Environmentally conscious River Forest residents will soon have another green energy option following action by the village board Sept. 13.

Trustees voted 4-0 to support a recommendation by the Sustainability Commission to approve a resolution endorsing the Community Solar Clearinghouse Solution (CS2) residential solar program. Trustees Lisa Gillis and Bob O’Connell did not attend the meeting.

Sponsored by the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus and managed by the Power Bureau, the CS2 residential solar program is a partnership between the caucus and municipalities created in 2018 that offers the opportunity to obtain solar power credits to residents who may not own their homes or are unable to otherwise install solar panels.

The CS2 program is the second green energy program offered in the village, joining the Green Electric Aggregation Program that began in September 2020.

In a memo to the village board, Sara Phyfer, management analyst/deputy clerk, explained that the CS2 program differs from the Green Electric program by directly connecting residents to a solar subscription offer, thus saving them money on the supply portion of their electric bills. They would continue to receive their electric supply from Commonwealth Edson. Participants in the Green Energy program receive their electric supply from MC Squared to support clean, renewable energy development through the acquisition of certified renewable energy certificates. 

By subscribing to a solar farm in Illinois through CS2, participating residents would net a 20 percent discount from their annual Commonwealth Edison supply charges for their portion of the solar farm’s electricity generation, she added in the memo. The savings for those already participating in the Green Energy program would be slightly less.

All trustees present expressed support for the CS2 program with Trustee Respicio Vazquez calling it “a great idea” and village President Cathy Adduci saying she is “super excited” about the program.

“This is perfect,” Trustee Katie Brennan said. “It’s where we should be.”

Eric Simon, chairman of the Sustainability Commission, told trustees that there is no enrollment fee for residents to participate and he hopes the program will start in January.

Brennan and Trustees Ken Johnson and Erika Bachner stressed the importance of educating residents about the program.

Noting that River Forest is not the first municipal participant, Simon said the village will be able to model its educational materials after those of municipalities that already are participating.

He also cautioned that the state’s energy policy overhaul that was recently passed by the Illinois Legislature could impact the CS2 program and other green energy programs in the state. However, he said that impact will not be known until the policy is studied more carefully.

Participating west suburban municipalities include Lombard and Oak Park with Brookfield expected to join. Other participants are Bannockburn, Deerfield, Evanston, Glencoe, Glenview, Highland Park, Lake Bluff, Lake Forest, Mount Prospect and Northbrook.

Initially, the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus opened up CS2 to municipalities in the Chicago region in 2019 following the completion of the Rainy Solar project in Elgin. Rainy Solar is a 1.18 megawatt rooftop solar array

In September 2020, the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus and Power Bureau rolled out a CS2 residential pilot program to a consortium of seven North Shore communities. Each community serves as a “sponsor” for CS2 residential to connect homeowners and business owners to an “approved” solar subscription offer.

More than 1,300 North Shore residential customers have subscribed to receive metering credits that are applied to their electric bills, resulting in modest cost savings. According to the North Shore Community Solar website, “a typical North Shore home can support the deployment of 30 solar panels at a community solar farm and secure as much as $130 per year in their net metering credit value.”

A “typical” residential customer uses no more than 1,000 kilowatts of electricity per month, according to the website.

Subscribers to the community solar program accumulate metering credits, which are based on the size of the subscription and the amount of energy produced by the solar project associated with the community.

The Metropolitan Mayors Caucus is a membership organization of the Chicago region’s 275 cities, towns and villages that was founded in 1997. The caucus provides a forum for metropolitan Chicago’s chief elected officials to collaborate on common problems and work toward a common goal of improving the quality of life for the millions of people who call the region home.

The Power Bureau is a consulting company that, according to its website, “provides energy commodity procurement and planning services” to small and mid-size organizations, including municipalities.

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