The Illinois Power Agency (IPA) released an updated version of its Long-Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan on Monday after the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) mandated changes this spring in response to concerns by renewable energy advocates.
The changes include requiring utilities to invest in more long-term renewable energy sources, rather than procuring renewable energy credits (RECs) off the spot market. The new plan will also ensure all customers, specifically those within the boundaries of municipally-owned utilities and rural electric cooperatives, have access to the plan’s programs.
Under the new plan, Illinois utilities must acquire 8 million RECs by June 2022, equating to approximately 4,400 MW of new renewable energy capacity, said Christie Hicks, Senior Attorney at the Environmental Defense Fund. The plan, mandated by the 2015 Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA), calls for renewables to account for 25% of Illinois electricity production by 2025.
Commonwealth Edison was involved in the phrasing technicalities for the renewable incentives early on, maintaining that customers within the territories of municipally-owned utilities and rural cooperatives should not reap the benefits of such programs, since they aren’t paying into them.
As the long-term renewables plan currently stands, those customers will be able to access the incentives, but the company has since filed an appeal of the ICC's decision.
The plan also calls for the development of an adjustable block program in order to promote transparency in the solar market and allow for price "adjust[ments] at a predictable rate over time." The program contrasts with the previous "competitive sealed bidding" approach and will make solar more accessible, said Hicks. The program is not yet open, but will be available for vendor registration by Nov. 1.
Another major key to the procurement plan, according to Hicks, is its emphasis on "providing equitable access to renewables" through establishing community solar around the region, which includes implementing a new collaborative online tool for potential community solar subscribers and developers.