(Interview starts at 0:24:10)

Eric Pasi, Impact Power Solutions

Eric Pasi, Chief Development Officer, IPS

As Chief Development Officer for Impact Power Solutions (now New Energy Equity), Pasi has helped organizations analyze and adopt clean energy strategies nationwide. He is extremely passionate about renewable power, entrepreneurship and the climate crisis. In 2020, he released his first book called “CleanWave: A Guide to Success in the Green Recovery” where he outlines the past, present, and future of clean tech, and its role in a post-COVID19 and post-George Floyd recovery.

Interview Transcript

Joan: This segment of Joan Esposito live local and progressive is brought to you by impact power solutions. The company that knows clean energy in Illinois and throughout the Midwest. Eric Pasi is the IPS chief development officer. And he joins me. Hello, Eric. How are you?

Eric: Good afternoon. I'm doing fabulous today. Thanks, Joan.

Joan:At the beginning of the show, Eric, I was talking about some of the things that Joe Biden has been mentioning in the last couple of weeks. I know we talked last month about his infrastructure plan, and what it would mean for clean energy and what stood out to you about what Biden has been talking about.

Eric: Yeah, I think there's a lot of things to be excited about in the American Jobs Plan. And there's been particular increased interest in the legislation this last week since the jobs numbers April jobs numbers came out last last week. Kind of as a reminder, the Labor Department reported slower than expected growth with payrolls increasing by only about 250,000, while the unemployment rate rose to 6.1%. And estimates have been hoping for 1 million new jobs and unemployment below 6%. And so many eyes are now on the American Jobs Plan, which is a pretty catchy name for the infrastructure bill. This is coming on, coming on the heels of the recovery plan, which is passed earlier this year. And so the job measures here are meant to address deeper, more fundamental infrastructure opportunities, as opposed to the shorter, shorter term stopgap measures of the recovery point.

Joan: One of the things that Joe Biden was talking about, oh, just in the last week or so was the idea of putting in windmills, wind farms out in the water. What do you think about that?

Eric:Yeah, offshore wind. It's been something that Europe has adopted at a much faster pace than America. And we don't have to look much further than Martha's Vineyard to understand why folks that have keen interest in political power are able to push back on progress. And this is something that is coming to America and may even be coming to a great lake near you soon. But it's a fantastic opportunity. There's nothing else that we're really doing in the water, we might as well harness the power of ocean winds and increase energy.

Joan: Now, I think of windmills as those things in the Netherlands, where they're surrounded by tulips and everything? Are those the big white things with the skinny little blades? Do we still call those windmills? Or is there another name for them?

Eric: They’re still windmills. Wind turbines, I guess, are maybe more accurate.

Joan: That sounds much more scientific, Eric. I like that. Write that down, wind turbines. What about Joe Biden mentioning a plan to create 1000’s of new electric charging stations? I've got to tell you, that was one of the big concerns I had in buying an electric car. I've wanted an electric car for years. But it just seemed like up until recently. It was just you couldn't go any length because you didn't especially if you got away from an urban area. You weren't sure you'd be able to charge it. That's an important part of his plan.

Eric:Yeah, I'm right there with you, Joan. I do have an electric vehicle. And I was recently on a road trip and, and felt what they refer to as range anxiety. And so, in the new plan, the Biden administration is proposing 500,000 new charging stations all across America, particularly on kind of well traveled arteries, road roadways, and that's absolutely going to transform the the opportunity to charge and in the way that we the ways that we charge and go a long way to to reducing that range anxiety.

Joan: I've been kind of surprised. Well, I shouldn't be. Joe Biden's infrastructure package really is full of all kinds of programs and monies and ideas for every state. Every state is going to benefit and fixing up the bridges and fixing up the roads and all these other things. And yet it still has Republican opposition. What's going on? Eric, do you think it'll pass? What has to happen?

Eric: Yeah, there's some challenges. Absolutely. And there's pretty much united opposition, as you mentioned, to any legislation, let alone infrastructure from Senate Republicans. And we foresee this playing out. Most political pundits and folks in the industry can see this playing out similar to the American recovery plan, where really the only viable pathway forward is via a budget reconciliation process, with a very, very outside chance of reform, or filibuster reform. But we have not seen signals from Senate Democrats, especially the moderates, like Joe Manchin, that reform is on the table.

Joan: Yeah, I think it's going to end up being like the COVID relief package, where Republicans vote against it. I can't remember at last count how many different republican officeholders have posted on social media, what great things are coming to their state and to the residents of their states because of this COVID relief package that they didn't vote for, that they voted against. But now it's going to be like, hey, look at look at I did this. Well, not exactly. One of the things that I want you to go over with me again, the Illinois path to 100 bill. Give me again, the cliff cliff notes on that.

Eric: Absolutely. It's worth mentioning, actually, a new study came out today by Vibrant Clean Energy - and it found that deploying eight and a half gigawatts of local solar, which is the Path 100 bill, would save Illinois ratepayers just over $2 billion by 2030, and 3.4 billion by 2050. And so that equates to about $15, a month off of Illinois average household electricity bill by 2030, and $39 by 2050. So right now, state legislators have a really timely opportunity. The rooftop and community solar projects in the state have been in limbo for over a year. And when I need to pass this legislation, again, kind of good name, path to 100, 100% clean energy. And without the legislation, the industry really has a slim, dim pathway forward. And so several different pieces of legislation, including governor Pritzker, his energy bill, the consumers and climate first act are under consideration. So both of those aspects are under consideration. And, we're all hopeful that the Illinois legislature will act on an omnibus clean energy package before the state legislature legislative session adjourns on May 31. So a lot be optimistic about

Joan: Yeah, for the big proponents down in Springfield for this?

Eric: Well, absolutely. The private sector and consumers have had their voices very loud at the state legislature. This year, there are bipartisan bills. And an industry has been working hard to make sure that really, this isn't just a one sided issue. This is a multifaceted issue. And so we would absolutely encourage your listeners to visit Illinoissolar.org and click on the Path to 100 link. That'll take you to a list of your legislators with a script so you can either call them or reach out by email. Anything that you can do to support this legislation is important to foster the fledgling renewable energy industry in the state.

Joan:This segment of Joan Esposito live local and progressive is sponsored by Impact Power Solutions, the company that knows clean energy and Illinois and throughout the Midwest. I'm talking to Eric Pasi, the chief Development Officer. And, Eric, I want to go over with you the basics of community solar, and the questions people have about it, because it's something that I've talked to people about on this show before and I'm still not really sure I grasp exactly what it means. Can you explain it again?

Eric: Yeah, community solar allows businesses, residents and municipalities to participate in solar power, even if they don't have the resources to install panels on their own home or building. If you can kind of conceptualize it, it's typically produced off site, typically on farms, solar farms, and bill credits are then generated by combat or the utility for subscribers to that particular project. Consumers then pay back a portion of those savings to the solar operator 90%, for instance, and leave about 10% savings for the participants. So it really does democratize energy in a way that hasn't been done before allowing people to kind of control their energy bills with solar power, even if they again, don't have room for panels or can't install panels on their own property.

Joan: I recently saw the term solar gardens. Do they mean solar farms? Is that the same thing?

Eric: Yeah, it's somewhat similar. It was originally coined in Minnesota community solar gardens, it may have even had a basis earlier than earlier than that. But that program, which is the largest program in the country, coined this idea of kind of like a community garden, you've planted vegetables and other other things that are then shared within the community with others that are kind of also working in the garden. And so the secondary idea behind solar Gardens is that in the state of Illinois, it's actually a law for solar projects, solar farms, to plant pollinator friendly seed mixes and habitat for pollinators, which is really cool. And some of the work that I've done across the country and mainly in the Midwest, we've actually assisted beekeepers to install apiaries around our project sites. And that honey gets made into delicious things like beer and cider. And, and been to use at local restaurants too. And so it's a trend, not just thinking about solar as a kind of an industrial thing right in, in farmland, and more thinking about is regenerative, that helps the ecosystem almost as much as saving electricity and breathing electricity.

Joan: Okay, we're talking now to our audience, just regular folks. Some of them, maybe ComEd customers, some of them may be customers of different electric utilities. How do we get involved in community solar? Do we have to look it up online? Is it a different company? Do we go through our utility company?

Eric: Luckily, there's a lot of there are a lot of providers out there for folks to reach out to our website goes over very well, the basics of how community solar works. But Illinoissolar.org also has some of these resources too. It's an industry that's been around for quite a while, I think folks would be surprised to know that the first community solar projects started popping up in the country around 10 years ago, so we've gone through these programs and these processes before. Consumers can have a lot of confidence when they interact with businesses in the space.

Joan: And if somebody does want to put solar panels on their roof, and install one of those great, ginormous Tesla batteries in their house, can people generate in the Midwest with all of our crappy weather? Can you generate enough electricity to get off the grid? Or do you just simply supplement what you would normally get through through a utility?

Eric: Depending on how much energy you use, I mean, if you're running industrial equipment and doing everything, you might not be able to get to 100%. But the nice thing about solar in Illinois is that if you produce more than you use, which is very typical during the day, you can sell that energy back to the utility and they're required by law to buy back that electricity at retail rate. So the solar on your home, usually out working during the day, you're earning a credit, while your solar panels are hard at work. And then in the evening, you're drawing off of that credit. And so typically, for most homeowners, you're going to see, depending on how much roof space you have, again, and how much energy you use, at the end of the month, the goal is always to try to get to 100% of what you consumed to be provided by solar.

Joan: I remember, I was looking online at Tesla's and I think there's a Tesla that you can order that has a solar roof, a solar panel roof, I thought that was, I thought that was pretty interesting. Because solar is something that I think is for anybody who's buying a house, and is planning to live there for a while. And because I think the last I heard it was probably if you're going to really invest in a lot of solar panels, it takes about five years to start seeing all of your return back and start really kind of getting ahead of the game. But I can't imagine buying a house anywhere in this country, without trying to make it energy efficient. And whether that's solar panels, or some of the other technology, there's just such amazing technology, other than solar panels, what technology are you most excited about?

Eric: I think the majority of clean energy professionals are really excited about batteries. And you mentioned it at the top with the power wall. The reason why we're excited about that is because most of the generation of clean electricity is done using intermittent resources like the sun, right? Sun is only out if we're lucky, 12 to 18 hours a day. The wind is only blowing, a portion of the time. And so with the advent of next generation batteries, we're gonna see the ability to smooth out the generation of these assets. And so, we're looking at elements like graphene, new lithium ion technology. And really, with all that excitement, we're seeing certain areas of the country including areas in California where the mining of some of these advanced resources is going to be extremely important from a national security and just an outlook standpoint. So it's going to create a lot of jobs. And there's a lot of excitement around our ability to get to 100% clean energy, which these batteries are going to be vital in order for us to do that.

Joan: Last time we talked, I don't think I mentioned that you put out a book, Cleanwave: a Guide to Success in the Green Recovery. Tell me about your book.

Eric: Yeah, so thanks for the plug, Joan. The book's website is cleanwavebook.com and it really goes over the past, present and future of clean energy, with actionable advice for career seekers. I did this in response to getting a lot of interest and outreach from people that were in my network asking, “Hey what is it that you do what and what opportunities exist in clean energy?” so it's really kind of a how-to guide for those folks. I pulled that together and it was released late last fall. And, there's a lot of interviews with other cleantech leaders, and a lot of other information that I think listeners that are interested or curious about a job in renewable energy will find useful

Joan:If Joe Biden gets this infrastructure program pushed through and all of his clean energy programs pushed through, will there be more hires in the jobs you already know about? Or do you think there will be new job categories created?

Eric: Yeah, absolutely. There will be new job categories created. I think a substantial part of this bill will invest in research and development of sectors. So I think about 580 billion, actually, of the infrastructure bill will go towards research and workforce development. And so creating those jobs of the future. So there are definitely jobs that will be developed that haven't even been contemplated, and will be a direct result of the American jobs plans. But then, yeah, I mean, we definitely see the increase in the amount of existing types of jobs. So solar installer was the fastest growing job. One out of 18 jobs that was produced pre COVID, was in the solar energy industry. And so we're excited about that, that continued growth. But certainly, with the addition of additional spending on grid upgrades, which has been a major issue trying to onboard all this renewable energy that's sitting in process, we'll need some upgrades to the existing grid. And this job, jobs plan provides for that. So yes, we're very excited about existing jobs, as well as all the ones that are yet to be developed through new and exciting research.

Joan:Eric, we're running out of time here, I want to give you an opportunity to pick the one message that you want to leave our listeners with today.

Eric: Yes, and I will highlight again, this new study that came up by Vibrant Clean Energy that really states that now is the time for Illinois to invest in its clean energy future. And so I would encourage folks to please visit Illinoissolar.org and contact your legislator, and legislators in support of the past 100 legislation, it's gonna be extremely important for the future of Illinois clean energy and, and really the future of the planet.

Joan: Wow, that's great, that's a great message to wrap things up with. Eric. Thank you very much. And good luck with the sales of your book, CleanWave: a Guide to Success in the Green Recovery. I really think I will pick it up because I'm gonna be like one of those people that was like, yeah, when I was a little girl, we didn't have those kinds of jobs. But for young people, this is the world that they want, and it's the world they're going to have. And Eric, thank you so much. I appreciate what all you're doing, and I appreciate your support for WCPT. It's always fun to talk with you.

Eric: Yes, I'm looking forward to next month already. Thanks, Joan.

Joan: You're very welcome. Eric is the chief development officer with Impact Power Solutions and they're a big sponsor and supporter of WCPT. And you know, who doesn't want to know more about green energy?