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ISEA Policy Blog

Welcome to the ISEA Policy Blog. Catch up on the latest issues related to the adoption of solar and small wind energy in Illinois. We welcome your feedback and referral of newsworthy developments. 

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  • 14 May 2018 3:31 PM | Anonymous

    What to Know About the Smart Inverter Rebate

    By Robin Dutta, SunPower

    Illinois has been undergoing a clean energy revolution since the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) was signed into law back in December 2016. Regulatory bodies have been busy ramping up entire programs, procurements, rules, and regulations for brand new initiatives. There’s a lot of policy action underway, and it can be difficult to keep track of which regulatory agency is doing what for which program (you follow all of that?). There is a lot of necessary, messy work to be done before the solar industry starts deploying projects, helping IL be less dependent on dirty power plants, and reducing IL homeowners’ and businesses’ energy costs.

    The DG rebate or smart inverter rebate, as it has become commonly known as, was among the initiatives created by FEJA. It is not part of the Adjustable Block Program. It is not part of the Solar for All Program. The IL Power Agency, which has been neck deep on designing both those programs, has no jurisdiction on the smart inverter rebate. This is a completely separate program, overseen directly by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC).

    To understand what the smart inverter rebate is, and the potential benefits for IL solar projects, let’s look first at the statute and then at the regulatory work at the ICC. And surprise, this article won’t answer all of your questions, and it will bring up new questions that don’t yet have answers. That’s public policy, folks.

    What Does FEJA Say About the Rebate?

    FEJA sets up the basic parameters of the smart inverter rebate. There are a lot of details undefined, but that’s common and left up to the regulatory process at the ICC.

    Eligibility: The program is available only to projects in MidAmerican, Ameren, and ComEd utility territories, according to the law. FEJA mandates that only utilities that serve more than 200,000 customers in Illinois are required to offer the rebate, and none of the municipal and electric co-operatives are that large. For now, the rebate is only available to on-site non-residential projects and community solar projects up to 2 MW AC in size. Residential solar projects are not currently eligible, but they will be after net metering penetration reaches the 5% caps (we’ll talk about IL net metering issues in another post).

    Rebate Value: The rebate value is set at $250 per KW of project’s direct current capacity. When the NEM cap reaches 5%, the rebate value may change and will be determined through an ICC proceeding. Residential smart inverter rebate values will also be determined at that time through an ICC proceeding.

    What You Give Up: Projects that take the smart inverter rebate will give up full retail net metering. The value of the bill credit will be a kilowatt-hour offset, valued only at the volumetric generation rate. The project can receive alternative and additional revenue streams for providing grid benefits/services. Those revenue streams are largely undefined in FEJA and would need to be defined and quantified in the rebate tariff.

    Defining Smart Inverter:

    “Smart inverter” means a device that convers direct current into alternating current and can autonomously contribute to grid support during excursions from normal operating voltage and frequency conditions by providing each of the following: dynamic reactive and real power support, voltage and frequency ride-through, ramp rate controls, communication systems with ability to accept external commands, and other functions from the electric utility” (1).

    The definition defines the smart inverter based on a minimum number of required functions. It is not exhaustive, nor does it preclude additional requirements in the tariff. It is up to the eligible utilities (MidAmerican, Ameren, and ComEd) to file tariffs that define all system requirements in order to receive the rebate. And, as we’ve seen with the Ameren and ComEd tariff filings, the utilities have the discretion to make the tariff as straightforward or complicated as they like.

    The Decider: The ICC will review the draft tariffs through a public proceeding. Other entities may choose to intervene and propose changes to the draft tariffs. ISEA, a number of solar companies and related stakeholders have already intervened.

    What Is Happening Now at the ICC?

    Ok, now things get a little complicated. Ameren and ComEd have filed their proposed smart inverter rebate tariffs. Ameren filed their proposed rebate tariff and technical requirements on March 9. ComEd filed their proposed rebate tariff and extensive set of requirements on April 6. The tariffs detail the terms and conditions that a customer must abide by in order to receive a given utility service. In this case, it can include detailing how the utility with control of the smart inverter. Each utility can take their own approach to filling in the details and settings.

    If you are interested in reading all the gory details of the proposed tariffs, utility witness testimony, and technical requirements, click the links above. See Ameren Exhibit 1.3 for their proposed smart inverter technical requirements. See ComEd Exhibit 2.03 for their proposed smart inverter technical requirements.

    Solar industry stakeholders, notably Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC), the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), and the Illinois Solar Energy Association (ISEA), are either intervening individually or as part of broader coalitions.

    Moving forward, the process is still being decided. The ICC may consider the Ameren and ComEd rebate proposals separately or they could join the dockets, as ISEA and SEIA has requested. In any case, these proceedings will last into the summer. If you are interested in learning more, you can either keep tabs on the ICC docket pages and/or join ISEA and get regular updates as part of your business membership.

    1: SB2814 Enrolled, Future Energy Jobs Act: Section 16-107.6(a)


  • 07 Feb 2018 12:40 PM | Anonymous



    While the state of Illinois gears up for the implementation of the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) – which provides the opportunity for 2,000 MW of solar to be developed by 2020 – communities and counties are making sure that they will be ready for the influx of solar projects.


    A cohort of 15 Metropolitan Mayors Caucus members recently received SolSmart designations, bringing the total up to 18 in Illinois, the highest in the country. These communities were honored at a ceremony at the Argonne National Lab on Friday, February 2nd, with many environmental advocates and state representatives in attendance, including Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti. SolSmart is an initiative led by The Solar Foundation and the International City/County Management Association and funded by the US Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office, with additional support from the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus and the US Environmental Protection Agency. SolSmart was created to streamline processes on the local level to make it easier and more affordable for home and business owners to go solar.


    According to officials, “To receive designation, municipalities and counties make changes to their local processes to reduce the time and money it takes to install a solar energy system. This includes evaluating local permitting processes, as well as planning and zoning procedures. These actions help solar companies greatly reduce the cost of installations and pass those savings on to consumers, making the community ‘open for solar business.’”


    Lesley McCain, Executive Director of the Illinois Solar Energy Association, spoke briefly at the ceremony, pointing out that it is critical for state and local government to step up on environmental issues as federal protections and policies are dismantled. “The actions taken though the SolSmart program will allow homeowners and businesses to easily take part in new opportunities afforded by FEJA. The people who live and work in your communities will enjoy a better quality of life! Families will have lower electric bills, jobs will be created, and our air will be cleaner. The work done by the local governments being recognized here today will be emulated by others in the state. The impact of these achievements will continue to grow.”


    Communities receiving the Gold designation include City of Aurora, Village of Beach Park, Village of Park Forest, Village of South Barrington, and Will County.


    Communities receiving the Silver designation include Village of Hawthorn Woods, Village of Richton Park, and Village of Schaumburg.


    Communities receiving the Bronze designation include Village of Brookfield, Village of Darien, Village of Glencoe, Village of Hanover Park, Village of Highland Park, Cook County, and Kane County.


    To see exactly what actions were taken by each town or county, click here. For an overview of the program, click here. To learn how your community can get designated, click here.


    As part of the SolSmart program, a team of national experts provides no-cost technical assistance to help communities achieve designation. All cities and counties are eligible to join the SolSmart program and receive this technical assistance. Interested communities can learn more at SolSmart.org.



  • 25 Jan 2018 10:32 AM | Anonymous

    The recent tariff decision on imported solar panels, which is intended to encourage domestic manufacturing of solar products, is shortsighted and disappointing, but this decision will not stop the popularity and growth of solar.


    It is important to note that the 30% tariff is only for the solar panels, not the overall cost of the project. According to Greentech Media, panel costs are expected to increase between 10 to 12 cents a watt. Imported panel manufacturers have been accounting for price increases in anticipation of the tariff and may make some additional minor pricing adjustments now that the tariff has been approved. With the ever-declining cost of other solar components and decreases in the soft costs of projects, such as permitting, solar will remain a strong, viable and growing industry.


    With the recent passage of the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) Illinois is in a unique position. In order to cost-effectively maintain a healthy solar market in the state, the programs developed as a result of this legislation will likely take into account the increased panel costs from these tariffs. FEJA ensures that Illinois will enjoy both significant solar development as well as employment opportunities for years to come.


  • 05 Dec 2017 12:22 PM | Anonymous

    New White Paper Reveals How C-PACE Can Expand the C&I Solar Market

    Source

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – As demand for solar energy surges across America, today the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Alta Energy jointly released a white paper highlighting an underutilized financing tool that can help boost commercial and industrial (C&I) solar development nationwide.

    Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) allows a property owner to finance 100 percent of the cost of solar and/or energy efficiency upgrades as a voluntary property tax assessment on a commercial building for 10-30 years and can be easily transferred to new owners, the paper notes.

    “C-PACE can open numerous state markets where third party power purchase agreements (PPAs) are not allowed, or too ambiguous to finance, as well as provide a variety of other benefits,” said Mike Mendelsohn, SEIA’s senior director of project finance and capital markets. “Without a doubt, C-PACE has the potential to vastly expand solar markets across this country and we hope developers seriously consider it as a viable option moving forward.”

    In 2016, C&I solar development represented approximately 6.5 percent of the total U.S. solar market. With clear room to grow, SEIA and Alta Energy’s research shows, if properly utilized, C-PACE could both strengthen existing C&I markets and help expand development to more than 4.5 million new properties across the U.S.

    “As we advise companies with facilities across the country about how to best meet their sustainable energy objectives, we must understand the unique challenges inherent to each client in each market and be able to present strategies and plans that provide the best possible outcome,” said Sam Lee, Alta Energy’s CEO. “Having C-PACE financing as an option in our toolkit removes a barrier some organizations have faced, and enables us to help more of our clients implement solar as a part of their energy management plans.”

    To read the white paper and learn more about C-PACE as a financing mechanism, go to https://www.seia.org/research-resources/opening-ci-solar-markets-c-pace.

     ###

    About SEIA®:

    Celebrating its 43rd anniversary in 2017, the Solar Energy Industries Association® is the national trade association of the U.S. solar energy industry, which now employs more than 260,000 Americans. Through advocacy and education, SEIA® is building a strong solar industry to power America. SEIA works with its 1,000 member companies to build jobs and diversity, champion the use of cost-competitive solar in America, remove market barriers and educate the public on the benefits of solar energy. Visit SEIA online at www.seia.org.

    About Alta Energy:

    Alta Energy provides comprehensive analytics, strategic advice, and procurement services for companies looking to become more sustainable and profitable through the use of renewable energy. Alta Energy partners with its customers to deliver holistic solutions that are both technology and service neutral, representing their customers’ best interests and enabling them to achieve the environmental and economic benefits of renewable energy. For more information, please visit www.AltaEnergyInc.com.

    Media Contacts:

    Alex Hobson, SEIA Senior Communications Manager, ahobson@seia.org (202) 556-2886

    Ryan Higgins, Alta Energy Marketing Specialist, rhiggins@altaenergyinc.com(650) 489-1377


  • 11 Sep 2017 2:49 PM | Anonymous

    Attention system owners, developers and installers! Be sure to fully review the new Illinois Power Agency (IPA) guidelines and requirements as a few aspects have changed.  Key links are included below but specific questions should be directed toward an aggregator or the IPA for clarification. A detailed calendar of procurement events and deadlines has been posted on the IPA website for reference.


    First, the formula for calculating REC quantities has changed. System size is no longer based on DC nameplate ratings but is now determined by the maximum AC inverter rating. Therefore, if  a system utilizes a 5,000 watt inverter the system size is a 5.00kW AC system. The DC panel wattage will not be used.


    Second, a more defined list of capacity factors has been published, recognizing that not all technologies are the same.


    Technology

    Fall 2017 Capacity Factors (%) (AC Rating)

    Wind (below 25 kW)

    11.00

    Wind (25 – 2,000 kW)

    16.00

    Solar thermal technology

    Solar photovoltaic cells and panels (fixed mount)

    17.00

    Solar photovoltaic cells and panels (tracking)

    20.00

    Biodiesel, crops and untreated and unadulterated organic waste biomass, tree waste

    47.74

    Hydropower that does not involve new construction or significant expansion of hydropower dams

    31.06


    Here is the formula for a Fixed PV Panel installation: 


    System size kW AC / 1000 * 8760 (hrs in year) * 17 % Efficiency Factor for Fixed Tilt PV (See table above for other technology types) = RECS per year under contract  


    Third, although the IPA has always rounded to the nearest integer for contracting purposes, the sequence of when to do so has changed.  Upon completion of the capacity calculation, one must round after calculating a single Year REC quantities before multiplying by the duration of contract, in this case 5 years. 


    Finally, the IPA will be seeking fewer RECs than in the Spring 2017 procurement. Like the first round of the 2017 REC procurement, both existing and speculative assets are eligible from a variety of renewable energy resources, provided they are not already under a REC agreement. We recommend reviewing results for the Spring 2017 procurement and/or working with either Carbon Solutions Group or SRECTrade for setting bid prices. 


    For additional details including reference materials and a link to the procurement webinar the IPA hosted on September 8th, please reference IPA website.  For further Q&A, please contact ISEA’s preferred aggregators – Carbon Solutions Group and SRECTrade or submit a question to the IPA @ their “Contact Us” page.


    Not ready for this round? No worries! The IPA will be publishing the draft of the Long Term Renewable Resources Plan (LTRRP) in late September. ISEA will be hosting a member webinar in October with more information.  Please consider formally joining the ISEA (Business Member or Individual Memberor purchasing Tesla raffle tickets to support our ongoing efforts to advance solar in Illinois!


  • 02 Jun 2017 12:03 PM | Anonymous

    Trump's long-threatened promise to exit the Paris agreement should not come as a surprise as it was a frequent subject of his rallies.

    The good news is that the US and global solar industry are demonstrating that solar is a robust and rapidly growing industry with strong interest and support, not just from home owners, but both small and large businesses, all of whom recognize the vast and varied benefits of supporting clean energy development. Solar employment expanded last year 17 times faster than the total US economy and now employees 260,000 people (up 24% from 2015) and exceeds employment in coal. And for those who are fans, jobs in the wind industry grew by 28% in 2016. Clean energy has overtaken fossil fuels as the cost effective energy solution!

    According the Solar Energy Industry Association, over 14.8 GW of PV solar was installed in 2016. The over 42 GW of total solar capacity now installed is enough electricity to power 8.3 million homes! Recent studies show that solar ownership is split fairly equally between political parties, indicating that the technology speaks for itself and does not favor any single political ideology. Factor in the reality that pricing has dropped by 67% since 2011, solar just makes good business sense and will prevail on economics alone.

    Where the Federal Government's decision fails to protect our planet, we are heartened to see others stepping in and joining the clean energy crusade. Businesses such as Tesla and ExxonMobil's shareholders have committed to the ongoing advancement of the clean energy economy. States such as New York, Washington, and California have pledged to uphold the Paris Agreement standards, and others, like our home state of Illinois, are spurring clean energy growth through the passage of ground breaking clean energy
    legislation. Cities across our nation are increasing their commitments to renewable energy.

    We at ISEA rededicate ourselves to ensuring a clean energy future for all.

  • 02 May 2017 4:12 PM | Anonymous

    Employment in the solar industry is on the rise!

    The Solar Foundation recently released their annual National Solar Jobs Census for 2016, and found a 25% increase in people employed in the solar industry over 2015. Here are some facts and figures:

    • ·        Compared to 208,859 people working in the solar industry in 2015, there were 260,077 in 2016
    • ·        Expect that there will be at least another 10% increase in 2017
    • ·        Employment in the solar industry has nearly tripled since 2010
    • ·        2% of all new jobs in the US in 2016 were created by the solar industry
    • ·        Solar has added $84 billion to the US GDP in 2016


    Illinois saw growth in 2016 as well, with a lot more expected in 2017 following the passage of the Future Energy Jobs Act.

    • ·        Compared to 3,483 people in the solar industry in 2015, there were 3,718 in 2016, a 7% increase
    • ·        Expect that there will be at least another 5% increase in 2017
    • ·        Illinois is ranked 17th in number of solar jobs nationwide
    • ·        6% increase in the solar industry’s share of the statewide workforce since 2015
    • ·        233 solar companies based in Illinois – 10th most in the country
    • ·        251% increase in solar project development, though slight decrease in installation, manufacturing, and distribution
    • ·        There’s enough solar in Illinois to completely power 10,192 homes!
    • ·        Most solar in 2016 was focused in Cook County, though there was significant work done in DuPage, Lake, Will, and Sangamon

    The renewable energy ball has really started rolling. If the solar industry continues on its established trend, we can expect to see a lot more growth in even the next few years. In particular, all eyes will be on Illinois in 2017 and 2018 as it implements the Future Energy Jobs Act. When this boosts solar jobs as expected, will other states follow suit?


    Sources:

    http://www.thesolarfoundation.org/national/

    https://solarstates.org/#states/solar-jobs/2016

    http://www.thesolarfoundation.org/solar-jobs-census/factsheet-2016-il/


  • 12 Feb 2017 1:37 AM | Anonymous

    The Illinois solar industry is well-positioned to grow significantly in 2017.


    The Illinois Power Agency will conduct 2017 Spring and Fall Solar DG SREC Procurement totaling nearly $40M - more than the three previous Supplemental SREC Procurements combined.


    During this webinar, ISEA will summarize the upcoming procurement process and timeline, past SREC Procurement results, and will also provide attendees with background information that may benefit business marketing and messaging campaigns that encourage customers to go solar in 2017 as opposed to waiting for the new RPS implementation in 2018. There are distinct advantages to going solar sooner rather than later - is your business ready?


    View the slides here. Watch the webinar here.


    Edit, 2/13/17: 


    New information has become available:


    The Spring 2017 Utility Distributed Generation RFP (“DG RFP”) is for the procurement of Renewable Energy Credits from distributed generation (“DG”) resources using the already collected funds from Alternative Compliance Payments.

    The schedule for the DG RFP is posted to the Calendar page of the procurement website. Part 1 Proposals are due on April 5, 2017 and Bids are due on April 28, 2017.


    Draft supplier contracts are expected to be posted by February 28, 2017. An announcement will be sent to all registrants when these documents are posted.



  • 13 Dec 2016 7:07 PM | Deleted user

    Illinois has a new Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and with it will come greater stability and predictability for the clean energy sector including solar installers, developers and system owners. Having originally started as part of the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill until early 2016, when state legislative leaders requested all energy focused bills in Illinois merge into a single piece of legislation. The end result is the Future Energy Jobs Bill, a comprehensive energy package, encompassing many technologies including solar, wind and energy efficiency. The bill also establishes a new Zero Energy Credit (ZEC) market designed to compensate the Clinton and Quad Cities failing Exelon nuclear plants for their low carbon emissions in exchange for commitments to keep them open for 10 years.   


    This bill will ensure development of every type of solar - residential, commercial & utility scale - within all public utility service areas, while also ensuring that all ratepayers have fair and easy access to the solar technology either through direct purchase, community solar subscriptions or low income solar programs.  


    As the name implies, the focus is on creating clean jobs - building an industry that will provide clean energy solutions that result in good paying, long term jobs across Illinois.


    Click here to read a full statement on the bill. You can also look at the slides from the 12/13/16 Policy Webinar on the Future Jobs Bill here. You can watch the webinar here.

  • 04 Nov 2016 11:59 AM | Deleted user
    ISEA hosted a policy webinar Thursday November 3rd, 2016.

    The subject was "Illinois Energy Bill Negotiations Update" and covered an update on the new RPS that has been negotiated as well as concerns about the proposed rate design and demand charge


    Watch the policy webinar here: Illinois Energy Bill Negotiations Update. View the presentation slides here


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