Climate and Equitable Jobs Act doubles down on community solar, commits to over one and a half gigawatts of new generation
September 13, 2021
Springfield, IL —The Illinois General Assembly today passed a historic omnibus energy package that will usher in a broad expansion of the state’s community solar program. The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act expands the Illinois community solar program to more than 1.5 gigawatts (GW) of solar power over the next decade, enough to power over 285,000 additional homes. The legislation brings long-term stability to Illinois’ community solar program and will help the state develop a more equitable, low-cost, and carbon-neutral electric grid. Community solar is expected to play a major role in helping Illinois achieve the ambitious climate equity goals laid out within the legislation.
“The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act will cement Illinois as a national solar leader,” said Laurel Passera, Policy and Regional Director Coalition for Community Solar Access. “This legislation doubles down on the state’s commitment to community solar and will help consumers save money on their bills, create income for farmers, bring more energy equity to disadvantaged communities, and create thousands of new, well-paying jobs.”
Community solar projects are small solar arrays located within a community where multiple customers can subscribe and receive a credit on their utility bill for their share of the power that is produced, just as if the panels were on their own roof.
More than 50 percent of American households don’t have access to solar power because they either rent, live in a multi-tenant building, have roofs unable to host a solar system, or live in a service territory of a utility that won’t allow it. Through community solar, people can be connected to a local solar installation that would provide subscribers with equal access to the economic and environmental benefits of solar generation.
The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act makes a number of improvements to the state’s existing community solar program. It expands the program’s capacity from 213 megawatts (MW) to over 1.5 GW over the next decade. It transitions the project selection process from a random lottery with just a one in ten chance of success to a more orderly queue process that is based on project maturity, which will improve the speed of project development and grid interconnection. Finally, it enhances the bill savings for customers by standardizing the bill credit rate and by increasing allowable project size from two to five megawatts, which provides additional savings due to economies of scale.
Industry, labor, community, and environmental advocates worked for months to craft a bill in coordination with leading legislators. With major job losses across the renewable energy industry already in progress, the bill will arrest impending layoffs and set policies that put solar jobs on a positive trajectory for the next decade.
“After many months of hard work and negotiation, we are thrilled that the General Assembly has adopted this legislation that so many stakeholders support and believe in,” said Nakhia Crossley, Central Region Director for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “Illinoisans deserve a clean energy future that will deliver economic opportunity, expand energy equity and choice and create a healthy and prosperous state in which to live and work.”
Representative Will Davis is a champion for community solar and was a leading voice in the bill negotiations and helped shepherd it to successful passage.
“It is gratifying that my colleagues recognize the tremendous value and importance of our state’s solar industry and have swiftly passed the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act to set us on the course for recovery and growth,” said Representative Davis. “Community solar is an exciting part of this bill and will harness the private sector in order to drive investment and economic development in communities like the one I represent as well as other rural, urban and suburban areas across all of Illinois.”
About Coalition for Community Solar Access
The Coalition for Community Solar Access is a national Coalition of businesses and non-profits working to expand customer choice and access to solar for all American households and businesses through community solar. Our mission is to empower every American energy consumer with the option to choose local, clean, and affordable community solar. We work with customers, utilities, local stakeholders, and policymakers to develop and implement policies and best practices that ensure community solar programs provide a win, win, win for all, starting with the customer. For more information, visit https://www.communitysolaraccess.org and follow the group on Facebook.