Another part of Illinois’ solar boom officially hit a cliff on March 6 when the Illinois Power Agency closed its program for large solar installations. Solar projects for schools, public buildings and businesses in Illinois will now be placed on a waitlist with no guarantee that they will be approved in the future.
The development is no surprise to the clean energy industry and advocates who have been highlighting the issue for more than a year. Due to funding constraints, Illinois has already created a waitlist of more than 800 community solar projects statewide and was unable to support the development of new utility-scale wind or solar projects this year.
Workers, consumers and advocates for Illinois’ renewable energy industry are asking state legislators to fix this clean energy cliff by passing the Path to 100 Act. The Act would expand Illinois’ renewable portfolio standard to allow for continued growth of wind and solar energy in Illinois.
In the past two years, hundreds of schools and municipalities have taken advantage of the opportunity to install solar and reduce their energy costs. For example:
- Big Hollow Elementary District 38, Ingleside, $1.8 million savings over 20 years
- Huntley School District 158, $4 million savings over next 20 years
- Lincoln College, $2 million savings over 20 years
- Granite City School District, $1.5 million savings over 20 years
- Silvis Police Department, $167,000 savings over 20 years
- Troy Community School District, Plainfield, $3.8 million savings over 20 years
- West Aurora School District 129, $1.3 million savings over 20 years
That opportunity for solar savings is no longer available unless new legislation passes this Spring.
The close of this program follows a period of strong growth for Illinois renewable energy. The Illinois Power Agency approved more than 7,000 new solar projects in 2019 and the solar industry created 2,000 new jobs in 2018 and 2019.
“The growth of jobs and clean energy that Illinois has experienced over the past two years won’t continue unless the state has stable policy,” said Nakhia Morrissette, Central Region Director for the Solar Energy Industries Association. “Allowing this program to lapse will hurt consumers and reduce economic development across the state.”
The Illinois General assembly and the governor’s office have begun gathering input on energy legislation with the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee holding its first hearing on the topic March 5. The close of the commercial solar segment adds urgency to the need to address Illinois’ renewable energy funding cliff during the Spring legislative session.
News item from Path to 100