Few major revisions in Illinois renewable energy plan

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Last week the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) issued its draft order of the Illinois Power Agency’s (IPA) Long Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan. The Plan contains the renewable energy programs and mechanisms to finance and regulate projects including community solar and assistance for low and moderate income households and non-profit organizations. Over thirty issues were raised by intervenors in the 180 page draft order, with the large majority either being minor adjustments or upheld by the ICC.

However, the ICC has made what may be considered to be several major changes to the Plan. Illinois municipal, rural cooperative and small investor owned utilities will not be permitted to participate in the Plan because they were not specified in enabling legislation, not included in past Renewable Portfolio Standards and did not contribute to renewable energy funds. This decision is expected to be opposed by environmental and low income advocacy groups.

In other major changes, under the Illinois Solar For All program a minimum floor of 50% of energy savings must be passed on to low and moderate income households by approved vendors, as solar developers are designated. The 25% non-mandatory portion of Adjustable Block Programs will not be divided evenly between three sections of systems (under 10 kW distributive generation (DG), 10-2,000 kW DG and community solar), but directed to be allocated based on need as the initial blocks are drawn down. There were also adjustments made in adjacent state requirements’ five public interest category scoring weights, which could impact the siting of renewable energy systems inside or outside of Illinois..

Other changes in the Plan:

  • adjustments in designating brownfields for the funds allocation for solar development in this sector
  • some easing of requirements for producing permits in the project approval process
  • allowances for direct current installations in net metering and system sizes
  • project contracts must be approved at the individual, not master, level
  • changes in the true-up payment process for community solar

There will be one more round of responses by intervenors and the ICC during March, with the final order still on track to be issued April 3rd.