Amended Illinois renewable energy plan headed to regulators

The Illinois Power Agency (IPA) posted and filed its revised “Long‐Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan” earlier this week, a 185-page report containing the various solar and other renewable energy programs enacted under the Future Energy Jobs Act. This report represents a revision from the September version, in response to 49 submissions made by interested parties during the 45 day comment period.

There is another comment period that will run until December 18, 2017, but the plan is in the hands of Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), which has 120 days until April 3, 2018, when it will issue an order of approval, with or without modifications.

The revised Plan had a number of clarifications and modifications:

  • The IPA determined it and the ICC has the authority to propose and approve non-competitive procurement of projects. This was in response to the shift by the IPA to award renewable energy credits (RECs) on an ongoing basis to PV projects based on rates that the agency will post and adjust as conditions dictate, as opposed to the lowest bid and at set events.

 

  • The IPA required do-it-yourself installations to have the same technical qualification requirements as contracted installers in order to qualify for RECs.

 

  • The phase out of bundled REC and energy prices for PV and other renewable energy products was clarified.

 

  • Amid concerns of sufficient compensation under the draft REC schedule, the IPA increased offered REC prices by size, location and customer segment. Also divided the 10-100 kW category into 10-25 kW and 25-100 kW categories to provide a higher level of REC compensation for the smaller category. The agency indicated they will make ongoing adjustments in response to market conditions.

 

  • The agency acknowledged the unique challenges of low-income solar projects but, instead of mandating minimum project or participation goals, provided REC payments among other incentives like certain fee waivers to encourage participation. There was similar concern that community solar (technically called “Community Renewable Generation Projects”) would tend to be built with as few as the minimum three subscribers, skirting the intent of the 40% participation limit by any one subscriber. This move by developers to minimize cost and effort would come at the expense of a broader participation by small subscribers, whether low-income or not. The IPA instead of mandating a minimum participation, offered additional REC incentives for “small subscribers”, described as using the equivalent of 10-25 kW of capacity or less on a community solar project, starting at minimum ranges of 25% to 75% of subscribers.

 

  • The IPA also acknowledged that while community solar tariffs were approved by the ICC on September 27, 2017 for the three major utilities (ComEd, Ameren Illinois and MidAmerican), there are still ongoing discussions between the the utilities and stakeholders on the tariffs, particularly bill crediting, and that further REC price adjustments may be necessary.

 

  • There was clarification that RFI and RFQ solicitations will go out for Program Administrators during the review process, but no contracts can be approved, except by the ICC on or after April 3, 2018. Assuming a start up period of some months, many segments of finalizing PV projects with customers or subscribers may not take place until well into 2018.

 

  • Projects located in bordering states (Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky and Indiana) will be subject to increased qualification standards, including the need to achieve a minimum score for participation.

 

  • The agency clarified that “Approved Vendors (AV)” will be the contractual party with the IPA and/or Program Administrators for projects, and that distinctions between project developers, installers and community groups will not be formally acknowledged. Furthermore, the IPA proposes to incorporate many of the ICC regulations used for alternative retail electricity suppliers (ARES) for AVs, particularly in issuing documents and consumer protection.

 

  • The IPA also acknowledged the ongoing and potential impacts of Federal tax and import tariff issues, and that if required, the agency is prepared to work with the ICC during the winter approval period to make necessary adjustments and changes in the plan.

 

The ICC will determine by December 25 whether to hold hearings, and will accept legal briefs until April 3, 2018. It is expected that there will be at least informal hearings on the plan.