Package of pro-solar measures for Illinois

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Legislation passed out of committee stage of the Illinois general assembly yesterday (Thursday) will usher in six new microgrids, community solar, electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure and a more energy efficient grid – as well as a new tariff for consumers. While the progress of the legislation is a welcome sign, there is some distance before it is passed by both houses of the Illinois general assembly and therefore signed into law.

Bi-partisan legislation – backed by Democrats Kimberly Lightford and Bob Rita and Republican Ed Sullivan – was hailed by Anna Pramaggiore, president and CEO of utility Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), as a step forward for solar and energy efficiency but a proposal to bill customers based on their peak energy demand, rather than overall usage, could prove unpopular.

The new package of measures authorizes ComEd, Illinois’ largest utility, to invest $300 million in six microgrids for sites associated with healthcare, homeland security, transportation and water and, it is claimed, will result in the equivalent of 300 full-time jobs.

Community solar arrives

A report carried on the BusinessWire news service owned by solar investor Warren Buffett carried details of the legislation, which will also introduce meter aggregation technology, allowing the utility to offer community solar programs which offer people living in housing with no option of installing solar the chance to invest in pooled generation schemes.

A further 50 full-time job equivalents will be created by ComEd’s plan to install 5,000 solar-powered public EV charging posts over the next five years, including in disadvantaged areas of the Chicago and northern Illinois area which the utility serves.

ComEd will also introduce voltage optimization – bringing with it a further 50 full-time equivalent posts – to increase energy efficiency.

Energy efficiency, and the incentive for customers to reduce consumption, was cited as the reasoning behind billing customers based on their peak energy use.

The initial paragraph of this article was corrected on March 30 to reflect that the relevant legislation has only been passed out of committee stage, and not through both houses of the general assembly.