ISEA Policy Blog

Welcome to the ISEA Policy Blog. Catch up on the latest issues related to the adoption of solar and small wind energy in Illinois. We welcome your feedback and referral of newsworthy developments. 

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  • 12 Feb 2016 2:56 PM | Taylor Gendel (Administrator)

    2016 is off and running!  Here’s a quick update on a few policy topics:


    DCEO State Rebate

    As you likely saw, we are very proud to announce that the Rebate/Grant program, originally set to expire in December 2015 has been extended to December 2020.  It is vital to note, however, that like all state programs, it is currently unfunded and therefore the program for the current fiscal year has not been released.  Without a budget we are uncertain when the DCEO will publish rules or begin accepting applications.  In fact, we do not know if there will be a program this year or not and recommend that individuals interested in purchasing solar this year do not count on receiving funding.  For more information, please go to the DCEO web page. http://www.illinois.gov/dceo/whyillinois/KeyIndustries/Energy/Pages/01-RERP.aspx


    Illinois Power Agency SREC Payments

    While on the subject of the State Budget, some system owners who were awarded RECs in the 2015 procurement auctions have expressed concern about the delay in their initial payments.

    The absence of a 2016 Illinois state approved  budget  has delayed payment of any of the states  bills including payments for the RECs purchased in the procurement auctions. The funds allocated for the procurements is in a secured fund and protected from budget sweeps.  All REC owners will receive all of their SREC payments, once the budget issues in Springfield are resolved.

    We suggest that you ensure your aggregator is still tracking your performance so that once the stalemate is resolved they will be able to bill immediately without issue. 


    The following was released to all successful bidders by the IPA:

    “This notification is to inform you that because a State of Illinois budget for Fiscal Year 2016 (“FY 16”) has not yet been adopted, the Illinois Power Agency (“IPA”) is experiencing a delay in the processing and payment of invoices. Further, the IPA’s processing and payment of invoices will continue to be indefinitely delayed until a FY 16 State of Illinois budget is officially adopted, or an appropriation for the Agency is otherwise approved into law. 


    BACKGROUND


    The Illinois Constitution contains the following provision: “The General Assembly by law shall make appropriations for all expenditures of public funds by the State.” [Illinois Constitution, Article VIII, Section 2]

    Expenditures made by the IPA are processed by the State of Illinois Office of the Comptroller. Under this provision, the Office of the Comptroller cannot process

    expenditures in the absence of an appropriation – including, at this time, expenditures by the IPA and other state agencies lacking a FY 16 appropriation.2

     

    Please note that both the budget prepared by the Governor and the budget passed by the General Assembly (and subsequently vetoed), contained appropriations for the IPA. Further, because all IPA operations are funded by Special Funds (and not the State’s General Revenue Fund, which has been the primary focus of the lack of agreement on the State budget), the IPA expects that when a budget is finally adopted, it will include the appropriations required by the IPA to meet its contractual/financial obligations.

     

    Although the State of Illinois cannot currently process and pay FY 16 invoices submitted to the IPA, vendors should continue submitting invoices to the Agency. The IPA will continue to take receipt of invoices and will promptly submit invoices to the Office of the Comptroller for processing and payment once a budget is approved.”


    Supplemental Procurement - Round 3 Timeline


    The IPA has posted the following schedule for the next auction.  Please note that aggregators may close Part 1 earlier than this date.

    This procurement will have two categories:  Speculative/Identified Systems <25kW and Identified Systems >25kW.  There is a goal that 50% RECs be procured from the <25kW category.  The total budget for this round is $15M.  

    2016 DG Regular Procurement - Timeline


    The IPA has also posted the following schedule for the next auction.  Please note that aggregators may close Part 1 earlier than this date.
    This procurement will have two categories:  Identified Systems <25kW and Identified Systems >25kW.  Speculative systems are not permissible in this event.  There is a goal that 50% RECs be procured from the <25kW category.  Bidders must total at least 1MW. Smaller system owners must work with an aggregator.  Carbon Solutions Group will be bidding on this project and interested parties should fill out this form on their website or contact them directly @ contact@carbonsolutionsgroup.com for assistance. 




    Clean Jobs Bill


    The coalition continues to work hard on negotiations on the Clean Jobs Bill. The legislation carried over from the 2015 sessions and we are excited to now have tremendous support in both chambers with unprecedented co-sponsorship.  This bipartisan bill will advance Illinois quickly into the renewable energy and energy efficiency markets bringing tremendous investment and jobs to our region.  Please watch for more information and action items

          House Bill 2607 (Sponsor - Rep. Elaine Nekritz, Co-Sponsors 62)

          Senate Bill 1485 (Sponsor - Sen. Don Harmon, Co-Sponsors 29)


  • 18 Dec 2015 4:06 PM | Taylor Gendel (Administrator)

    It’s a Bright Day for Solar!


    Both the Federal ITC & the Illinois Solar & Wind Rebate Programs have been extended!


     Solar ITC Bill Passes!

     

    The passage of the ITC extension ensures a strong and vibrant future for solar!

    Congress has passed a spending package that includes multi-year extensions of solar and wind tax credits, plus one-year extensions for a range of other renewable energy technologies.

     

    Under the legislation, the 30 percent Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar will be extended for another three years. It will then ramp down incrementally through 2021, and remain at 10 percent permanently beginning in 2022. President Obama is expected to pass the bill into law by the end of the day.

     

    This ITC extension provides stability for longer term plans and allows the industry to ramp up solar in a sustainable way.

     

    Illinois State Rebate & Grant Program Extended to 2020!


    ISEA is pleased and excited to announce that our efforts to get the Illinois DCEO Solar and Wind Rebate & Grant Program extended are a success!

     

    Last spring ISEA worked with the Illinois Environmental Council to introduce a bill to extend the state rebate and grant program that was due to expire at the end of 2016.

    The organization also hired Lobbyist John Kamis to assist in this effort.

    The bill has passed both the  Illinois House and Senate and Governor Rauner signed the bill on December 3rd.

    ISEA will now work with DCEO to help develop the structure of the program.


    Support ISEA with your tax deductible membership or donation!

    Your financial support of ISEA is critical to the continuation of our work to ensure a strong, vibrant solar market in Illinois!

    Membership dues and donations to ISEA are tax deductible.

  • 03 Dec 2015 5:07 PM | Taylor Gendel (Administrator)
    149 businesses call on Governor Bruce Rauner to bring more innovation and investment to Illinois, and create thousands of new jobs, by joining Governors of both parties supporting the EPA's Clean Power Plan and by backing the bipartisan Illinois Clean Jobs Bill.


  • 10 Sep 2015 2:22 PM | Taylor Gendel (Administrator)

    ISEA Board Member Lisa Albrecht was a guest on The Mighty House Radio Show! 


    This show is put on by ISEA business member Ron Cowgill of WinSol Power Company.


    Take a listen as she explains Solar PV and answers some frequently asked questions.



  • 04 Jun 2015 11:08 AM | Taylor Gendel (Administrator)

    By Lisa Albrecht


    Lots to report on policy in Illinois as ISEA undertook the busiest legislative session in our history. As we continue to grow our advocacy efforts, a key 2015 highlight was hiring John Kamis of Carpenter Lipps & Leland to lobby on behalf of strong solar policy in Illinois. With many issues in play this year, it is critical to our success that we have a voice and constant presence in Springfield, ensuring renewable energy is at the table during energy conversations.  John has been vital to getting the attention of leadership in both the House and Senate and secured strategic meetings in both chambers as well as the Governor’s office. As you can see below, solar policy is a dynamic force and we are excited to be driving change forward! The solar industry's financial support is imperative for our collective success. More information about ISEA’s advocacy work and sponsorship information will be in our next newsletter.


    Clean Jobs Bill (SB1485/HB2607):  Energy remains a key topic for Illinois law makers with 3 important energy bills up for debate – the Clean Jobs Bill, Exelon’s nuclear bailout bill and ComEd’s bill for restructuring rate plans. [see http://www.illinoissolar.org/Press for related news reports] Unfortunately, despite significant efforts from the Clean Jobs Coalition, the bill did not come to vote during the regular session as legislators focused heavily on budget issues for both Fiscal Year 2015 and 2016.  Law makers will continue to work through the summer on a combined “super bill” that is likely to contain aspects of all proposed energy legislation.  ISEA hosted over 30 events this spring in support of the Clean Jobs Bill including Solar Lobby Day with nearly 50 attendees and several Legislative Solar Socials, solar events in district that allow representatives to discuss clean energy legislation with constituents.  We will continue these efforts over the summer so please watch your emails for invitations to host or participate! Momentum is in favor of the Clean Jobs Bill as most officials agree the RPS is broken and clean energy must be a priority for the future of Illinois.  Proof is in the pudding as our bill has 58 co-sponsors in the House and 26 in the Senate, nearly enough bi-partisan support to pass both chambers!  It is CRITICAL that we keep up the pressure, reminding elected officials this is important legislation to all constituents.  Contact Lesley McCain if your organization would like to join the coalition and please sign a letter of support to be sent to your senator/representative as well as Governor Rauner’s office. 


    Rebates/Grants:  Rebate recipients and installers had a roller coaster ride as funding was frozen for over two months while the governor’s office reviewed all state spending.  Ultimately the promised funding was awarded but not before many cancelled their commitments to install, a devastating blow to installers.  Those who proceeded with their installations were held to the original deadlines creating a stressful spring as no extensions were allowed.  Additionally, all grant awards still remain under review and ISEA continues to work with DCEO to pressure the governor’s office to make fair decisions soon.   We are hopefully that the “business minded” governor will recognize this burden and honor the states commitments, allowing projects to proceed as planned.  DCEO has not been given a timeline for resolution. 


    Meanwhile, ISEA has been working to extend the rebate/grant program (SB0051) scheduled to sunset in December 2015 to 2020.  A few procedural events caused delay but it is our understanding this issue will also be addressed in summer budget negotiations.  Currently Governor Rauner’s proposed budget does not allocate any funds toward the DCEO rebates/grants and we have advised the industry, for the moment, to assume the program may be finished already.  We will continue to fight the good fight but realistically are not certain a win is likely with the larger financial issues.  We will continue to emphasize these are rate payer funds and not tax payer dollars but to date that has not been a winning argument.  More to come! 


    Supplemental Procurement:  It’s finally here – the Illinois Power Agency (IPA) will host the 1st DG procurement of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) on June 18th.  Funding will primarily be aimed at new projects installed after January 21, 2015.  The IPA will run a reverse auction, allocating 50% of the procurement to systems <25kW and 50% for systems > 25kW.  Pricing will be market driven as bidders are able to request pricing needed to ensure the development of a project.  Once bidding is closed on June 18th, the procurement administrator will eliminate any bid that is above a “confidential benchmark” or price cap.  Awards will be granted to eligible bidders until the state reaches their $5M budget.  Interested parties can still participate by contacting aggregators.  Please reference previous blogs for additional information on how to participate. 


    Regular Procurement:  Rules have not yet been established for the regular procurement of RECs for systems installed prior to January 21, 2015.  We anticipate that the primary procedures and requirements will be similar to the Supplemental Procurement.  System owners will work through aggregators who will represent their interest in a similar reverse auction that will be held in September 2015. We recommend contacting the 3 aggregators on the ISEA procurement page now to indicate your interest in participating.  Pricing for RECs will also be managed through a reverse auction and only new RECs will be eligible to be sold meaning you cannot back date your REC generation beyond September 2015.  Payments will be made over 5 years in quarterly payments based on performance data. 


    Next Steps:  The Policy Committee will continue pushing these action items forward but need your support both physically and financially.  The states with the strongest and fastest growing solar markets are states with strong, predictable policy.  It is our responsibility and opportunity to help shape that future in Illinois but we cannot do it alone.  The big energy corporations all have multiple lobbyists serving their interests daily but we have something more powerful – you.  Poll after poll shows that Americans and Illinoisans overwhelming support clean energy. Study after study proves that solar is good for the economy, environment and job creation. But we need to be active and loud if we are to be sure our voices are heard.  Please consider a donation to help continue our efforts in Springfield and vote with your time and participation in upcoming events.  If you are not yet an individual or corporate member, please join.  Together we can carve-out a clean future for Illinois while driving economic growth in the fastest growing job market in the country – renewable energy! 


  • 12 May 2015 1:33 PM | Taylor Gendel (Administrator)

    by Taylor Gendel


    Wednesday, May 6th 2015 was ISEA’s Solar Lobby Day in Springfield and my first time attending. The capitol was buzzing with energy as we embarked on our journey to promote the Illinois Clean Jobs bill.

     

    Everyone who attended ISEA’s Lobby Day was split into groups  according to their legislative districts and tasked with tracking down and attempting to speak to a list of Representatives and Senators. I personally spent this time hand delivering letters of support for the Clean Jobs Bill, signed by ISEA event attendees, to legislator’s offices.


    The capitol schedule is unpredictable and ever changing, so everyone spent a lot of time regrouping and running around when meetings ran late or plans were changed. Someone in the group had a pedometer and said his group walked 6 miles throughout the day.


    StraightUp Solar was one of the groups that attended Lobby Day. Shannon Fulton and Emma Gilmore provided their reflection of the day:


    “StraightUp Solar enjoyed taking part in this important event and looks forward to growing our business with the certainty the Clean Jobs Bill will bring to Illinois's renewable energy marketplace and labor force.  Our lobby day team, which also included another solar industry member and Illinois State University Renewable Energy student, had very engaging discussions with several legislators, including Rep. Thomas Bennett (R), Rep. Keith Sommer (R) Sen. Don Harmon (D), and Rep. Jay Hoffman (D), who agreed to also co-sponsor the bill.”


    Like theirs, most groups had some success speaking to a portion of their assigned legislators about the Clean Jobs Bill. There were a lot of other very large groups lobbying but it was clear to me that our group was well informed and passionate, even though outnumbered.


    Progress is slow in politics and this day proved no exception as we ran all around the capitol with delayed meetings. However, it was good to feel like our presence was appreciated and our legislators were interested in the importance of a clean energy economy for Illinois.  You can learn more about the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill and show your support even if you couldn't make it to Springfield. Click here to find out more.


  • 30 Apr 2015 10:51 AM | Taylor Gendel (Administrator)

    The ISEA Policy webinar from Wednesday, April 29th, 2015 discussed updates and the basics of the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill, and how you can get involved next week at Solar Lobby Day!


  • 13 Mar 2015 12:11 PM | Taylor Gendel (Administrator)

    Here are the powerpoint slides from last night's webinar on the Illinois Clean Jobs bill. View the video below. 





     

    Q: There is a 2% limit on rate increases. Are you sure this is not a problem? The rate increase is in reference to the total procurement, so we do not anticipate it being an issue.


    Q: I am a homeowner. Your invitation stated you may have some new information concerning Gov. Rauner's budget. That's what I'm particularly interested in. The proposed budget for 2015/2016, at this time has eliminated rebates and grants. ISEA’s position is that we will continue to advocate for the continuation of this program. There is also a legislative bill that has proposed an extension to this program through 2020 which we support and will continue to track.


    Q: Can you provide an REC typical value for an average sized home with this proposed declining block program? I have a hard time explaining the value of RECs. Since Illinois has not had a REC price in the past, it’s difficult to estimate what the initial market value may be. The supplemental procurement will go a long way in establishing Illinois REC market prices. In the meantime, the Illinois Power Agency (IPA) will continue to research other markets to make the best decisions for the Illinois market. The goal, of course, is to install solar, and the purpose of the REC is to incentivize solar purchases and ensure pricing makes economic sense. As a reminder, there’s still a bit of the process left before we see what price RECs will have in Illinois. Once the legislation has been passed, and the REC price is published, we’ll update as needed.


    Q: What recs are available for people who installed solar systems in 2014? If the system was energized prior to January 21, 2015, you qualify for the regular procurement event in September 2015.


    Q: Does Exelon nuclear energy qualify as renewable energy with the 35% by 2030? It does not. Renewable energy is defined within the statute and includes wind, solar, and biofuels. More information can be found at http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=&SessionId=88&GA=99&DocTypeId=HB&DocNum=2607&GAID=13&LegID=88134&SpecSess=&Session=

    It is important to note that the Clean Jobs Bill, not to be confused with other energy bills, is the only bill that focuses on renewable energy while producing 32000 jobs per year.


    Q: Will clean energy that has already been produced from existing systems be considered for auction? No. The RECs will only be from the contract date of the accepted bid moving forward.


    Q: If I plan to install more solar panels in 2015, are IL rebates still available, or is it dependent on Governor Rauner's budget proposal? The program for the 2014/2015 fiscal year is closed. So any future rebate availability will depend on the budget proposal. However, consider the procurement events of 2015/2016 as potential funding sources.  This scenario strongly highlights why we need to pass the Clean Jobs Bill (HB2607/SB1485) as it will provide a way to raise the status of renewable energy to equal that of all other forms of energy. Thus, any perceived dependence on rebates and grants will be removed.


    Q: Evidently the 2014/20­15 rebates were frozen. Is that still the case? At this time, rebate decision letters have gone out, clarifying which will be paid and informing the owners that no further extensions will be granted.


    Q: When will the specific process of solar customers contracting to be paid for future SRECs in place of the Illinois DCEO Rebate program be rolled out?­ The first supplemental procurement will be June 18, 2015. Aggregators are already available. We have a list of preferred companies here http://www.illinoissolar.org/SRECTrade-FAQ


    Q: Once the REC schedule is defined, can you post some investment payback time scenarios on the ISEA blog, including the declining block ­ to let people know what is a realistic investment outlook?

    We will try, however, we don’t anticipate seeing any information on this until early to mid 2016.


  • 26 Feb 2015 11:47 AM | Taylor Gendel (Administrator)

    The Illinois Solar Energy Association’s webinar, held on 2/25/15, outlined the IPA’s Regular and Supplemental  Procurements processes for Renewable Energy Credits from distributed solar energy systems in Illinois. The presentation is available both as a PDF as well as a recorded version (below).



  • 24 Feb 2015 10:55 PM | Lesley McCain (Administrator)

    It was a busy week in Springfield last week with the introduction of a new Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) bill and the news of Governor Rauner’s proposed 2015-2016 budget.  


    The Clean Jobs Bill was unveiled Thursday (2/19/2015) with strong bi-partisan support in the House and Senate.  A growing coalition of business and special interest groups have joined forces to craft a unique and comprehensive clean energy bill to shape a better energy future. The goals are big, bold and urgent – increase statewide energy efficiency to 20% by 2025, ensure 35% of all power in Illinois comes from renewable sources by 2030 and set up a suggested framework for discussion to meet the new federal EPA carbon standards.  If passed, this could generate over 32,000 new jobs per year and attract more than $21B of investment in Illinois.  No other industry segment has that kind of potential in today’s economy! What is in store for solar energy specifically?

    •  Replace the current RPS procurement plan with a new, independent procurement process that is not tied to the traditional annual IPA power procurement process.  Note that the existing Regular Procurement (April/Sept 2015) and Supplemental Procurement (June/Nov 2015, March 2016) will not be impacted by the new Clean Energy Bill.
    • Identify stepping stones and targets for wind and solar (including DG, community and brownfield development), ensuring 25% RPS met by 2025 and 35% by 2030.  
    • Shift utility contributions from the supply side (IPA/ARES suppliers) to distribution (ComEd/Ameren) through a line or wires charge.  This will fix the broken funding cycle in the current RPS and create a steady, predictable stream of revenue allowing for long term planning. 
    • Develop a low-income family solar program through the targeted use of RERF dollars.  (Renewable Energy Resource Fund is the money from ARES suppliers for their compliance toward clean energy requirements and is the source of the $30M Supplemental Procurement.)  New contributions into this fund will cease in October 2016 and the outstanding balance will assist low income DG projects including community solar.  The first 15 years of RECs will be paid out once the system is energized and the utility will take ownership of the REC.  A 3rd party administrator will assure checks and balances against fraud. 
    • Publish a DG “declining block” pricing structure for 2016 through 2030.  This table will identify MW goals with established declining REC prices, enabling investors to calculate and compare incentives over time.  This proven model has worked well in other state to drive steady growth and eliminate the boom/bust cycle that crippled early REC programs.  The Illinois Power Agency (IPA) will review/revise every two years to ensure pricing matches market conditions.  Investors will likely be paid for the first 15 year REC value once the system is energized.
    • Require prevailing wage installation labor for new wind, and solar projects over 1000kW.
    ISEA will be actively working to support this legislation and need each and every one of you to roll up your sleeves and help.  We intend to hire a lobbyist to work in Springfield on a regular basis and will host a series of events including Solar Lobby Day on May 6th - watch your calendar for details!  2015 will be a pivotal year for solar growth in IL and is your opportunity to pave a clean energy future, catapulting us to the top 10 solar states in the nation!
     
    The Supplemental Procurement plan will host at least 3 events – June 2015, November 2015 and March 2016.  Prospective system owners will work through solar companies or aggregators to bid into one of these events.  It is important to keep in mind that the intended purpose of a REC is to assist with the economics of a project and encourage completed IL installations in order to achieve legislated goal of 25% clean energy by 2025.  Therefore, the value of a REC will need to be high enough to stimulate the market to grow and build.  It could also create an urgency to participate NOW! The rebate program was riddled with problems including limited funding, an onerous application period, an unpredictable lottery or competitive review and stressful installation deadlines.  By transitioning to the Supplemental Procurement, all of these problems are eliminated or improved:


    • Immediate funding opportunities available in June & November & March.  No more “hurry up and wait” for the rebate/grant application deadlines to sign new customers.
    • Flexibility in funding amounts on a project by project need.  One REC price does not fit all projects, installers and developers can tailor pricing to meet customer needs. (Keep in mind there will be a confidential (unpublicized) ceiling for pricing so all projects must be below this threshold to be approved.)
    • Increased state budget from $2.5 million to $6 million ($30million/5 year REC contract).
    • Improved odds for funding - elimination of the lottery system and competitive grant cycle! 
    • Broader installation deadlines – no more November to May rush to install.  Approved projects have 6 months to be confirmed and a year to install. 
    The one possible downside to this format is that the REC payment will be made quarterly as opposed to a single lump sum.  It may be a good idea to factor those related costs into your REC price to make the project economically viable and compelling enough to act now.  Several ISEA members have expressed concerns that previous market indicators suggested low REC prices.  However, do not dismiss the elimination of the rebate changes the economics for project owners.  Therefore, we believe the IPA will need to adjust the benchmark accordingly.  Aggregators may also look at market conditions to provide input and experience in national REC pricing but the experts will be the installers and ultimately the investors.  This will, in all likelihood, be a negotiation with the aim of installing the greatest amount of solar for the most cost effective price.  
     
    Please note that ISEA will pursue opportunities to resurrect the rebate/grant program.  We are not ready to give up! However, indicators suggest it will be an uphill battle given the drastic cuts across the board to many human services and special interest groups.  We feel strongly that, if properly positioned, the Supplemental Procurement could be an excellent replacement to rebates and then transition smoothly to the declining block structure for the new RPS.  As stated previously we will need a great deal of support in Springfield from all members in order to secure a successfully incentive program that will drive growth through 2030! Please let us know we can count on you.
     

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