Illinois Future Energy Jobs Bill
By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President,
Illinois Renewable Energy Association
The 2017 Solar Report Card ranked Illinois as 18th in the nation in terms state policies supporting solar energy. The factors considered include its renewable portfolio standard, solar carve out, cost of electricity, net metering and interconnection. A solar system is seen as providing a return on investment of an impressive 7.4 percent given the current investment climate.
Rhea Suh points out in an article on the NRDC website that while Midwest voters helped secure the presidency for Trump and his pro-fossil fuel supporters, the states of Michigan, Ohio and Illinois were recognized for the steps they took to protect and improve standards supporting energy efficiency and renewable energy.
The potential of channeling over $200 million a year into renewable energy and efficiency programs will help Illinois reach its goal of 25 percent energy from renewable sources by 2025.
The legislation goes into effect in June, 2017, but “trailer legislation” expected to be introduced this January will be directed at ironing out some of the remaining complexities and issues. Details will be resolved in hearings before the Illinois Commerce Commission and with stakeholders involved in creating the Bill. In a lengthy article, Kari Lydersen provides a perspective on how various interests view outcomes of the legislation. Support for the Bill was again recognized as a bipartisan effort. A major goal was fixing a flaw in the existing Renewable Portfolio Standard. Rather than supporting the installation of renewable energy systems in Illinois, utilities purchased renewable energy credits from out of state systems to meet the standard of 25 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2025. Fixing the standard is expected to result in the installation of 1300 MW new wind power and 3000 MW new solar in Illinois by 2030.
The figures give credence to the view that solar energy was a big winner in the new legislation. Solar interests were also successful in defeating utility efforts to end net metering and to basing electrical bills on customers’ highest demand spikes instead of the current system of billing customers for the number of kilowatts consumed. If those two provisions were not defeated, solar advocates feared they would have undermined the economic basis of the solar industry in the state.
With the subsidy granted to keep the economically threatened Quad Cities and Cordova plants in operation, Exelon is the biggest winner in the legislation. Dave Lundy of the Best Coalition, an organization of business and consumer groups opposed to the legislation, believes the subsidy will adversely impact the economics of operating the wind and solar installations.
Brad Klein of the Environmental Law and Policy Center points out the importance of a maintaining a strong coalition to engage with the Illinois Commerce Commission and the Illinois Power Authority to achieve the long term goals of the legislation.
The successful passage of the Future Energy Jobs Bill is only the first step in a cleaner energy future for Illinois. It requires ongoing citizen support to ensure its successful implementation.