PEORIA (WEEK) – In Peoria Tuesday, ‘Art, Inc.’ in the North Valley celebrated an environmental accomplishment: Putting solar panels on their rooftop — but some incentives to get solar on your roof are drifting away.
Art, Inc. took over the old Greeley School in Peoria, which has stood for one hundred years.
“Not only are we being extremely fiscally responsible with the advent of the solar panels, but we’re also being good to the earth,” explained founder Jonathan Romain.
But then came the controversy.
Kiersten Sheets, a local solar advocate and contractor with Ruyle Mechanical Services in Peoria spoke at a press conference Tuesday morning. “I literally had to call my customer yesterday and tell them that the value of solar being installed on their roof is less today because of Ameren Illinois and because their lack of transparency to their customers,” she explained.
The reason for this outrage? A change in policy, based on state law from 2016.
“We are going to follow the law. Ameren Illinois is supportive of renewable energy or any customer who wants to utilize renewables as a way to lower their bills. But this is about customer fairness and equitability,” explained Ameren Director of Communications Tucker Kennedy.
Until October 1st, those installing solar panels would receive 3 credits from Ameren, reducing or eliminating their electric bill based on how much the solar panels produce. Now, anyone installing solar will only get 1 credit. Those who already had solar installed will continue to get the same credit they have been.
“This policy is no good for us as a community. It’s no good for Ameren Illinois rate payers,” said Sheets.
But Kennedy said once 5% of their total power generation comes from solar, the solar customer credits are reduced. He said the reason behind this is that those credits solar customers are receiving come directly from the rest of the Ameren customers. And not everyone can pay an estimated 15 or 20-thousand dollars to add these panels to their home. Kennedy said those who can’t afford to install solar end up paying the difference when rates are raised.
“This is really kind of coming down on the backs of the low income and people in more economic disadvantaged situations,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy says solar customers are up over 1000% since 2016.
“Ameren Illinois has 1 point 2 million customers across our 43 thousand square mile territory. Right now only three thousand customers have been able to make those investments and put those facilities at their properties,” explained Kennedy.
Solar advocates don’t see it that way. They claim projects will be lost, jobs will suffer, and those who were expecting benefits from solar energy will see those benefits decrease.