Breakthrough Illinois Future Energy Jobs Act aims for new jobs and “solar for all”

April 17, 2018

The Illinois Future Energy Jobs Act sets a new renewable portfolio standard.The Midwest has a clear leader for renewable energy policy, with the passage of the Illinois Future Energy Jobs Act. This legislation sets a higher renewable portfolio standard (RPS) for increasing the development of renewable energy sources. To stimulate the state’s clean energy economy, the act aims to create both job training programs and new employment opportunities throughout Illinois.

One of the primary objectives of the Illinois energy act is to accelerate the use of solar power—while designating hundreds of millions of dollars to bring the benefits of solar to low-income communities. 

An article from Midwestern Energy News describes how the Future Energy Jobs Act proposes the installation of 2,700 MW (megawatts) of solar power by 2030, including:

  • Approximately 40% for utility-scale projects over 2 MW
  • Approximately 50% for distributed and community solar
  • Approximately 10% for brownfield projects and projects at state officials’ discretion

From the article:

The 1,300 MW of new distributed solar will be the big challenge. That includes small projects under 10 kW [kilowatts] and large projects between 10 kW and 2 MW. Under the new law, distributed solar and community solar will be incentivized through SRECs, or Solar Renewable Energy Credits, with the price set through an adjustable block program similar to ones in New York and California.

“The key will be finding a price that will drive installations while not being so high it causes a boom-bust cycle,” said Lisa Albrecht, vice president of the Illinois Solar Energy Association and a sales specialist at Solar Service. “They can adjust prices rapidly depending how the market responds.”

Biggest benefits intended for early adopters

One of the goals of the Illinois energy act is for solar renewable energy credit (SREC) prices to decrease along with the cost of solar hardware and installation.

From the article:

“Early adopters should get the better SREC price, and over time that declines,” said Lesley McCain, executive director of the Illinois Solar Energy Association. “As the equipment as well as soft costs continue to decline, you don’t need as big an incentive. That has proven out well in other markets, so we expect to see that same trajectory here in Illinois.”

The law also includes a “Solar for All” program to bring the benefits of solar to low-income and environmental justice communities (those that have been negatively impacted by fossil fuel pollution) in both rural towns and urban communities. Another key aspect of the legislation is the creation of solar job training programs for residents of those communities.

From the article:

The new law says that solar projects falling under the low-income or environmental justice category should include a job training component if possible, meaning a developer collecting the higher-value SRECs or other incentives for installing solar in such communities should train and/or hire people from the targeted backgrounds.

Illinois Future Energy Jobs Act for solar at a glance

  • Sets a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) to increase the production of energy from renewable sources
  • Mandates 3 GW of energy deployment by 2030, focusing on large-scale solar power and rooftop and community solar
  • Provides a guaranteed set incentive for 15 years through an adjustable block program
  • Accelerates incentive payments within the first four years of the contract
  • Plans to finalize REC prices by June 2, 2018—with higher-value incentives for early adopters

Related links:

10 questions to shed light on Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs)

Learn all about the Massachusetts SMART solar incentive program

Solar incentives, policies and advocacy: 5 info-packed sites to save and share

State-by-state: A definitive list of solar policy resources

Rural Energy for America Program helps farms and small businesses go solar

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