Three years after the 2017 Future Energy Jobs Act was enacted, the future of Illinois community solar incentives is in question. The incentives provided to developers through the 2017 legislation officially dried up on Dec. 14, 2020. Though the state experienced a sizable solar boom since the act was approved, many fear what the lack of incentives will mean for the future of renewables.
Developers have been warning the state of the “solar cliff,” or the sudden and drastic drop in solar developments, since the 2017 Future Energy Jobs Act was enacted. The 2017 law had already seen issues when the incentives for considerably larger scale projects ran out earlier in 2020. That left only incentives for smaller Illinois community solar projects, which are an important driving force for clean energy.
While there isn’t any plan to fix the lack of incentives, developers are hopeful that legislators will pass funding options to keep the program running. State legislators are entering into a lame-duck session in January, during which there is hope that the adjustable block program responsible for dishing out solar credits attached to the act will be funded.
If the state can’t find a way to fund the incentive program that’s been driving developers to build community solar opportunities in Illinois, it may face difficulties in reaching the renewable goals set by the Future Energy Jobs Act. Even worse, however, is the potential loss of employment opportunities. Even before the incentives ran out, Illinois’ solar industry suffered 3,500 layoffs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Rethink Electric CEO, Dawn Heid, the incentives for small installations like community solar gardens ran out much quicker than expected. The structuring of the adjustable block program has left companies like Rethink unable to fulfill credit promises previously made to customers. According to Heid, once Rethink Electric’s final projects are completed in April, it may face a loss of revenue if the incentives aren’t renewed.
The job loss that could be felt across the industry would devastate many developers and leave those who graduated from training programs in 2020 with no options in Illinois.
Currently, there is no word to gauge whether incentives will be funded to secure the future of Illinois community solar.