Distributed Energy Resources

Illinois regulators approve renewable procurement plan

The Illinois Commerce Commission on April 3 approved a renewable energy procurement plan to move Illinois towards its goal of getting a quarter of its electricity from renewable resources by 2025.

In a change from the initial proposal, the ICC carved out a role for municipal and cooperative utilities in the various renewable portfolio standard-related programs. The Illinois RPS requirements only apply to investor-owned utilities.

The procurement plan grew out of the Future Energy Jobs Act, enacted into law in late 2016, which among other things revised the Illinois RPS. The law directs the Illinois Power Agency to procure renewables for Commonwealth Edison, Ameren Illinois and MidAmerican Energy.

The revised RPS increases by 1.5 percentage points a year from 13 percent this year until it hits 25 percent.

The IPA in December filed its initial two-year procurement plan for approval by the ICC.

The first two procurements under the plan for utility-scale wind and brownfield solar development are expected to occur this summer. The IPA is slated to seek 1.04 million wind renewable energy credits and 80,000 photovoltaic RECs. A REC equals a megawatt-hour.

The plan includes criteria used to evaluate RECs from generating facilities in neighboring states, a way to increase in-state jobs, according to the ICC.

When selecting winning bidders, the IPA will weigh five factors when considering out-of-state projects including: cutting pollution in Illinois, increasing resource diversity in the state, enhancing in-state reliability and resiliency, meeting carbon dioxide emissions reduction goals and contributing to a healthier environment for Illinois.

The IPA will assign each category 20 points and an out-of-state resource must garner at least 60 points to be considered as a winning bidder.

In an effort to increase new renewable projects, the ICC eliminated from the plan spot REC procurements from existing resources. The IPA had proposed making three spot REC purchases in the next two years.

In another change from the IPA’s proposal, the ICC voted to allow customers and projects located in the service territories of municipal electric utilities, rural electric cooperatives and Mt. Carmel Public Utility to participate in several RPS programs, including the “adjustable block” program, the community renewable generation program and the Illinois Solar for All program.

The adjustable block program, for example, offers declining prices for community solar and distributed solar as capacity in the blocks fills up.

In explaining its decision on municipal utility and cooperative utility eligibility, the ICC said since June more than 11 MW of renewable projects were built in municipal and electric cooperative territories in Illinois. Projects totaling about 130 MW are being developed in those utilities’ footprints.

The IPA is slated to update its procurement plan next year.