Illinois Passes Energy Bill

December 2016

A massive compromise energy bill passed through Illinois legislature, the Future Energy Jobs Bill (SB 2814).  The bill included long sought-after updates to the state’s renewable portfolio standard, an expansion of efficiency programs, and the preservation of net metering for rooftop solar projects -- a policy ComEd sought to end. 

The final bill also scrapped a controversial proposal to implement mandatory demand charges on all residential customers. Solar companies strongly opposed the proposal, and Governor Bruce Rauner’s office called the demand charges “insane.” 

The bill retains the current 25 percent renewable energy target, but fixes quirks in the RPS that caused funds for renewable energy projects to go unused and allowed Illinois to meet the RPS criteria by investing in clean energy projects out of state -- missing out on the opportunity to create local jobs and economic growth. Provisions were also included to ensure a mix of utility-scale wind and solar, community solar and rooftop solar will be used to meet the 25 percent target.

Changes to the RPS and expansion of the state’s efficiency programs were made after nearly two years of negotiations and grassroots organizing, with efforts led by the Environmental Law & Policy Center, Citizens Utility Board, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund and others.

The Illinois Renewable Energy Conference, held in Normal, IL on the Illinois State University campus in July, 2016, drew a wide variety of attendees. Hosted by the Center for Renewable Energy, the conference drew state and county officials, students, investors, farmers, faculty, power company officials, officials of Regional Transmission Organizations, and representatives of environmental advocacy organizations. The website for the conference is http://renewableenergy.illinoisstate.edu/events/rec/.  This story focuses on one of the sessions, to show how the case for wind development can be made.

The session’s topic was “Wind – Policy”, and featured Dr. David Loomis, head of the Center for Renewable Energy, Dan Turner, Ph.D., of the Midwest Wind Energy Center, and was moderated by Mary Collins, of the American Jobs Project.

Dr. David Loomis discussed the recent Department of Energy study which looked at wind potential that could come from 2030 and out to 2050,” said Loomis. “Illinois has the potential, in their modeling, of being the number two wind state in the country, behind only Texas.” 

David Loomis's report analyzes and describes in detail the economic impact of wind development in Illinois as represented by the largest 25 wind projects in Illinois as of April, 2016. Using NREL's JEDI analysis method and data from the projects specifically where it was provided (and NREL default values when specific project data was not provided), the report estimates economic impacts in terms of direct, indirect, and induced jobs created, property taxes generated, increased income for landowners, and economic output. The report also details results for Illinois from the Wind Vision Report of 2015, which projects Illinois to become second only to Texas in installed wind capacity by 2050.  The complimentary study by Dan Turner analyzes and describes the likely economic impacts for Illinois, if Illinois wind development should add 20,000 MW by 2030 (roughly the projections in the Wind Vision report for Illinois for 2030). It also uses the latest JEDI methods, and provides estimates in terms of jobs created, property and sales taxes generated, increased landowner income, output, and economic value added. Dan Turner’s is therefore an analysis of a scenario, which almost certainly will not happen. But the scenario analysis provides insight into what a possible future could look like. Also, the Turner study compared the size of the industry created by such a wind build-out with some existing Illinois industries, such as the livestock industry. He examined the CO2-reduction impacts of such a wind build-out and pointed out that such a wind build-out would also most likely save consumers money on their electric bills.

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