The Illinois Commerce Commission’s (ICC or Commission) recently approved the Illinois Power Agency’s (IPA) Long-term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan that will usher in new wind and solar projects that will be a boon to Illinois’ economy and job market, which for years has struggled to see significant clean energy development.
The changes ordered by the ICC requires 8 million new renewable energy credits to be procured by 2019, spurring even more new wind and solar projects in the state than the initial plan proposed. Currently, Illinois has very little wind and solar (about 9% of Illinois overall energy capacity).
On April 3, the ICC made three improvements in its final order. These improvements are detailed below.
Solar Access for All of Illinois
First, it allows people and businesses in municipalities and cooperatives to enjoy the full benefits of the renewables. The Proposed Order excluded people getting electricity service from municipalities and cooperatives from participating in community and rooftop programs, as well as the Solar For All Program, a program that encourages solar development and hiring for solar jobs in low income communities. The law was meant to benefit everyone, and the Commission correctly determined that any Illinois citizen should be able to participate in solar programs.
Keeping Renewables Local
Second, the Commission upheld the IPA’s formula and required threshold for determining whether a project meets the public interest criteria, for example, reducing air pollution impacting Illinois. The ICC rejected the weakening of this threshold, meaning that projects must demonstrate with further certainty that they are meeting the public interest requirements for Illinoisans. This will result in more projects built locally, providing health benefits to the citizens of Illinois.
Building More Renewables in Illinois
Third, the ICC effectively increased the amount of wind and solar projects that will be built by canceling procurements for a series of short-term contracts and expanding amount of required longer-term contracts. Longer contracts for renewable energy credits encourage new build instead of giving more money to older systems. For many years, Illinois’ Renewable Portfolio Standard failed to encourage new wind and solar projects in Illinois. In this order, the ICC recognizes that the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) focuses on building of new, local wind and solar projects. By investing in new projects now, Illinois will be better equipped to meet the long-term goals of FEJA and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.
This final order is a gigantic step into the clean energy future promised to Illinois with the passage of FEJA. We at NRDC cannot wait.