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!