric grid.”

This is the second study in the past month that shows how investing in local, distributed solar can lower rates for customers and costs to the electric grid. On April 27, a study by the Power Bureau found that fully funding the expansion of Illinois’ renewable energy program – including a buildout of rooftop and community solar – will result in lower electric bills for Illinois ratepayers.

“We must not miss this opportunity to transform our energy grid. Leveraging the ability of local clean energy resources to directly reduce families’ utility bills and increase community resilience must be central to Illinois’ clean energy transition,” said Will Kenworthy, Regulatory Director at Vote Solar. “Illinois cannot afford to delay creating new jobs while reducing the economic, health, and climate burden of our dirty energy grid. The study confirms that the best time to invest in Illinois’ clean energy transition is now.”

“Illinois is building a robust and diverse local solar industry. We are creating thousands of family-supporting jobs, and at the same time we are offering savings to every Illinois ratepayer, said Lesley McCain, Executive Director of Illinois Solar Energy Association (ISEA). “This recent study demonstrates that adding more local rooftop and community solar in Illinois can reduce energy bills for families and businesses while providing valuable robust job creation, cleaner air, and a more resilient electricity system.”

Dawn Heid, CEO of ReThink Electric, said, “The only way forward, if we are going to meet the clean energy needs of our state, is to get everyone involved.  This study demonstrates the benefits that go beyond one rooftop, and how putting our state on a path to sustainability will benefit our citizens with lower cost and a cleaner tomorrow.”

“With better models that evaluate resource selection based on their impact on total system costs we see that scaling local solar and storage – along with utility-scale renewables – can save Illinois billions of dollars while delivering a grid that is more equitable, resilient, customer driven and works for all Illinoisans,” said Jeff Cramer, Executive Director of Coalition for Community Solar Access. “The Illinois legislature should immediately establish clear and consistent policies to scale community and rooftop solar today so these savings can be realized and they don’t become costs incurred by ratepayers.”

Find a summary of the analysis here and a slide deck highlighting key findings here. Learn more about the study from leading industry experts in a webinar on Wednesday, May 12 at 3:00pm CT. Register here.

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