Author: Elza Ter-Arutyunov   Published: 12/12/2023  BLACKS IN GREEN

 

https://www.blacksingreen.org/

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
December 12, 2023
Media Contact
Elza Ter-Arutyunov
872-316-0297 | elza@blacksingreen.org

Green Energy Justice Cooperative’s 9-MW solar project will be one of the nation’s
largest non-utility-based solar projects launched by a clean energy co-op
CHICAGO, IL — December 12, 2023: Last week, the Illinois Power Agency (IPA) announced
their Community-Driven Community Solar Project selection results for program year 2023-2024.
The agency selected the Green Energy Justice Cooperative (GEJC), a consumer-owned clean
energy cooperative launched by Blacks in Green (BIG) and core partners, to develop three
industry-scale solar projects at 3 megawatts DC each, totaling 9 megawatts of solar power, to
benefit community members in Illinois. On completion, the three projects will provide a rare
community ownership stake in clean energy generation and lower the energy burden of its
Black, Brown, and other low- and moderate-income (LMI) beneficiaries in Aurora, Naperville,
Romeoville, and surrounding communities in Illinois. Similar developments by BIG are planned
for Cook and Kankakee counties. The estimated value of this renewable energy credit award is
$12.5M.

Blacks in Green projects ranked 1st, 2nd, and 4th in the Illinois Shines competitive process and
validated years of investment by BIG to fulfill its 2nd Principle of Green-Village-Building: Each
village produces and stores its own energy for light, heat, and transportation, and owns its
means of production.

“It’s a culmination of more than a decade of movement alliance work to build an Illinois
renewable energy industry through FEJA and CEJA legislation, and to build
community-scale solutions as a Chicago Climate Action Plan partner,” said Naomi Davis,
founder and CEO of BIG. This achievement adds an essential tool to BIG’s Sustainable
Square Mile/Energy Justice Portfolio, which it offers as open source innovation through an EPA
Thriving Communities grant – along with options like village-scale microgrid and grid
modernization study, neighborhood decarbonization, energy auditing workforce training, local
EV charging station network, and its energy affordability bill, the People’s Utility Rate Relief Act
[PURR]. “All are critical to the success of our Campaign To End Energy Poverty, which
aims to expand nationally the Illinois standard of a 6% cap on household income for
life-essential services of light and heat,” says Davis.

When the 9-megawatt community solar project launches, it will allow LMI household subscribers
without access to and/or control of a rooftop, such as renters, condominium owners, and
homeowners with unsuitable roofs, to save money on their electric bills.
Subscribers of these community solar projects will see additional benefits, including:
co-ownership of the solar co-op and accompanying profit sharing; a voice in the management of
the clean energy cooperative; equitable workforce training and capacity development; and the
opportunity to help create an equitable clean energy transition that provides meaningful benefits
to people and protects the environment.

“We are delighted to have our three solar projects scored so highly by the Illinois Power
Agency. This will ensure that the projects are completed and thereby demonstrate the
power of solar sovereignty for ownership and wealth building by Blacks in distressed
Black communities. And the power of significant middle-class job creation at scale, by
Blacks in distressed Black communities,” said Rev. Tony Pierce, GEJC board member
and CEO of Sun Bright Energy

Launched in 2022, GEJC is owned by its solar subscribers and supporters and serves as a
vehicle towards economically and racially-just ownership of local clean energy, where
low-income communities of color own their energy and benefit from the economic and political
power that comes with owning energy generation. This win ensures that the co-op is one step
closer to getting the benefits of the burgeoning clean energy transition in Illinois to underserved
and marginalized communities in this age of climate crisis.
The co-op was founded by BIG alongside the following coalition of mission-aligned,
community-based organizations in the Chicagoland area:

● Grow Greater Englewood
● People for Community Recovery
● Southeast Environmental Task Force
● Imani Village
● Community Transformation Ministries / Sun Bright Energy LLC / Community
Transformation Partnership Power (CTP-Power)
● Claretian Associates
● North Lawndale Employment Network
● Chicago Environmental Justice Network (CEJN)
● Urban Juncture
● Greenleaf Advisors

Many of these organizations have been working together on energy justice issues in the
Chicago area for decades, and have been seeking to implement opportunities for
community-based solar since the passage of the landmark clean energy transition legislation,
the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA), that set ambitious goals for the equitable
transformation of the state’s energy portfolio by the year 2050.

GEJC is also supported by partners at Cooperative Energy Futures, a Minnesota-based
member-owned clean energy cooperative that has developed similar models of equitable
community ownership of solar projects in their own communities.

Cooperative Energy Futures General Manager Timothy DenHerder-Thomas said “We’re
really excited to be supporting GEJC in bringing community-owned solar to GEJC’s local
communities in Illinois. Through our co-op in Minnesota, we’ve seen the power of this
model in uniting communities around a clean energy future that works for renters and
low-income households and makes sure local residents own and get the benefits too.”

The three GEJC Community-Driven Community Solar projects selected by the Illinois Power
Agency will now be presented to the Illinois Commerce Commission, the Illinois public utility
regulatory body in January 2024 for approval for Renewable Energy Credits (REC) contracts.

“We’re delighted to partner with Blacks in Green to help create new sources of renewable
energy in Aurora and Romeoville through the Green Energy Justice Co-op,” said Vibhu
Kaushik, Senior Vice President and Global Head of Energy, Utilities, and Storage at
Prologis. “As a member of the local business community, Prologis is focused on working
with our customers, local governments, and local partners like Blacks in Green to help
create a vibrant and sustainable economy.”

“We are thrilled to hear this news as we continue our work to connect agriculture and
energy projects in the proposed AgroEco District. This is a tremendous win for Chicago
and further highlights why collective action works. Our communities NEED work and
opportunities to support the brilliance and creativity to build a new economy that centers
new concepts for commerce and energy in Black communities across the globe,” said
Anton Seals, Jr., GEJC board member and Lead Steward (Executive Director) of Grow
Greater Englewood.

“Given that many environmental justice communities like mine, in the far Southeast Side
of Chicago, bear the brunt of climate change, this is a great opportunity to begin to undo
and heal our communities from that harm,” said Olga Bautista, GEJC board member and
Co-Executive Director of the Southeast Environmental Task Force.
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About Blacks in Green
Blacks in Green – BIG™ is a national network for environmental justice and