Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS): It is official!! The State of Illinois has authorized a one-time $30 million procurement of Solar Renewable Energy Credits. Additional funds may also be released for separate wind/solar procurement if the IPA determines that it must procure conventional electricity on behalf of Ameren. Although that will be a separate fund and process, these strategic steps could have an influence on the solar procurement as well.
On June 12th the Illinois Power Agency held the first of a series of planning sessions, seeking public input to the structure and delivery of this program. The legislation included language allowing for various segments of the market (systems greater than 2MW and those under 2MW with subgroups under 25kW as well). This approach will ensure a robust market place, driving the greatest amount of solar development as well as jobs and economic development in various solar segments. It will be up to the IPA to determine the specifics of each of these aspects and future workshops will dive deeper into defining terms and guidelines including pricing/adders for utility/large/small systems, NEW versus OLD systems, eligibility dates for generated power, registration processes, deposit/credit requirements if any, the need/no need for aggregators, possible prepayment options, contract terms, performance guarantees as well as many other fine points.
Procedurally there will be several more steps in defining this program. Once the governor has signed the bill (expected in the next 25 days) the official 90 day workshop period will begin. Upon completion the IPA will then have 14 days to put official guidelines together which are then available for public comment. At that point the Illinois Commerce Commission will have 90 days to review before proposing official language and sending to the Joint Commission for Administrative Rules for finalization. All totaled it is likely the process could run through Feb/April 2015 and the procurement would be executed immediately after. The goal is to actually procure REC’s and enter into contracts before the end of the 2015 fiscal year but it could stretch beyond that date.
Please watch for future workshops and plan to participate as input from all stakeholders will be important!
Note that this one-time fix isn’t the end! We will continue to work with many state and national organizations for a permanent fix to the RPS. Strategic sessions will begin later this summer and work will begin immediately to ensure passage next spring. If you can, please let your legislators know this is important to you and keep telling them! More information will be available as these strategic sessions evolve but we will need everyone’s shoulder on the wheel in order to succeed in Springfield in 2015!
Net Metering: As you may know, most energy players in Illinois are not compliant with the Net Metering laws. The ICC has been accepting public comments to draft rule changes issued May 13th. Brad Klein of The Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) has been leading the charge on making the necessary legal corrections and ISEA has been working to assist them. These official responses are available on the ICC website<http://www.icc.illinois.gov/electricity/NetMetering.aspx>.
Various entities formally introduced their comments to Commission Staff which was then discussed amongst other participants. These discussions included the need for increased education among both the ARES organizations as well as end consumers, increased customer support for net metering applicants, a more streamlined process for customers switching between suppliers and the need for language clarification within the existing statute to ensure identical rates are applied to net metering customers among other things.
There were few points of opposition until the end of the call when ComEd expressed very strong objections to net metering in general describing this policy an illegal subsidy. The ELPC reminded ComEd that the point of this rule making was not to undue net metering but to firm up the existing regulatory process with the aim of improving customer processes and the fair execution across the state. Not exactly sure if this is a warning of contentious times ahead but we should be diligent and prepared to publicly address and defend the value of solar to the market place if necessary. We may be gearing up for stronger battles ahead and will need a tremendous amount of support from all solar businesses, customers and supporters!
Interconnection: The final of 3 scheduled public workshops on interconnection was held on June 12th regarding the connection process with the utility. IREC has been driving these negotiations along with the ELPC and revised drafts from the ICC staff should be publicly available soon. These rules have been pretty good to date but are becoming dated as the energy sector changes. ISEA has been participating in this legal process and as Illinois works to have one of the most up to date processes for interconnection with a utility in the country. Once the ICC issues new guidelines they will have another 14 day public comment period. Please watch ISEA newsletters for that announcement.