How the Illinois energy reform 'fixed' the state's RPS, promising a renewables boom

By Peter Maloney, Utility Dive. 

Among the provisions of the sweeping energy legislation just passed in Illinois are reforms that aim to fix the state’s renewable portfolio standard and that could revive renewable energy development, which has been dormant in the state for several years.

The changes could bring $12 billion to $15 billion in private renewable energy investment into Illinois and could “jump start the solar industry” there, says Andrew Barbeau, senior clean energy consultant for the Environmental Defense Fund.

The centerpiece of the legislation, the Future Energy Jobs Bill (SB 2814), is a $235 million a year, 10-year bailout of Exelon’s Clinton and Quad City nuclear power plants, but the law also includes provisions for energy efficiency and $750 million targeted for low income programs, as well as changes to the RPS.

The RPS target itself has not changed. It still requires investor-owned electric utilities and alternative retail electric suppliers (ARES) to source 25% of eligible retail electricity sales from renewable energy by 2025 and exempts electric cooperatives and municipal utilities from RPS requirements. But the legislation provides a fix for funding mechanisms that in the past had brought the state’s RPS program to a standstill.

The law streamlines funding for RPS compliance projects and puts the state’s utilities in the center of the payment stream, collecting and retaining the funds until they are needed. That alone is a big improvement over the past plan.