The Illinois Power Agency (IPA) has ended all of Illinois’ renewable energy incentives, effectively dismantling the state’s renewable energy program.
The renewable energy program, which launched in late 2017, provided financial incentives to the owners of solar and wind energy systems and was the main driver behind the rapid growth in renewable energy jobs and installations in recent years. The end of incentives will force thousands of layoffs at renewable energy businesses. IPA’s announcement also means that Illinois will fall far short of its policy requirement of 25% renewable energy by 2025 unless new legislation passes.
The program for residential solar in northern Illinois closed on Dec. 15. The IPA announced the close of the solar program in central and southern Illinois on Dec. 4. Incentives for utility-scale wind and solar, community solar and commercial-scale solar were already exhausted before then.
“Illinois had become a hub for clean energy businesses, but now all of that is at risk,” says Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago). “As we look to emerge from the depths of the pandemic we must work urgently to save these jobs, properly fund clean energy programs and create growth.”
Clean energy advocates have been warning for more than two years that the state’s clean energy program would run out of funding. In response, a coalition of renewable energy businesses introduced the Path to 100 Act in early 2019 to address the problem, but the bill has yet to be called for a vote.
When funded through the Future Energy Jobs Act, Illinois’ renewable energy program helped the state more than double its renewable energy installations in under three years and enabled homeowners, schools and businesses in every part of the state to lock in long-term energy savings. Illinois was among the top states for solar job growth in 2018 and 2019 but lost an estimated 3,500 jobs this year as incentives dried up for large-scale and commercial renewable energy projects.
To date, Illinois has only reached 8% renewable energy generation despite statutory requirements to reach 25% by 2025. More than 1,000 solar projects that applied for state incentives have been “waitlisted” due to lack of funding. As Illinois seeks to restore its economy from the impacts of the pandemic, these projects are shovel-ready and will move forward once legislation passes to restore renewable energy incentives.