Illinois to spend US$30 million on more solar PV

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Pat Quinn, govenror of the U.S. state of Illinois, has signed legislation to spend US$30 million to purchase solar PV generation in the state. Much of this is expected to support small-scale PV.

Under HB 2427, the Illinois Power Agency (IPA) will utilize an existing fund to purchase solar renewable energy credits, also known as SRECs. The agency will have 90 days to come up with a plan for how to do this, which will then go through a regulatory process at the Illinois Commerce Commission.

Illinois has ambitious targets under its renewable portfolio standard policy, including a mandate that 1.5% of the state’s electricity come from solar PV by 2025. The Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC), which helped craft the legislation, estimates that Illinois’ targets translate to 500-600 MW of PV by 2015. This is much more than the 50-75 MW that the organization says the state has deployed to date.

Additionally, Illinois has a requirement that 0.25% of its electricity come from distributed generation (DG) by 2025, and distributed PV can be used to meet both of these requirements.

ELPC Senior Attorney Bradley Klein says that it is too soon to tell how much solar the program will bring online. “It will be very dependent upon the program design that comes out and the decisions that the agency makes about how it wants to prioritize small DG, larger DG or larger-scale solar.”

ELPC also expects that the program will focus on distributed generation. “IPA is very interested in using this for DG,” notes Klein. “They have indicated in public statements that Illinois has not made much progress towards DG goals.”

IPA will be holding a series of public workshops to take input on policy design, and Klein says that the agency may look to models in other states such as Connecticut, which combined a standard offer for smaller PV with a competitive solicitation for larger-scale solar.

However, if such program designs are adopted they will apply only to the SRECs, as the legislation does not give IPA authority to set prices for the electricity generated.

The US$30 million which is available for this program comes out of Illinois’ Renewable Energy Resources Fund, which is comprised of fees paid by competitive electricity suppliers in the state.

Klein of ELPC says that this legislation will provide a "short-term fix" for the procurement of renewables, but could serve as a model for future policies.