On April 3rd, the Illinois Commerce Commission approved the Future Energy Jobs Act’s long-term renewable resources procurement plan, which sets out how the State will meet its goals for increasing solar capacity to meet the statewide target of 25% clean energy by 2025. The plan will spark a massive growth in renewable energy development in Illinois, building enough new wind and solar energy to power nearly 1 million homes by 2021, launching a first-of-its-kind Solar for All program to benefit economically disadvantaged and environmental justice communities, opening up community solar to those who cannot install solar on their homes, and bringing new jobs and economic development to all corners of the state.
Responding to the concerns of Sierra Club Illinois, solar advocates, and other members of the Clean Jobs Coalition, the Commission changed one critical point of a proposed order from an administrative law judge to ensure that community solar, on-site, and low-income solar projects located in municipal electric utility and rural electric cooperative territories are eligible for Renewable Energy Credit incentives under FEJA. If the proposed order had been implemented unchanged, many rural and lower-income residents in these areas would have been excluded from the benefits of solar, including cleaner air, lower utility bills, and job opportunities.
The final order also eliminated proposed short-term spot procurements for RECs from existing, possibly out-of-state projects that could have depleted the renewable energy fund meant to jumpstart the development of new, homegrown solar and wind projects in Illinois. The order also made more stringent the requirements that out-of-state projects have to meet for long-term REC contracts under FEJA.
In addition, the final order made clear that higher REC incentives should be made available to community solar projects, including for low-income community solar projects, with smaller residential subscribers. This will help ensure that community solar benefits will be made more accessible to a broader range of Illinois residents, rather than large institutional subscribers like businesses or corporate customers.
Given that the very purpose and intent of FEJA is to ensure the fair, equitable, and geographically dispersed access to the benefits of clean energy across all communities in Illinois, Sierra Club Illinois appreciates that the Illinois Commerce Commission further strengthened the renewable resources procurement plan by allowing rural and economically-distressed areas to have equal access to the benefits of solar.