Report: Illinois leads on clean energy but could make it better

Solar electricity has had a good year in Illinois. Whether it’s been community solar, brownfield redevelopment and allowing property-assessed clean energy (PACE) financing plans, the news has been largely positive out of the state.

In addition, a report released last week by the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) says a clean energy infrastructure is being built in the state that rivals Midwest leaders like Minnesota. More than 290 businesses make up the solar supply chain alone, employing approximately 5,000 people.

When you add the 1,000 jobs in the more than 75 energy storage companies in the state, it’s clear the state is on the cutting edge of clean-energy infrastructure that it hopes will drive the economy now and into the future.

And what a future it appears to be. The ELPC reports that the Future Energy Jobs Act passed in December is expected to send Illinois installed-solar numbers skyrocketing from 74 MW currently to more than 3 GW by 2030.

Despite all the progress the state has made, ELPC identified additional steps the state government and Illinois Power Agency could take to expand solar and energy storage growth even further:

  • Prioritize building solar energy projects by developing a long-term plan that directs funding to long-term new build contracts, not short-term Renewable Energy Credit purchases from existing projects.
  • Encourage and enable community-driven solar energy projects in addition to large commercial solar projects by adopting program standards that set a minimum threshold for residential and small customer participation on either a project or program-wide basis.
  • Adopt standardized community solar tariffs that maximize the value of community solar energy by including transmission services in the bill credits for project subscribers.
  • Ensure balanced wind power and solar energy development across the state by adopting program standards that take account of differing costs, labor and other geographic factors. • Eliminate speculative bidding in wind power and solar energy procurements by adopting contract provisions and bidding requirements that will ensure that bids result in real project development.
  • Protect the Renewable Energy Resources Fund from legislative sweeps to ensure clean energy access and equity among lower-income residents through Illinois Solar For All.
  • Meet and, hopefully, exceed the statutory two percent (400 MW) RPS targets for Brownfields to Solar Brightfields projects.
  • Initiate a statewide study to assess and quantify the benefits and costs of energy storage.
  • Ensure that interconnection standards for clean distributed energy resources consider and accommodate the unique operating attributes and benefits of energy storage.
  • Establish incentives, market learning targets and/ or procurement standards to accelerate energy storage deployment.
  • Implement clean distributed energy resources incentives to promote solar energy and storage together to enable higher penetration of solar energy and reduction of peak demand.

The report also highlights the strength of wind in the state as well, reporting that it has installed 4 GW of wind power and ranks sixth in the nation in wind resources.

To see the full report, visit the ELPC website.