This one is easy for those who are residents or own small business in Evanston. You’re automatically part of our Community Choice Electricity Aggregation program which has provided program participants green electricity at very low rates since 2012. The aggregation program is crucial to achieving Evanston’s carbon reduction goals.
Participation in Evanston’s aggregation program will save money and save the planet. What better reasons can there be? A large portion of Evanston’s carbon reduction success is due to aggregation so it’s super important to get everyone on board and continue the program.
In Illinois we can sign up with any number of different electricity providers on our own, but aggregation puts Evanston residents together in a large group so we can use our collective purchasing power to get a better deal. And for us, “better” means both cheaper and greener.
The best part about aggregation (well, aside from being cheaper and greener) is that it’s an opt-out program. You’re automatically in.
Evanston’s aggregation supplier has been vetted by the city and will never solicit your business over the phone. Beware: there are a number of predatory electricity suppliers in the market which may rope you in with enticing introductory rates but then switch you to surprisingly high rates a few months later. Ignore telemarketing calls, door-to-door sales pitches, frequent flier partner programs, gift card offers, etc. Evanston’s aggregation program is your best bet.
If you’re currently with another supplier and would like to re-join Evanston’s aggregation plan you can do so — see the link below in the "More info" section. One important caveat: since the aggregation rate is updated on a different schedule than the ComEd rate, from time to time the aggregation rate may be slightly higher for several months. But over time the aggregation rate will save you money.
Like making progress on a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, making progress to reduce energy use at your home or business requires monitoring to both assess the current state and track progress.
It’s a tool on which to base taking further steps
Once you know how many kilowatt-hours of electric energy and/or therms of gas you use, you’ll have baseline numbers to beat as you take steps to cut down your energy usage and therefore your energy bills.
And as you continue to measure your consumption as you take measures to reduce it, you’ll see what actions you’ve taken are most effective and the overall progress you’ve made.
Measure what you (already) manage
Some of the biggest contributors to energy use are the easiest to measure. Homes and businesses require input energy to keep warm in winter, keep cool in the summer, produce light when it’s dark, and facilitate many activities of daily living. Tracking the fitness of the buildings over which you have control means measuring resources you use.
Taking action to save the planet starts with clear, actionable metrics. Like when you step on a scale. These steps will get you started:
Take what you measure and select your targets for energy usage and efficiency improvements. Then execute your plan to achieve those targets to lower greenhouse gas emissions and your energy costs.
Plan to find the key things that will both have an impact and be easiest for you to do.
Act to realize benefits. Our planet needs you to act right away. Once you get involved and see real results it will generate momentum.
If you are contemplating the next action item (implementing rooftop solar) you should first address your energy usage so that you can right-size your installation.
If money is tight begin by assessing the ways your behaviors affect energy use and make changes: these are no-cost ways of saving money. These questions prompt easy changes to employ merely by awareness that you can incorporate into your routines.
Heating and Cooling Energy
Appliance and Other “Plug Load” Energy
Water Heating Energy
These items help identify some of the low cost, straight-forward actions toward achieving more energy reduction improvements. For example, seek out ways to obtain incremental energy efficient options when you need to fix or replace something. The incremental cost for those product upgrades can often be modest when the main work is already planned.
Heating and Cooling Energy
Appliance and “Plug Load” Energy
Water Heating Energy
Some significant investments can provide strong returns, yielding surprisingly quick returns on investment, as well as allow you to replace aging equipment with new units that will not only be more efficient, but will not need to be as powerful. For example, improved insulation may allow you to downsize your heating and cooling units.
Heating and Cooling Energy
Improve the effectiveness of your building envelope by...
Lighting, Appliances and “Plug Load” Energy
Auditors can both reduce the work you need to do and increase the impact of your actions not only by bringing using efficiency testing equipment, but also through their expertise in prioritizing actions and identifying helpful resources. Most likely the auditor will do the following:
You can do more than consume clean energy and cut down on your energy usage. You can also take part in creating clean energy!
Free energy and no moving parts
As with all solar energy, once installed, the panels produce energy at no cost. The longer you own it, the more you save. If you finance it on your own, your only costs beyond system installation typically go to additional energy you might consume beyond what you produce. (Most repair costs are covered by a long term warranty, but there may be occasional maintenance following the end of the warranty period). Solar panels are sturdy and have no moving parts. As such, repair and maintenance costs are typically minimal. If an installer also finances the installation, you will have an agreement for lower energy bill on an ongoing basis. The installer/financer receives this revenue stream over the life of the agreement that repays the installation costs.
You can get reimbursed for a big chunk of the up-front costs
Rooftop solar can earn you net metering dollars
Although you still sometimes get power from the grid, your panels can also put power back into the grid when the sun is shining. Under net metering, ComEd gives you credit when your meter “runs backward”, typically in the summer. These credits are typically applied later to your usage during the winter when less solar energy can be harvested. At the end of the year, the credits for your account get reset to zero and the net metering process starts anew for the next year. The net metering year runs from April to March, allowing you to accumulate credits early in the cycle for use during the later part of the annual cycle.3
Rooftop solar adds resale value to your property
Installed rooftop solar means lower energy bills for a subsequent owner and increases the property value to a potential buyer more than without it.
Onsite solar is more efficient than remotely generated power
Not only does rooftop solar add clean energy generation capacity, it adds capacity in the immediate vicinity of consumption, reducing the energy lost through inherent inefficiencies within the electrical transmission and distribution systems. The short distance between your rooftop solar panels and the end uses in your home offers more delivery efficiency than energy generated at long distances from where energy is consumed.
Onsite solar can be more resilient than centralized power generation
Onsite power generation avoids some of the risks from distribution system grid power outages from storm damage, equipment failures, or other incidents.
1 To take advantage of the ITC, one needs to have enough income tax liability to receive credit against the tax owed. One can also spread this tax incentive advantage over several tax years if one doesn’t have the sufficient income tax liability to fully use the incentive in the first year.
2 It is hoped that a U.S. Congress and President that take seriously the urgency of global climate change will extend the ITC into additional tax years. You can help by contacting your U.S. congressional district representative and U.S. senator.
3 Even if you can supply all of your electric energy with your solar PV, you will still get a bill from ComEd because they have the metering and “backup” power supply. Future battery technology for storing excess electric energy production may allow people to completely get off of the electric grid.
Learn how it works
Here are a few key things to understand:
Key steps to take
Do some research to see if your building is a good candidate for rooftop solar and to limit your consideration set of suppliers:
Choose an installer and sign a contract
This will typically involve a downpayment, after which the supplier will do an on-site inspection of your building and surrounding sun-blocking obstacles to fine-tune the plan. A permit application and fee will be submitted to the City of Evanston with an electrical inspection by the City following completion of the installation. Federal tax credits can be applied in your tax filing for the applicable tax year. Work with your installer to claim your SRECs. Typically you will get a check in year 1 for the net present value of 15 years of SRECs that will cover around one-third of the up front costs of a solar system.
If your roof doesn’t get year-round sun or you live in an apartment building, you can still help create clean energy by subscribing to community solar, banding together with other Evanston community members and subscribing to a solar farm.
Community solar is another path that moves us away from fossil fuel power generation and toward an increased amount of renewable energy. If you subscribe to a community solar project you’ll be helping add more solar energy to your own grid and supporting jobs for Illinois workers. At the same time, you can likely get a discount on your electric bill.
It works something like this: a community solar developer installs several thousand panels in a field in northern Illinois, and the power from that solar farm goes into the pool of electrons that we call the grid. ComEd delivers electrons from the grid to your residence from all available sources (coal, natural gas, nuclear and renewables like solar and wind).
However, the more solar-powered electrons that enter the grid, the fewer fossil fuel-generated electrons are needed to deliver power to our homes and businesses. This lowers pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
Along with other subscribers to a project, you will be allocated a certain number of panels in the project based on your electricity use. The community solar developer tracks the output from your panels each month, and you receive a credit on your utility bill for the power those panels produce. The developer charges you for that power, usually at a discount, so you are saving money on the solar power your subscription produces.
One of the largest providers of community solar in Illinois is Clearway Energy, which is building 15 solar farms in the northern Illinois ComEd service grid over the next couple of years. You can find out more about what they’re doing and how to subscribe in one of the weekly webinars by Trajectory Energy Partners, an Illinois company working with Clearway that is helping educate residents and businesses about community solar.
Check out and compare available program agreement terms. Here are some questions to ask:
How long is the term of your contract with the community solar provider?
Does the company charge a fee if you exit the contract early?
How do you pay for your community solar subscription? If it is per kilowatt hour, what is the rate? Can that rate increase over the time of the contract?
Do they require a credit check?
How will the company bill you? Electronically? A paper bill?
How do they accept your payments? Can you choose? Do they require automatic payments?
How much will you save?