Empowering Communities

Chicago Solar Leader Powers Communities with ComEd

February 1, 2024

In a groundbreaking collaboration, ComEd and Reactivate came together in December and were joined by Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker to announce the 100th  community solar project in northern Illinois, and one of the first in in a Cook County environmental justice community.

Nestled in Chicago Heights, the Verduin Community Solar initiative enables 600 families in the area to contribute to a cleaner energy future and reduce their electric bill without having to install solar panels on their property. In Illinois, community solar customers can subscribe for up to 200% of their last 12 months of electricity usage. Energy generated by the community solar project flows to ComEd’s grid and becomes part of the overall energy supply.

Reactivate is a renewable energy company that collaborates with local partners, such as ComEd, to deliver renewable energy benefits to environmental justice communities. At the forefront of Reactivate’s transformative efforts is CEO Utopia Hill (pictured below).

Solar Energy Shines Bright in the Heart of Illinois

Utopia grew up in the Chicagoland area and was always an inquisitive child. “I was the kid taking apart the electronics at home — the toaster, the VCR — to try and figure out how to make it work better,” said Utopia. “It was not always with success.” Her interests led her to pursue a career in STEM.

She enrolled at the University of Illinois UC and graduated with a degree in Aerospace Engineering and completed Executive Education at Harvard Business School. “Having grown up in a low-to-moderate income household (LMI)—and many of my relatives were or still live in LMI households—I understand how meaningful savings on energy expenses can be for the many hardworking families that are the backbone of our country.”

“Throughout my 20-plus years working in the power sector, I have continuously tried to find ways to make the benefits of renewable energy available to  everyone,” says Utopia. “That is one of many reasons I am ecstatic that my technical expertise, business acumen, and personal commitment to making the world a better place have aligned in my role as CEO of Reactivate,” she adds.

With expanding equitable access to renewable energy top of mind for ComEd, President and CEO Gil Quiniones, highlights the critical importance of partnerships in scaling the infrastructure needed to serve more families from LMI households in reducing energy costs. He notes, “We are proud to collaborate with Reactivate and support their leading efforts to help more customers reduce their carbon footprint. These projects will enable ComEd customers to save money on their electric bills while supporting the expansion of renewable energy and Illinois’ ambitious clean energy goals.”

Added Utopia, “Our projects implement many of the goals of Illinois’ Climate and Equitable jobs Act, and we applaud the priority it places on creating an equitable clean energy future in Illinois. Working with ComEd has been such a pleasure, as we both share similar goals and values, ensuring all our customers have the resources they need to make the jump to the clean and renewable energy.”

Working for the Future

“We have been able to implement workforce training, which has resulted in careers with prevailing wages and benefits for individuals from environmental justice communities,” said Utopia. “We have over $2 million in spend with certified minority and women-owned businesses for this project.”

Utopia further explains that the families subscribing to Verduin Solar will see 50% bill savings for energy supply. “Our project will provide tax revenue to the city of Chicago Heights over the next 30 years—these are real tangible, measurable results that show that the work we do can reactivate communities that have seen historical disinvestment.”

Beyond the 100th project, Reactivate has five additional community solar projects under construction in northern Illinois, collectively generating approximately 10.5 megawatts of clean energy and serving around 3,000 homes, the majority being LMI households in Chicago Heights, Ford Heights, Monee, Granite City and Rockford.

For more information on community solar options and potential savings, ComEd customers can visit ComEd.com/Solar.  Those interested in subscribing to Reactivate’s projects can explore: https://solstice.us/ILsun.