FREEING ENERGY

Podcast 071: Tim Montague – How is good old fashioned midwestern grit helping shape a clean energy future in Illinois?

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Midwest solar and storage leader and Clean Power Hour podcast host, Tim Montague, shares with host Bill Nussey how clashing titans in Illinois crafted a grand legislative bargain taking big steps toward a clean renewable energy future. Plus, Montague shares insights on how the simple economics of solar power and storage is changing minds in both boardrooms and around kitchen tables across the state.

Here are a few of the insights from Tim…

“We need to install a terawatt by 2035 and then three terawatts by 2050. And then we’re really seriously on the path towards stopping climate change or preventing catastrophic climate change, which is my mission. I am on a mission for the energy transition so that my grandkids have a safer, brighter future.”


“So to speak in business, of course, you’re on a journey of discovery to figure out what your customer is looking for, what they need, what they want, what they can afford.”


“….what we’re doing here in Illinois is we’re going to shut down coal plants and replace them with solar wind and battery storage. And that’s a, win-win, it’s clean infrastructure. It’s a lot of construction. It’s high wage jobs.”


You can also listen to this podcast and others in our series on these platforms:

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Links

Tim Montague Podcast – Clean Energy Hour

News article on sweeping Illinois Energy Legislation

Link to Q3 2021 NC Clean Tech Report and Link to executive summary

Transcript

Bill Nussey:

Hello, and welcome to the Freeing Energy podcast. I’m your host for today Bill Nussey, the founder of Freeing Energy Project. And as always, we really, really appreciate the time you share with us. We’re doing this as a passion project, we want to get the great word out about how affordable and accessible clean energy can be. And we do it through the words and wisdom of some phenomenal guests, people that have lived this world, that have perspectives and ideas, actions, companies, technologies that are going to get us to the goal of clean energy much faster. So as most of you have listened in for a while, you picked up that we have certain recurring themes. We love to talk about science and technology, love to talk about business models, all these are paths towards a clean energy future.

Bill Nussey:

But one of the areas that we want to take a deeper focus on, starting with today and part of a new series we’re putting together, the people that live at the intersection of all the technologies and products, and who are out there every day hoofing it to get the work done. Sitting on one day with a customer, and another day with a product company, another day with a legislator, or policymaker, or regulator. And just in the middle of really the front lines. I call it a battle, although most everyone on both sides is pretty happy to work together, but it is a battle because it’s so hard. And for those of you that spend time in the energy chatosphere, you are probably familiar with Tim Montague and the Clean Power Hour podcast.

Bill Nussey:

So we’re excited to have him here today. He has decades of leadership in solar and now, storage, both as a community advocate and a business leader. And if you don’t know a lot about Tim, you might assume that if he’s at the bleeding edge of this stuff, he’s in California or maybe Texas or New York. But no, he’s actually in the Midwest in Illinois. And for those of you that have been paying early attention in late September, Illinois is turning out to be a really interesting place, a lot of great stuff happening, which we’re going to talk about today. So Tim, I’m really excited to have you here and welcome to the Freeing Energy podcast.

Tim Montague:

Well, it’s great to be here, Bill. I really appreciate the opportunity.

Bill Nussey:

So, we like to start off these discussions with a little background on you, and your personal journey, and how you ended up in the clean energy space. So, your dad was in energy ecology. You even had a solar water heater in your background. Were you just born and raised, did your parents tell you, “Hey Tim, you’re going to be a clean energy advocate from day one?” How did that work?

Tim Montague:

Well, it’s a hazard of growing up in New Mexico. I was born here in the Midwest in Indiana, in Bloomington where my parents were in grad school. But then, my dad transferred to University of New Mexico and then graduated, became a professor there. And he was very… Even though he’s a journalist and historian, he’s very technology oriented and DIY, and we were building solar thermal hot water heaters in my backyard and solar cookers. And there was a wonderful little energy fair at the University of New Mexico every summer that we participated in.

Bill Nussey:

Wow, what year are you talking about here?

Tim Montague:

So, this is in the early and mid-seventies.

Bill Nussey:

Wow.

Tim Montague:

So, I was like 8 to 12 years old. And of course, PV wasn’t on the scene because it was very expensive. It was upwards of, I think, $100 a watt and now we’re sub $0.30 for the moment on the technology itself. So there’s been an amazing decline in the cost, that cost adoption curve is a real thing. But yeah, New Mexico is a great place for solar. And of course, it is a leader nationally. True story, I got to know the founder of UNIRAC, which is a major racking company in the solar industry when was a kid. He worked for my parents at the Southwest Research and Information center. There’s a lot of things about New Mexico that people don’t know, it’s a coal power state, it’s a uranium mining state, and there’s these ginormous coal plants in the four corners region that my parents were fighting at the kitchen table, literally because of all the pollution, the mercury, the soot, and the coal Ash that comes out of these facilities, which is really not good for human health. But yeah, energy’s in my blood.

Bill Nussey:

And did I understand that your grandfather was actually had a trade publication that was about coal, did I get that right?

Tim Montague:

Yes. And on my mom’s side, grandpa Murphy, we called him Papa bud, who lived on the north side of Chicago. Both my grandparents on my mom’s side were from Evanston, which is the first community north of Chicago on the lake there. And he and his father ran a trade publication called the Black Diamond, which I never got to visit as a kid. I visited my grandparents on that side of the family, quite seldom. We were living in New Mexico and they were in Chicago. And I don’t think my parents got along very well with my mom’s parents. They didn’t quite see eye to eye politically. But, it is a cool story, and I feel like I’m making my ancestors proud by staying in the energy industry and modernizing with the time, so to speak.

Bill Nussey:

That’s a great story. And once upon in time, coal powered America, and there’s a lot of… Well, in hindsight, we probably embraced it too much. It’s hard to believe that America could have gotten where it has without a building on the back of coal power and steel that coal enabled. But listen, let’s change the topic to the business, which is where you are now. You are known to the world as a Clean Power Hour guy. But, by day your Clark Kent persona is a continental energy solutions there in Illinois. So what do you guys do?

Tim Montague:

Yeah, when I got into solar in 2016, so I have not been in solar PV very long going on five years, but a Canadian from British Columbia Cole called me and said, “Hey, we’ve reached grid parity.” And I was casting about for my next opportunity. I was doing green business consulting, working with manufacturers that are making devices for high performance homes, for example. And I reconnected with ISEA. I had hosted ISEA back at the note about nature museum in Chicago, where I did corporate relations for a couple of years.

Bill Nussey:

ISEA, What’s ISEA?

Tim Montague:

ISEA. The Illinois Solar Energy Association. Sorry.

Bill Nussey:

That was my next guess. That was my next guess.

Tim Montague:

Which is now 40 years old. It is a fairly storied organization. They were mostly focused on solar thermal in the early years, and then starting in about 2005, solar thermal, really the economics got surpassed by PV. And then we got our first RPS here in Illinois, which is the 25% by 2025. And that generated some real incentives for wind and solar. We saw a huge tranches of wind power come into Illinois. I thought I’d work in the wind industry before I worked in solar. But then it turned out that FEJA was in the works. That’s the Future Energy Jobs Act, which got signed in December 2016. I didn’t even know this. And I just dove in both feet. I identified a few developers and started doing some freelance work with them.

Tim Montague:

And then at the annual meeting of ISEA in November 2016, I met Brian Haug who’s the president of continental, and we immediately clicked, and we got to talking. And then of course, FEJA was enforced in December and he knew that he needed a business developer and a way we went. Continental had been in solar since 08. So they were an early adopter. And Brian, my boss is very involved with ISEA. He’s the president of ISEA for the last three years. So, I hit the ground running because I knew about Photovoltech since I was a kid, passionate for technology and sustainability, and doing B2B sales, marketing, and business development, my whole professional career. So it was really a marriage made in heaven. And now here we are in phase two of the RPS. We now have a 100% RPS. If you include carbon free energy from nuclear power, which is 40% of our grid. And so, it’s very happy days in Illinois.

Bill Nussey:

I have to pick up. So you spent time in your career as a social worker, and now you’re in business development and sales. I’m just sort of off the topic, but I’m just fairly curious. Those might seem to an outsider who hasn’t followed your journey, that to be very different parts of who you are, but I’m going to guess there’s a lot of alignments. So, how do you think about those two parts of your professional journey?

Tim Montague:

I’m good at getting people to talk.

Bill Nussey:

Love it.

Tim Montague:

And that was the key to being a good social worker is, discovering what’s going on with a family, so that you could then work on what matters most to them that’s going to help them, so to speak. In business of course, your on a journey of discovery to figure out what your customer is looking for, what they need, what they want, what they can afford. Sometimes we do a lot of CNI solar here at continental, commercial industrial solar, rooftop solar, right? And business owners are not necessarily real talkative about their businesses, but that is very important when you are building a relationship with somebody to get them to talk about what’s going on for them and what’s important to them.

Bill Nussey:

Let’s talk about what it’s like day to day at continental energy solutions. You guys are doing CNI, which is one of our favorite types of solar here at the Freeing Energy Project. What are the hurdles every day? When you talk to a client or talking to your colleagues, what are the things that you go home at the end of the day and say, “Dag on it. I really wish this wasn’t happening and I wish we could get over this.” What are the common hurdles a day in the life of Tim?

Tim Montague:

The biggest hurdle is resources. While a company, generally speaking, if it’s profitable, it has resources, they have plans for those resources. They’re going to hire staff, they’re going to do R&D, they’re going to expand their facility, they may build a new facility. And rooftop solar is not the first agenda item, they may not even be thinking about it nowadays, now that we’re four years in to the real first wave of lots of solar. I mean, we got a couple of gigawatts of solar in Illinois now. Maybe two and a half gigawatts. So, most residents and business owners are starting to see it in the landscape. Of course, on commercial buildings, generally speaking, you can’t see the roof because it’s 30 feet in the air. And that’s a bummer because it doesn’t make it easy. I have to bring my laptop and show them drone photos, which is fine. And we have lots of lovely photos of our projects. You can see those at cesenergy.com.

Tim Montague:

But, competition for resources is very, very fierce. And then lack of understanding, people don’t understand how PV works. It does seem like magic, sunlight on a black piece of glass. And all of a sudden you have kWh electrons flowing into your facility and reducing your power bill. That sounds like smoke and mirrors man. And there’s all these incentives, and they don’t understand that. And is the government involved and they don’t trust the government. The government is the steward of these programs and we need that independent authority, but it’s all the rate payers in Illinois that are paying for these incentives. There’s just a small fee. It was capped at 2%, now we’ve upped the cap, I think to four and a half percent. So it’s just a few dollars every month that everybody is paying in and together, you get millions of dollars. And now that’s paying back into the economy, and creating clean jobs, and job training, and of course greening the grid. So it’s such a win-win for the economy and for the residents of Illinois.

Bill Nussey:

So, you jump on a Zoom call or maybe get out of your car and knock on the door and go visit a customer, a prospect, and somebody that’s interested, because they’ve heard about solar. What do you tell them that they should be … why should they do solar? Why should they do solar and battery? What are the main benefits that you’re pitching them on?

Tim Montague:

Generally, I lead with ROI, because these are hard-nosed business owners and executives. I don’t know necessarily, if they have a sustainability initiative or care about sustainability. If their website demonstrates that, I will talk about sustain ability of course, because that is a bonus that you get with PV. But I generally lead with ROI, right? You’re going to invest in a power plant that’s going to reduce your spend on energy. So, you put a million dollars in say, on a sizable CNI facility and then you’re going to get that money back in the first five years. So you are cash passive in five years, and then you’re going to get another about a million dollars back over the next 20 years. And so it’s just going to save you money and free up cash flow to do other things with.

Bill Nussey:

It reminds me, I once talked to a business owner that wanted to put solar on his roof and he just said … I wasn’t selling him anything, a mutual friend knew that I understood the industry and he said, “I just can’t believe it’s that easy, there’s got to be a hitch. I can’t just pay this amount of money and then my electric bill goes down, and then one day the electricity’s free after I paid it off.” I said, “No, that’s exactly how it works.” He didn’t do it. And I will never forget it. He said, “It’s just, I’m missing something. I don’t have time to learn all the stuff you’re telling me about to make sure I’m comfortable with it for my business.” So to this day he doesn’t have solar and he could have saved money. It’s amazing to me that we can still have those conversations. And the fact that we’re getting so much of it, it is because you’re out there making the case to people, person by person and doing the education. And we’re trying to do our small part of the Freeing Energy Project but I don’t think we have a lot of small CNI business owners listening in, but maybe we need to work on that and help spread the word.

Tim Montague:

You know, you don’t think about your roof unless it’s leaking generally. And so it’s just sitting there, right? It does protect your facility and keep the rain out, and the snow out, and the wind out, and that’s a good thing. But you can get this added benefit by turning it into a power plant. And that’s the beauty of solar is that, really that space is just wasted unless you put PV on it. And so now we have the technology, as Jigar Shah likes to say, “Deploy, deploy, deploy.” That’s what we need to do. We need to install a terawatt by 2035, and then three terawatts by 2050. And then we’re really seriously on the path towards stopping climate change or preventing catastrophic climate change, which is my mission. I am on a mission for the energy transition so that my grandkids have a safer, brighter future.

Bill Nussey:

One great thing about this industry is, you get up in the morning and you go to bed at night, knowing that even on the toughest of days, you’re moving the ball towards a much more important outcome, one that matters to our kids and their kids. So it’s having not been in an industry like this before, I have to advocate in anybody that building a career in this space while hard, it has rewards that are not often present in other industries.

Tim Montague:

Yeah. And that is what I just absolutely love about being in the clean energy industry Bill, it is such a feel good, even though it’s hard. Okay, I have of gripes. It’s not an easy thing to sell commercial solar or residential necessarily. I mean, residential is more like buying a car. It’s a $20,000 or a $30,000 investment. It’s like buying a car. That is a sit around the kitchen table and you can make a decision in an hour or two. For commercial, sometimes it takes five plus years for a customer to make that decision. So, it’s a long sales cycle and it takes lots of education and cultivation. But, with the incentives that we have, thanks to FEJA and now the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, which just got signed a couple weeks ago, SB2408. These incentives really sweeten the pot and they push people over the edge. And what we’re doing here in Illinois is, we’re going to shut down coal plants and replace them with solar wind and battery storage. And that’s a win-win. It’s clean infrastructure, it’s a lot of construction, it’s high wage jobs. We have prevailing wage requirements in the new legislation. So, you’re starting at $15 an hour as a solar installer with a high school education. Where else can you earn $15 an hour? Nowhere. It’s a wonderful thing.

Bill Nussey:

What can you tell us about the Illinois inside story of this? What does this legislation do? How did you come about it as a state?

Tim Montague:

Yeah. I mentioned FEJA early in the show, that was the Future Energy Jobs Act that happened in 2016 and really got rolling in 2017, and it really hit the streets in terms of real construction in 2019, 2020. 2020 was a banner year. And then this year we’ve tailed off. What happened was, we realized that the REC fund was inadequate to keep a smooth growth trajectory.

Bill Nussey:

REC fund?

Tim Montague:

I almost think it was a … Yeah, the REC fund, the Renewable Energy Credits. One REC is one megawatt hour of electricity produced by a renewable energy facility. And, we’re collecting those funds, but then we’re paying out 15 years of RECs over five years. So it pays out faster than it collects. And so it was guaranteed to go bankrupt, and it did, it was a boom and a bust. So we needed FEJA part two. And that started to be developed several years ago, at least two and a half years ago. But it took all this time until early September, I think September 13th is when the Senate, the Illinois Senate voted, made their final vote, and then just a couple days later, governor Pritzker signed the bill. It’s called the Illinois Climate and Equitable Jobs Act SB2408. Just Google that, SB2408 in Illinois and you’ll find lots of articles about it. But this puts us on a path, it’s not guaranteed okay? There’s a lot of crossing of tees and doting of eyes that has to happen. But it puts us on a path to 40% renewable energy by 2030 and 50% renewables by 2040. And then because, as I mentioned earlier, we have 40% nuclear on the grid to gather wind, solar, and nuclear are going to be 100%. We’re going to have a carbon free grid by 2050.

Bill Nussey:

Go Illinois.

Speaker 1:

As local energy gaining ground, our state legislatures and policy makers making progress toward a clean local energy future. Each quarter, our friends at the North Carolina clean energy technology center provide unbiased updates through its 50 states of solar report on state actions to study, adopt, implement, amend, or discontinue policies associated with distributed solar photovoltaics. Like the significant Illinois legislation that Tim Montague is sharing with us today. What are some of the highlights from the most recent report? According to the report, in the third quarter of 2021, 40 states plus DC, took a total of 174 actions related to distributed solar policy and rate design. From the report, state lawmakers in a number of states have been considering and passing expansive energy bills in 2021, which include changes to solar policies like, net metering, community solar, and third party ownership. The new legislation signed into law in Illinois is featured in this report. As discussions around net metering, modifications and alternatives continue across the country, some states are offering distributed generation customers, the choice of different compensation tariff options.

Speaker 1:

Of course, not every change in local energy policy is positive. As our previous guest, Bernadette Del Chiaro of the California Solar and Storage Association told Bill during our March 21 podcast, that’s podcast 53, the state of California, once a leader in local energy support is looking increasingly like it will roll back its policy, setting local energy back for years. For policy makers, the 50 states of solar quarterly updates open an invaluable window into actions being taken across the country in an easy to digest format. For innovators, entrepreneurs, and investors, keeping track of these changes through these reports can help businesses identify new market and investment opportunities, help assess market risks, and stay on top of state policy developments relative to the work at hand. We’ve included links to the 50 states of solar report and most recent executive summary in our show notes and we encourage Freeing Energy Podcast listeners to take a peek. Now, back to Bill and Tim for more.

Bill Nussey:

I’m hoping that the Illinois legislation and the process led up to it will inspire other states in other countries to follow in suit and do something that everybody benefits from. Not perfect, not complete, but definitely a major step in the right direction.

Tim Montague:

This was a clash of the Titans, right? You’ve got some major constituent groups that have real skin in the game. You had organized labor, and organized labor is wedded to fossil technologies because they’re staffing these, coal, gas, nuclear power plants. The nuclear fleet, that owner, Exelon, which owns Commonwealth Edison, which is the major IOU in Northern Illinois, they were threatening to close down two nuclear plants, literally within days if the legislature didn’t pass …

Bill Nussey:

Didn’t know that.

Tim Montague:

… this legislation. They were getting ready to shut them down. And that would’ve meant a loss of jobs. And it would’ve been a setback for the state in many ways. And so, labor came together with the environmental lobby and the coal industry, of course, which is running these power plants. Illinois is a coal state. We’re not necessarily burning Illinois in these power plants because Illinois has very sulfur-rich coal. Most of it gets shipped overseas, unfortunately. But anyway, those are three very, very powerful lobbies. And then here we are in the solar industry, we had our own legislation called the Path to 100, because we were just laser focused on. We just want to continue on that RPS journey, right? Get to 25 by 2025, and then beyond. 30% by 2040, that was an explicit goal of the Path to 100.

Tim Montague:

So the path to 100 got subsumed into this and the coal to solar bill got subsumed into it. And that was a Vistra bill. We in the industry called it an Astro turf bill because it was so focused on one specific industry, meaning a coal fleet operator. But that bill is actually wonderful news for guys like me, because now we’re going to solarize and storagize 10 coal facilities in Southern Illinois. This is in Peoria and East St. Louis. And that is just a dream come true for a guy like me. I can’t wait to get my grabbies on those projects.

Bill Nussey:

And so you’re saying those coal plants are going to be ultimately replaced with solar and wind plants. Is that your point?

Tim Montague:

Yeah. Solar and battery storage explicitly in the legislation.

Bill Nussey:

Nice, Nice.

Tim Montague:

Yap.

Bill Nussey:

One of the things I’ve learned in my toe dipping into the political systems that create this, is that grand bargains are necessary. And a lot of people who are either neutral or against nuclear would be perfectly fine that shut down planet to happen, but there’s a lot of jobs and a lot of carbon-free electricity at stake, so it sounds like the people around the tables embraced it enough for those plans to continue operating, keep the jobs. So keep the C02 out of the air, but also in doing so, got a lot of support for the solar and the transition to solar and wind. Did I understand that correctly?

Tim Montague:

Yes. You said that well and it’s so fascinating for people like me. I grew up fighting WIPP, which is a long term nuclear waste storage facility in Southern New Mexico. Which was quite controversial because, geologists were divided about the safety of that facility. The geology there is salt formations. There’s almost like natural caverns under the ground. They ended up developing that project. But I grew up with a colored picture of the nuclear industry because of the waste problem, nuclear itself. There’s nothing wrong with creating efficient reactor and getting energy out of it. But it creates radioactive waste that is radioactive, and highly so, for 10,000 years. And so you have to find a safe way to wall that off from human beings because it kills us if we come into contact with it, or if it leaks into our water. And there have been incidents, Three Mile Island is one of them, right? Chernobyl is another. Accidents happen. These plants have a tendency to blow up if things go south, and then there’s the waste problem.

Tim Montague:

But anyway, since we already had this huge fleet, we have 12 operating nuclear power plants in Illinois. We are the most nuclearized state in the country. And that’s a legacy from world war II. And the Adam Bomb program that was started at the University of Chicago and then we had Firmy lab, so we are just a very nuclear rich state. And so, once those facilities are up and running and they’re very expensive, it’s very hard, as you know, Bill, you have one in your backyard in Georgia …

Bill Nussey:

I do.

Tim Montague:

… that’s been under construction and it’s been a bit of a boondoggle. They’re very expensive and they’re hard to finance. They require the government to back them up because an insurance company won’t insure them. They’re very risky projects and that’s why they’ve completely fallen by the wave side. We are not going to be building fleets of nuclear power plants in the US anytime soon. There will be a NextGen. And I know Bill Gates is in the news for funding NextGen technology. And we use them on submarines and things like that, and that’s appropriate. And we’ll use them maybe on Mars colonies, and things like that. But right now wind solar and storage is the cheapest, most affordable, safest, cleanest energy available.

Bill Nussey:

I don’t think I could have said it any better. We have a great option. Every trend in every analysis leads to the conclusion that not only are solar wind and battery cheaper, they’re going to get much cheaper, particularly solar and batteries. And so the cost trends on the part of clean energy we focus most on, the Freeing Energy Project have tremendous tailwinds. And I think we’re going to see more and or price decline, and it’s going to change the world. Some parts of the world to do it kicking and screaming, but the change is coming. Well, Tim, this has been a ton of fun. I love your perspective, I love your optimism and I love that you are a part of the Vanguard for the United States hit there in Illinois, both on the sitting in conference rooms with customer and also just being a part of a state where it’s setting an example for the rest of us to follow.

Bill Nussey:

But, in our remaining time, as we like to do with our guests, we have what we lovingly call the lightning round, which basically we hit everyone with the same questions and we look for your quick reactions. You kind of answered the first one, but I’m love to hear it again. What excites you most about being in the clean energy business?

Tim Montague:

Yeah, it’s that triple bottom line, right? It’s good for people, good for profit, and good for planet. Not that the planet needs us to do it any good. The planet’s going to be fine. It is going to be here for a very long time. No matter what we do. It’s a question of, do we want to have the good life that we clearly have? Like, we live like princes, and we could have that for thousands of more years if we just smelled the coffee and made the transition. So let’s do it.

Bill Nussey:

Second question. If you could wave a magic wand and change just one thing about this industry, what would it be?

Tim Montague:

We need to grow up a little bit, right? We need to put our big boy pants on, and we need to buck up and put our fight on because the energy industry has many big, powerful forces. We are growing into becoming a big, powerful force in the clean energy industry. And we need to throw our weight around a little bit and stop pretending that we’re just poor little old us. We are a force to reckon with.

Bill Nussey:

I Love it. So, in the next five years, what do you think will be the largest, most important change in how we generate, store, and distribute electricity?

Tim Montague:

Well, everybody’s going to have a battery in their basement, their garage, their bunker. So, big batteries are going to be ubiquitous. And that includes batteries on wheels, buses, fleet of buses, school buses, city buses, that can be used as resilient shelter charging facilities, keep the grid flowing basically, in the case of a hurricane, for example, right? When the power grid goes down, it’s really no fun. There’s no refrigeration, there’s no lights. It’s a mess. We are so dependent on electricity now, for our modern society. So, batteries are king. And then I would just add, you don’t see it today, but carbon capture is going to be a thing. I’m a big fan of direct air capture. That’s what trees and plants do, okay? All of our wood building are made from direct air capture technology that evolution invented, and we’re going to have a man-made version of that.

Bill Nussey:

That’s a great metaphor. And the final question, and maybe the most important one, a lot of people are becoming entranced by this wonderful clean energy industry. And I’m sure like Sam and I, you get questions of about, well, “Tim, what could I do to get into this industry? How should I join forces to help make these epic changes?” What do you tell people that are interested in getting involved, what should they do first?

Tim Montague:

First and foremost, find out if you have a state organization like the Illinois Solar Energy Association, the vast majority of states now have statewide organizations. They provide great networking opportunities. They put on educational events. They of course are creating a collaborative force to stand up against the utilities. Because the utilities want status quo, they want business as usual, renewables are an alternative which are now cost effective and transforming the grid. And sometimes they don’t want to play ball. So, we need to collectively rise up through those organizations. So, go find that, participate, become a member. It’s very affordable to be an individual member. We’re talking $30, $40 and just dive in and then go to the internet and get free training. There’s so much knowledge on YouTube, there’s tons of white papers out there. You don’t need to go to college.

Tim Montague:

Once you get into the industry, go to NABCEP, that is the gold standard for energy professionals. That’s that’s the North American Board Certified Energy Professionals. Okay, I’m a NABCEP technical sales professional. We have NABCEP in certified installers. It’s the gold standard in the PV industry, so, check out NABCEP. And there’s also an organization. I did some training early in my career in and it’s called SEI, Solar Energy International and it’s based in Colorado. They’re kind of the big dogs in training nationally. But there’s also regional organizations here in the Midwest, the Midwest Solar Association, is a wonderful organization in Wisconsin and Custer. They put on an annual energy fair, and it’s a huge trade show. There’s lots of interesting talks, there’s net working, there’s a beer festival, there’s music, it’s a big party.

Bill Nussey:

Did you say beer and solar in the same sentence?

Tim Montague:

Absolutely, Yes.

Bill Nussey:

I’m so old, I’m sold. I was on the fence, now I’m on board. Hey Tim, this has been a lot of fun. I love what you’re doing. I love that you’re doing it day to day out in the trenches, I love that you’re sharing what you’re learning on your podcast. Thank you so much for coming on today to share your story with us and really learned a lot and go Illinois! So, thank you so much today.

Tim Montague:

Well, thank you Bill. I can’t wait to have you on the Clean Power Hour. So I’m looking forward to that very much.

Bill Nussey:

Same here. Thank you.

Speaker 1:

Thank you for joining us today. You have been listening to the Freeing Energy Podcast, personal stories from the clean energy movement. To learn more about the Freeing Energy Project, visit our website, freeingenergy.com. Subscribe to the Freeing Energy Podcast on Apple podcast, Spotify, Google podcast, and anywhere podcast are found. Make sure more people learn about clean local energy by rating and reviewing the show on Apple podcast.

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